Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gingerbread Linzertorte and Christmas Nostalgia!

Christmas is nearly here!

It might surprise some people reading this, knowing I'm a practicing Muslim, but Christmas is always going to be a memorable time of the year for me. I grew up believing in Santa Claus (Father Christmas), and our house always had a big decked out (plastic) Christmas tree every year with presents under it. We exchanged Christmas cards at school, and I absolutely miss singing carols! My mum would make a roast chicken with luscious gravy and veggies for Christmas day lunch, and one of my most favourite memories is my dad driving my sister and I every year to Harrods in London, at night, especially to see the beautiful window displays, all whilst munching on hot roasted chestnuts!
We never celebrated the religious aspect of it, and now that I am much older I can look back on those memories fondly, whilst being fully aware of who I am today and what I firmly believe in. Not to mention, Christmas is very different here in Dubai. Oh sure it is celebrated openly, and all the shops have been decorated just as spectacularly. But maybe it is exactly that - being older and wiser, and knowing that it gave joy in my youth, which makes it all the more special in my mind. Truth be told, I think Christmas will always hold its most special place in the heart of a child!
I guess what I'm trying to say is, even though there may be no more Christmas trees and presents, this time of the year can't go by for me without a little nostalgia and celebration. Apart from lots of store bought chocolate and mince pies, we never really baked anything for the holiday when I was growing up. So naturally when it came to baking another post for the blog I was inclined to try out a Christmas inspired recipe! And that's where this deliciously spiced gingerbread linzertorte comes in.
Traditionally the linzertorte finds its origins in Austria, and has become a firm holiday favourite in Hungary, Switzerland and Germany too. Most recipes involve lemon and almonds, but this gingerbread version has an abundance of spices to make it a lot more Christmas friendly.

The combination of ginger, cinnamon, cloves and pepper really gives this linzertorte a warmth and festive aroma. My husband even commented on the pleasant smell when he came home from work, as it basically makes the house smell like everything you would associate with December baking.  Filled with a raspberry jam layer, the sticky sweet tartness perfectly complemented the spice infused nutty crust, and was enjoyed greatly with vanilla ice-cream!
The dough is quite delicate though, so be gentle when rolling it out and definitely whilst handling too. You can probably tell from the pictures that I had a little trouble with my shell tops breaking! Be sure to take the tarts out just when they seem right, without over-baking, and I would also recommend a really generous layer of the jam.

I want to end this post by wishing all my readers seasons greetings, for Christmas and the New Year, as this will be my last post for 2013! And a question for nostalgias sake, I would love to know, do you celebrate Christmas differently now than you did in your youth?
Gingerbread Linzertorte
Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 1 large, or 4 mini tarts
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, soft
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg white
Raspberry jam
1. Preheat oven to 162 degrees C, with the rack in the lowest position, and grease tart pans.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, spices and salt together in a large bowl. Add the brown sugar and using an electric whisk on low speed, mix until combined.
3. Add the butter and mix until well incorporated. Add the molasses and egg yolks, mixing until the dough comes together.
4. Roll out 2/3 of the dough on a lightly floured surface to about a 1/4 inch thickness. Whether  making small tarts or one large tart, use your tart pan as a template. Cut around the pan whilst placed lightly on the dough, using a small sharp knife, and adding an inch extra to the outside to form the sides of the linzertorte.
5. Fit the cut dough rounds into your pans. Spread a thick layer of jam all over, and refrigerate for about 20-30 minutes.
6. Roll out the remaining dough to fit the size of the tart pans exactly. Transfer rounds onto a parchment lined baking tray, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. Using cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes from the rounds. You can reserve the cut outs as mini cookies, baking for 10 minutes at 162 degrees C.
7. Remove shell bases from fridge, and brush rim with the egg white. Carefully slide the cut out rounds onto the top, pressing the edges to adhere. Refrigerate until firm for 20-30 minutes.
8. Bake about 25-30 minutes for mini tarts, until crust is golden brown and jam filling is bubbling, and 50-60 minutes for the large tart. Leave to cool on rack.


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