Friday, December 30, 2016

Delightful Linzer Squares

A long time ago, I ate Linzer Squares and was totally enchanted with the flavors. I was given the recipe, so I can truthfully say this recipe is in no way mine, though as it was shared with me, I am now sharing with all my readers. The fact that I really loved these when I first tried them did not, somehow, spur me on to make them right away, and like so many things, out of sight means out of mind, and the recipe has set out there ever since. 

Raspberry Linzer Squares
Raspberry Linzer Squares
This year, I decided enough procrastination is enough and I made them for Christmas Eve dinner. And they are just as wonderful as I recalled. Again, begging the question: Why did I wait so very long to do this? Who knows. But now that I have, I am truly hoping to make them more often.

Raspberry Linzer Squares just cut
Raspberry Linzer Squares just cut
The thing with these squares / bars / cookies is that any flavor of jam can be used, so each time you make them they can have a different flavor. These were made with a seedless raspberry jam as my husband objects to the seeds. Regular raspberry jam, strawberry or apricot are also great. 

I would not mess with the crust part of the recipe, as it is just divine. Looking at the photos, it seems that the crust might be dry, but this is so not the case. It is tender and as it has ground nuts in it, nuts do help with moistness. The kind of nuts to use is entirely up to the individual. I used walnuts as they are my favorites, but pecans, hazelnuts, almonds or even macadamia would also work. The important thing is to have them very finely ground.

One thing the woman who gave me this recipe stated was that normally the lattice top is meant to be rolled out flat and cut into strips to set on top. She felt this was too tedious since the dough is delicate and easily breaks, so she suggested just rolling the  dough into thinner-than-pencil sized strips and setting them on top. It works the same either way and makes life easier.

I am all about making life easier!

Another thing that can be done, but I did not, is to brush the top lattice with an egg wash (1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon of water) before baking. This would make the lattice shiny and more golden. I meant to try it, but I totally forgot in my rush to bake this dessert! So obviously they came out wonderfully well despite this lapse. The dessert is made in a 9 x 9-inch pan, and the final "bars" can be cut into 12 bar type pieces or 16 squares; your choice. And here is the recipe for these wonderful bar type cookies. 

Raspberry Linzer Squares
Raspberry Linzer Squares

Raspberry Linzer Squares

Makes 12 or 16 squares 

1½ cups all-purpose flour +2 tablespoons
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup hazelnuts, ground (or almonds, walnuts, pecans or macadamia)
½ cup unsalted butter at room 

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 whole egg, beaten
¾ cup thick raspberry Jam
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon water

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment for easy removal and cutting later. Spray the parchment with cooking spray and set aside. 

Into a large mixer bowl, measure the 1½ cups of flour. (Reserve the extra 2 tablespoons for later). Add sugar, baking powder, salt, nuts, and butter; mix until well combined. Add lemon zest and egg, stirring with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened. Reserve ½ cup of dough aside. Pat remaining dough evenly into the bottom of the pan. Spread the preserves over dough in pan. To the reserved half-cup of dough, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Roll this dough to very thin pencil like strips and place 9 strips in a diagonal over the preserves, about ½" apart. Place the remaining 9 strips crosswise over the first strips, ½” apart, forming a lattice top.

In small bowl, stir the egg yolk and water; brush dough strips. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is golden brown. Cool completely on wire rack in pan. Cut into bars. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Chutney with Tamarind and Chutney with Mango

Not everyone is familiar with Tamarind, even in this age of unification through the internet. I was introduced to tamarind, a legume or "fruit" that grows on a tree, while I lived in Guatemala in the 1970s. At that time, the main way I knew of tamarind is as Agua de Tamarindo (Tamarind Water), which was made as a refreshing beverage similar to lemonade in its sweet/sour aspect. For a time after returning home to the US, I would buy Goya brand Agua de Tamarindo, just to revisit the flavor, tamarind pods not being easily available here in the US at that time.
Tamarind Pods
Tamarind Pods

Later on, as I discovered and fell in love with Indian cuisine, tamarind was presented in a runny "chutney" on many Indian buffets, and while this use tended to present the sour side of the fruit, nonetheless it became a chutney I particularly enjoyed. I was already familiar with its flavor, so this was an easy transition. In many dishes that call for tamarind as a sour flavoring agent, lemon juice is used as a substitute. If you keep in mind that while tamarind is in no way as tart as lemons, it is a souring agent used extensively in Indian dishes and other Southeast Asian cuisines, as well as in the Caribbean and Central America. 

If you are unfamiliar with tamarind, the fruit is encased in a brittle pod that is easily broken and removed. The dense and sticky fruit is somewhat encased in long, stringy fibers, and inside are somewhat flattened, glossy seeds. To make tamarind water as a beverage, you would first remove the brittle pod, then set the insides to soak in water. Once softened it is easiest to use clean hands and just squeeze and squish (very technical terms, I now!) the fruit to release its flavors, then strain and sweeten to taste. I went into this in a couple of blogs, see this one for a little more detail.

packaged cake of tamarindTamarind is also found in a "brick", where the outside shells have been removed and the inner, sticky pulp, fibers and seeds are compressed. It is usually found cellophane wrapped, and it is used in the exact same way as if you used the pods. This package said "seedless" but that was absolutely not so!

I was amazed to find up here in Aberdeen, South Dakota, that our local WalMart store now carries whole tamarind pods! I had just used up the box full I had bought a couple of years past, while making Tamarind Chutney for an Indian dinner recently, so this was a wonderful surprise. In light of this, I wanted to write about making this chutney. It is not to everyone's taste, but for me it is certainly high on my list of favorite chutnies. My husband likes his sweet mango chutney, and I occasionally make and can a few jars to keep on hand. I will have to make some more as I also used up the last jar for that Indian meal.

Tamarind Chutney or Imli Chutney 

Makes about 2½ cups

Tamarind Chutney or Imli Chutney
Tamarind Chutney or Imli Chutney
7 ounces of compressed tamarind brick, or 7 ounces of tamarind pods, shell removed
3 cups boiling water
3/4 cup brown sugar or jaggery
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
1 teaspoon Garam Masala
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger 
1/2 teaspoon black salt, or regular salt, optional

Soak the tamarind in the hot water for about 30 minutes, until softened. The water will have cooled significantly during this time. Strain the water off into another container. Use 1 cup of the water to mash and squeeze the softened pulp and press it through a strainer. Use the back of a spoon to continue pressing to remove as much of the pulp as possible, without any fibers or seeds. 

Once the strained pulp is pressed out as well as possible, place all the pulp retrieved into a saucepan. Add in all the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and then lower to a medium low boil and cook for about 20 minutes. The chutney is not meant to be thick, but only slightly less runny. Store in jars in the refrigerator for up to two months.

If you would like to make a very tasty Mango Chutney (of the British "Major Grey" sort), this recipe is absolutely delicious. It makes 3 pints, so canning and processing in a water bath is a good idea.

Mango Chutney or Am Chutney

Makes 3 pints

Mango Chutney
Mango Chutney

8 green cardamom pods, crushed
5 whole cloves
1½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1½ teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
½ teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
3-inches true cinnamon stick, crumbled
2 pounds fresh mango, cut in ½-inch chunks
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup Sultanas (white raisins)
¼ cup seedless tamarind pulp, optional
1 piece fresh ginger the size of a large walnut
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly and chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon hot chili flakes, amounts optional
1½ cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups sugar

Place the first 6 ingredients into a dry skillet and heat to fairly high, stirring often until very fragrant. Remove the spices to a large enameled or stainless pot or stock pot. Add in the mango, onion, Sultanas, tamarind, ginger and garlic with the salt and chili flakes. Pour in the vinegar and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower heat to medium, maintaining a good boil and stirring often to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan. Allow the mixture to cook for 10 minutes. Add in the sugar all at once and stir to dissolve. Once the mixture returns to a boil, stir relatively continuously for another 12 minutes or so, until the mixture begins to fall in two thick droplets from the side of a spoon.

Have hot sterilized pint jars ready. Pack the chutney into the jars, wipe rims and threads with a wet cloth and seal with lids and rings. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for: 

10 minutes if at 0 - 1,000 feet
15 minutes if at 1,000 to 6,000 feet
20 minutes if above 6,000 feet

Remove from water bath and set jars on the counter to await the nice pop, indicating a good seal on the jars. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.