Friday, December 24, 2010

recipe: linzertorte

Some facts about the linzertorte: 1) It is basically an almondy cookie cake. 2) It is filled with raspberry jam. 3) It is spiced to taste like Christmas. 4) The amount of effort it takes to make < the amount of impressed your friends & family will be.

By "facts" I might've meant "reasons why linzertortes are a holiday tradition in my family". Here is one additional reason:


I never feel like it's really the holidays until I've made one of these. It's the perfect thing to take to parties, and can safely be made a day or two ahead (fact 5: it's tastier after a day or so) and/or in steps, as your schedule allows.

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking, Not Derby Pie, and The Joy of Baking.
Serves ~12 (it's very rich, so small wedges will do)


1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour (If you like/have white-whole-wheat, 1/2 c. of that plus 3/4 c. all purpose also works)
1 c. almond flour (or fine-ground blanched [skinless] almonds)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon or orange zest (1 lemon or ≥1/2 orange worth)

2/3 c. white granulated sugar
3/4 c. (1.5 sticks) butter
2 egg yolks

1 1/4 c. (~1 jar, ~10 oz.) tasty raspberry preserves
2 tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon or orange juice


Add your dry ingredients into a medium bowl (you can zest the citrus straight into the bowl to capture all the good zesty oils) and whisk to combine.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar for ~3 minutes, until they've lightened in color and texture. Beat in the egg yolks for ~1 minute until well incorporated. Stir in the dry ingredients, 1/3rd-ish at a time, until well combined.

Divide the mixture into 2 parts, one a bit larger than the other -- about 60%/40%. Ball & smush one part in your hands until it's happy (read: non-crumbly) enough to stay in ball form, then flatten it slightly into more of a disc. Do the same for the other! Wrap each disc separately in plastic/foil/a sandwich bag and pop them both in the fridge. They need to chill for 30 minutes at the very least, and preferably at least an hour. They will not be harmed by hanging out in there for a whole day, in fact, if you find that you've got Other Things To Do.

When the dough is chilled and you're ready to bake, butter & flour a 9-inch springform. (A cake or tart pan would also work, provided it's at least 2 inches deep.) Prepare to roll your dough out: sprinkle some flour on a large surface (I like sticking a piece of wax or parchment paper to the counter with a few drops of water and rolling on that for ease of turning the dough and moving it into the pan, but your mileage may vary if you can't get the paper to stick), get some flour on your clothes/face/hair, rub your rolling pin down with some flour, panic.

Next, stop panicking. This is not pie crust, this is cookie crust. It's really forgiving. Take out the larger piece of dough and roll it out into a big, evenly thick, mostly circular shape that's ~1-2 inches larger in diameter than your pan. A few cracks around the edges are okay -- just pinch them back together. Drape the dough down into the pan as centeredly as possible and press the bottom down and the sides up. The sides need to be 1/2 to 1 inch high -- just high enough to hold your jam. You can smoosh the dough around, breaking chunks off where there's too much and adding them where it's sparse -- like I said, not a pie crust.

This is a good time to preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Measure out your jam into a small bowl and mix in your citrus juice, then pour/spread the mixture evenly into the crust.

Take the second half of the crust out of the fridge and roll it out into an oval that's about as wide as your pan the short way across -- it'll be a bit thinner than the bottom crust was. With a large, flour-dusted knife, slice it width-wise into strips 1/2 inch wide.

Now, if you're very motivated you could lattice the strips properly across the top of the jam-filled crust, but what I do is just lay one set of strips down across the top, 1/2 inch apart and parallel to each other, and then lay a second set down perpendicular to and right across the top of the first set. It'll still look plenty pretty. If you do it my way, I think it's helpful to start in the middle with the longest pieces and move towards the edges with shorter pieces.

Either way, you're going to want to press the ends of each strip down into the edge of the crust. Trim off any extra lengths and smoosh them down into any gaps between the strips, and use any leftover dough to further even out the rim of the crust. I like rolling the excess dough into snakes and using strips & bits of those to fill in the gaps.

I brushed an egg wash onto the linzertorte pictured (beat 1 egg with a fork and then use a pastry brush to spread a thin layer over the crust), but it's not necessary. Iiii actually think it's prettier without it.

Pop the torte in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until it smells lovely and the crust is golden brown and pulling away from the edges on the pan. It'll be crumbly & sorta dry when it's warm and will get better the longer you let it sit, so try to let it cool completely before serving -- it might take a couple hours. You can decorate it with a bit of powdered sugar (put a tablespoon or two in a fine mesh sieve and tap the edge while holding it over the torte to sprinkle it on) if you like. The torte will be even nicer the next day, once the jam has had a chance to seep into the crust a little and all the flavors have really melded, so I recommend baking it a day ahead if you have time, or saving a slice for breakfast if you don't. Just seal it up in airtight containers and finish it within a week or so if there happens to be any leftover.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

bathy congratulations!

Real quick, and with many thanks to humankind for working out how to put wifi on airplanes so that we wired kids never have to be far from our Internet surfboards:

Congratulations to WendyLady, the winner of my contest for a bathy gift from The Happy Manatee!

Thanks to everyone who dropped by and entered -- hopefully I'll be able to post another contest soonly. In the meanwhile, did you know that The Amazing Screw-On Head is the best short film/comic book thing ever created? Because it is! And if you disagree, then pardon me if I say "Poppycock".

Sunday, December 12, 2010

review: The Happy Manatee bath products

Facebook is perhaps not entirely a social time machine of evil. It occasionally reconnects you, not like a disgruntled switchboard operator hoping to break all the phone jacks but rather like a gentle breeze returning a fallen leaf to the cradling branches of its tree, to good people. Like, for example, my friend Breena, who once drove from Tallahassee to Gainesville to pick me up for hangouts because I didn't have a car in college, and didn't even hate me when my grown-ass ass had to ask for instructions on how to pump/pay for gas.

Breena and her husband recently started up a line of bath & beauty products out of South Florida under the name The Happy Manatee, and since I like soap and they like me, they sent me a bunch of samples to try out. I'm perhaps obviously biased, what with the owner being a friend of mine and having received free samples, but what follows are my honest, objective-as-possible opinions about the products I tried.

Gingerbread Salt Scrub [$7.99 for a huge tub]
I'm a) wary of scrubs and b) in love with this stuff. The former is because my skin's pretty sensitive (read: acne prone, with a tendency to flake & fall off at the very thought of exfoliation & other preventional attempts), and the latter is because this scrub is blissfully massagey without being scratchy, with a lot of moisurizing oil and a comfortingly warm, very clovey ginger-cinnamon-spice scent that will last a couple hours on your skin if you don't wash it off. It'd be great for unwinding by yourself or with a showerfriend (nod-nod-wink-wink-say-no-more). Use it before you soap up for a little moisturization, or afterwards for a whole, whole lot. I'll get several applications out of this tub. My only gripe about this stuff is the snap-lid container, which becomes difficult to open when it's oily and wet, which is necessarily what happens in, say, a shower. It might be easier to use in a bath, or when the container has seen a bit of wear. They've also got a Peppermint Salt Scrub and a Coffee & Sugar Scrub.

Peppermint soap [$4.99 for an averagely bar-sized bar]
This soap smells lovely, like a meltaway peppermint candy with just a hint of vanilla. It foams up really creamily with lots of suds and practically no scent other than a touch of sweet cleanness when used with a loofah (the peppermint comes out more, like tea, when it's used directly), and the scent lingered on my skin for maybe half an hour after my shower. The soap is marbled red and white, with a sweet surprise of red glitter scattered sparingly throughout. When used all by its lonesome for test purposes, it did leave my skin a bit dry -- but that's mostly just my sensitive skin + dry winter weather. I'd absolutely recommend this as a body soap for people have sturdy skin or who don't mind moisturizing after a shower, or as a hand soap to everyone. They've also got 6 other scents & formulas that I'm not going to read about right now because I have a weakness for soap and currently own more than I'll use in a year.

Cocoa Body Lotion Bar [$4.99 for 2 1-inch-square bars, 1.5 ounces total]
In bar form, this solid lotion smells like -- well, like a piece of chocolate. Just from the cocoa butter it's made with, apparently! It comes wrapped like a chocolate, in pretty gold foil (which is a bit difficult to peel off when the bar is cold -- you might want to warm it in your hands for a minute or so before trying to remove the foil). Once it's settled into my skin it smells a bit less sweet and more musky/dusty/sexy, and the scent lasts a good couple hours but doesn't have very much throw, which I like in a lotion. It feels greasy until it soaks in, but that's how solid lotion bars go -- it's a very rich sort of moisturizer, best for when your skin really needs help. A little is quite enough to get along with, so even though the bar is only about an inch square, it'll last me awhile.

Mint Chocolate Body Butter [$9.99 for a 6-ounce tin]
This stuff smells and feels sinful. I'm honestly not big on lotions, but I keep coming back to this -- the texture is velvety, and it smells like Thin Mints. Like the Cocoa Body Lotion Bar, it's a bit greasy on your skin until it's had time to soak in, so give it a few minutes after application before you go putting on nice clothes. The mint fades and the chocolate amps on me after it's been on awhile, going more musky/dusty/sexy. I think it's got maybe a tiny bit more lasting power and throw than the Cocoa Bar, but not by a lot. Just thinking about it makes me want to go put some on. I apply lotion sparingly, and this tub will last me just about forever. They've also got 3 other body butter scents.

Baked Goods Candle [$10.99 for a big ol' Bell jar filled with candle]
When I first received it, this candle had an almost overwhelmingly strong bakey/cinnamony scent, but I left it to cure for a few weeks and it mellowed into something quite gentle and nice, like snickerdoodles (and this coming from a monkey who prefers subtle, cleaner, more boylike scents in candles). As it burns, it mostly just smells waxy -- you really only get the bakey scent by sniffing it directly, and when you blow it out -- which I consider a candle win. I haven't had it lit for very long, but it didn't smoke or sputter, and seemed to be slow burning. I'm looking forward to reaching the other layers to see what they smell like. And I love that it comes in a Bell jar -- makes it easy to minimize the scent when you're not using it. They've also got 10 other candle scents and 3 massage candles.

Cleopatra's Milk Bath [$5.99 for a 6-ounce tin]
My tablespoon-sized sample of this wasn't quite enough for a tubful of water (I suspect you'd need at least twice that much for a full bath), but it softened the water and gave off a gentle, cleanly pretty, soft citrus-rose scent. I used mine in the teabag it arrived in to mitigate potential flotsam (you might want to do the same if you don't like floaty bits in your bath), but the rose petals, lavender buds, and orange peel would probably be very pretty when used loose. It's just a tiny bit pinkish from the rose petals, which you shouldn't leave sitting in your tub, as they might leave a stain to be scrubbed. I'm curious to try using more!

Japanese Cherry Blossom Fizzie (currently only offered as part of gift sets [$14.99 for a bar of soap, 2 fizzies, and 2 lotion bars])
If the Milk Bath smells pretty, the Cherry Blossom Fizzie smells sexy. Possibly dirty-sexy. In an excellent if incongruous-to-bathing way. It's floral and musky, and I could swear that ylang-ylang is involved in it somehow. One li'l hemisphere was enough to just lightly scent my bath, but I'd probably use two next time 'cause I'm so enamored with the scent. The fizzie action was excellent and entertaining, not at all lackluster the way some bath fizzes can be, and it had just enough olive oil in it to make the bath moisturizing without the tub getting all slippery. The light pink color only barely affected the bathwater. They offer 3 other fizz scents in other gift boxes.

A Note on Packaging and Ingredients
Though the packaging isn't anything fancy, it's all very greenly minimal, mostly practical, and (best of all) mostly reusable. Though the ingredients aren't listed in full on the website at the moment, they're similarly minimal and practical, generally vegan and with no preservatives. I'm picky about what I put on my skin (see above re: sensitive and acne-prone), and I felt good about using everything I received. If you have any questions about their products, I'm sure The Happy Manatee staff would be glad to answer them. Or leave a comment here, and I'll get answers back to you as soon as I can!

And hey, as a thank-you to Breena for sending me things and to you for reading (or, y'know, scrolling) this far, I'm offering a contest! One lucky commenter will win a small gift box of their choice from The Happy Manatee! Just leave a comment with your email address and the name of the small ($14.99) gift box you fancy (for yourself or someone deserving of a good pampering), and one week from today, on Sunday, December 19th at 5:00pm, I'll randomly draw a winner to receive their desired gift. You must comment with your email & the name of a gift box to enter, but I'll give you an extra entry for linking to this post publicly on Twitter, Delicious, and/or Facebook, for a possible total of 4 entries! Just comment with a link to your tweet/delish/FB post so's I'll know you aren't a dirty liar did it. Good luck, and happy bathing!