Linzertorte was one of those things that made me immensely happy in culinary school. I was tickled to finally be making all those old-school European pastries I’d pined for as a kid pouring over my mother’s cookbooks: Dobos Torte, Marjolaine, Opera Torte, Sacher Torte and yes, the linzer. Making my own, following the exacting instructions of a classically inclined chef, made me feel good about my seemingly off-the-cuff career change, from marketing to pastry. It also cemented a particular mindset I’d started to develop regarding classic pastries. Riffs and adaptations are welcome but one must know the classic, the original, first. You have to know history before you can rewrite it. With many things of this nature, I am a traditionalist and when it comes to linzer, I have a very defined set of parameters.
Archive for the ‘holidays’ Category
Oh Valentine’s Day. So much pressure, so many expectations, often so many disappointments. Falling on a Friday this year, I think it’s heightened even more. Good luck getting a reservation and with the weather lately, who knows what will happen. Slipping through icy streets to pack into a crowded restaurant with others working hard to enjoy themselves? Doesn’t sound too appealing to me. Here’s a thought: stay in, watch a good movie, drink champagne and eat a lot of chocolate. Preferably in liquid form. Sounds good doesn’t it?
Posted in cakes, holidays, tagged fancy christmas desserts, pumpkin cream cheese cake, pumpkin cream cheese roulade, pumpkin desserts, pumpkin jelly roll, pumpkin roll cake, pumpkin roulade with pumpkin spice caramel sauce, pumpkin spice caramel sauce on December 20, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
Early in our adult life, a former boyfriend and I couldn’t always afford to buy plane tickets home to Arizona for the holidays. This made me a little sad, as Christmas is quite the thing in my family. Being poor was depressing enough but missing our traditional holiday meals only compounded the situation. No Christmas Eve oysters? No pierogies? No crazy cooking marathon with my mom or opening stockings on Christmas morning like when we were kids? Exchanging gifts isn’t nearly as fun when you’re not there to see the recipients face. Luckily we had some family nearby and many friends who were happy to invite us to their celebrations, and this helped. One year, we were invited to the family home of a good friends girlfriend for what became a rather memorable Christmas.
Posted in holidays, pies, tagged canned pumpkin pie, classic pumpkin pie, ginger whipped cream, pumpkin custard pie, thanksgiving desserts, thanksgiving pies, thanksgiving pumpkin pie on November 23, 2013 | 6 Comments »
Like most, I grew up on the pumpkin pie from the back of the Libby’s label. The crust may have been homemade or may have been a Pillsbury crust, I don’t really recall, but the pumpkin came from a can. Mixed with fresh eggs, various seasonal spices and a can of evaporated milk it was the holiday standard. When I was old enough to assume pie responsibilities, I follwed the recipe religiously and produced two beautiful pies. There was never deviation from this plan. Don’t mess with tradition; there are dire consequences. The pie was always, always, served with Reddi-Whip right out of the can. In fact, squirting copious amounts of Reddi-Whip directly into our mouths while hiding behind the refrigerator door was an important part of my sisters’ and my holiday tradition. Our mother was on watch as soon as the groceries were unpacked and would listen for that telltale sound. With ears like a hawk, we never quite pulled it off.
Posted in appetizers/first courses, holidays, tagged melted cheese appetizer, melted mexican cheese, Mexican cheese appetizer, queso fundito, queso fundito con chorizo, queso fundito con poblano rajas on May 3, 2013 | 3 Comments »
Last year, coincidentally, Cinco de Mayo fell on the same day as the Kentucky Derby making for a very fine fiesta. My friend Chris threw a “Cinco de Derby” party and I spent a great deal of time at the dollar store conceptualizing the perfect party hat. Onto a big straw chapeau that looked a little too Huck Finn to start, went red, white and green ribbons, a bouquets worth of fake red and white flowers and to really make it special, I glued on a big plastic horse because nothing says “derby” like a large equine sculpture on the side of your head. It was heavy and lopsided due to that horse but I looked rather fantastic. Since the 2013 Kentucky Derby is Saturday May 4th and Cinco de Mayo is Sunday May 5th I think my hat may come out of retirement. It will perfectly compliment a big melted mass of cheese.
My mother and I spend a great deal of time planning our holiday meals. Christmas Eve is always a big seafood extravaganza, our own version of the Italian “Feast of the Seven Fishes” and though much of the menu stays the same, we’re open to new ideas. Throughout the year we keep an eye out for something that might work into the menu. If something piques our interest, we’ll make a little mental note and have lengthy discussions. Oysters on the half shell, steamed clams and king crab legs with lots of lemon and garlic butter are fixed, no question. But we’ve also tried shrimp cocktail, steamed mussels, BBQ shrimp, a horrendously failed attempt at grilled calamari, stuffed mussels and a cold seafood salad at one time or another. While all were good, except that calamari which I refused to serve, neither of us was in love with any of them. So I was on the lookout.
I have a deep love for breakfast pastries. Crazy love. As a kid, special morning moments were always marked with a treat – Pillsbury pecan rolls to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, cookies for Christmas breakfast, pink donuts for Valentine’s Day. Don’t even get me started on Paczki Day. I could take or leave a muffin but a well-made croissant makes my toes tap. In culinary school I learned to make Danishes the proper way, with layers and layers of careful butter lamination, and promptly gained 5 happy pounds. A beautiful flaky scone or a perfect old-fashioned donut is cause for celebration. I’ve been known to do some serious damage on a kringle of any kind, but given the choice, a good bakery-style buttery, crumbly coffeecake wins every time.
It’s that time of the year again. The time when Chicago dyes its river bright green and the drunks come out to play by the droves. When everyone is suddenly Irish and people think a green tutu is acceptable day wear. It’s the time I develop insatiable cravings for corned beef, pints of Guinness and pretty much anything soaked in whiskey. Which is why I’ve been baking Whiskey Cakes like a maniac.
So yeah, it’s that day today. Valentine’s Day, the day pastry chefs everywhere secretly (or not so secretly) despise as I’ve discussed before. The intense need to do something special, something important, something meaningful is so high it’s nearly unattainable. So I recommend you stay home and simply enjoy the company of your loved ones from the comfort of your couch. Avoid the obnoxious crowds and eat a bowl of cereal for dinner. Maybe even Lucky Charms where you picked out all the marshmallows except the pink hearts.