Dear Santa: I was a very good girl this year in the face of adversity that would have made even Mother Theresa a nasty bitch. In light of this, I have a few wishes for what I want in my stocking this year. Well, besides being taken OUT of my stockings by George Clooney. I know budgets are very tight Mr. C, now that the elves have unionized and labor costs have skyrocketed. Plus you have to print instructions for all those electronic thingies in 14 different languages now, and that can’t come cheap. So I promise I’ll keep this simple and economical. What I’d really like for all of us this year is hope when we’ve lost it, laughter when we need it, strength when we’ve exhausted it, new love when we least expect it, and kindness and respect towards everyone and everything. And if you could swing a job for me and the others who have lost theirs, that would be awfully swell too. The rest of the ‘stuff’ isn’t really as important as we all think it is.
I promise I’ll keep up my end of the deal and continue to keep everybody well fed with stories, recipes, and a seemingly unending parade of foot ware with altitude and attitude. Oh, and as far as George Clooney goes? If you could make that happen, well, let’s just say you’d never have to work for cookies again. Give my regards to the elves, Mrs. C and all the reindeer (all except for Vixen that is. Last year I petted Donner’s nose and that jealous doe peed on my Pradas).
Dear Karin: Yes, you have been a good girl (if I overlook some snarky comments in your blogs). I will set my elves to work immediately. By the way, Mrs. C appreciated the shout-out. She always complains nobody ever appreciates her efforts, and do people realize just how much of a bitch it is keeping my outfit clean (especially the white fur), what with all the creosote in chimneys these days. She also wishes you would pass it on that people should stop leaving me so many cookies because she is sick of letting out the waistbands in my pants and sewing elastic on the buttons on my coat. (She was standing over my shoulder and made me type that…you and I can have our own arrangement, wink wink.) Please continue keeping your head up, and know that I’m working on a job for you next year (and yes, you will definitely have to wear heels). Love, Santa (and Donner)
If I had to name the one treat that always meant Christmas in my family it was my mother’s Linzer Torte. The smell of cloves, cinnamon and almond as it baked, and the jolt of Kirshwasser fumes when mixing the dough put the ho ho ho in the holidays. My Oma especially loved it, and since her birthday was in December, Linzer Torte was always her birthday cake. She never baked it herself, but instead left that to my mother. Oma isn’t with us anymore, but Mom still makes one every year (no one in my family will let her stop.) Happy Birthday Oma, and please put in a good word for me with Santa…
Mom’s Linzer torte
Makes one 1/2 sheet pan full, or two tart pans (one 10″, one 8″)
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 sticks (1/2 lb) butter, softened
- 1 egg
- 1 generous shot glass Kirshwasser
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- ½ lb ground almonds, ground hazelnuts, or a combination of both (you can use almond meal here too if you have it)
- ½ a jar of raspberry preserves mixed with ½ a jar of currant jelly**
- Confectioner sugar for sprinkling on top
(** A note about the jam. My mom would mix raspberry with currant to get a tarter flavor, since American jams were much sweeter than the kind you could find in Germany. Today more imported jam is available, so if you can’t find currant jelly, use Hero brand raspberry jam or another imported from Europe.)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a large (1/2 sheet-sized) sided cookie sheet, or one 10” and one 8” tart pan with removable bottoms. (You could use nonstick cookie sheet and tart pans if you have them).
Beat the softened butter with the sugar until it’s fluffy. Add the egg and mix until well incorporated. Add the vanilla and almond extract and the shot of Kirshwasser and mix well.
Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cloves into the butter mixture. Beat until well together. Add in the ground almonds and mix until dough forms.
Take 2/3 of the dough and pat into the prepared pan(s), making sure to go up the sides a little too. Spread the jam evenly over the dough.
Roll out the remaining dough to a thickness of a little less than ¼ of an inch. If you are using the tart pans, cut strips (about ½ to ¾ inch wide) and lay 3-4 strips across in one direction, and the same number in the other direction to make a lattice-looking top. This dough is too fragile to make a true lattice so don’t make yourself crazy. If a strip breaks, just piece it back together. Everything gets covered in powdered sugar once it’s baked.
If you are using the 1/2 sheet pan, use a 2” biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out circles, then cut the circles in half to make half moons. Lay them across the sheet pan on a diagonal with ends touching.
Bake for 45 minutes (if the edges start to become too brown, just cover them with foil.) Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar and cool on a rack. This is a very rich torte, so cut it into small pieces. Linzer Torte is one of those things that get better over time, so it’s the perfect dessert to make ahead. It’s best if you don’t cover it, but if you have to, use a piece of wax paper loosely on top. Calories: It’s Christmas, ho ho ho…