Archive | November, 2012

Linzer Blitz Torte and a Bookstore for Foodies

24 Nov

Every home baker knows the agony of choosing the right recipe. You scour your cookbook collection, search the archives of your favorite blogs, and ponder back and forth until you’re thoroughly exhausted. I often wish for one trustworthy source where I can find simple, sophisticated desserts for every occasion. I found just the thing I was looking for last weekend at Omnivore Books in San Francisco. 

Hundreds of books about food and drink line the shelves of Omnivore Books in San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighborhood. I could spend an entire day in there, drooling over photos, fantasizing about restaurants and bakeries I want to visit, mentally marking all the recipes I want to make. There are vintage cookbooks with torn spines and retro covers, cookbooks in foreign languages, and cookbooks signed by chefs and bloggers. 

I went to Omnivore without a particular book in mind, but knew I wanted to purchase one as a souvenir. I asked an employee for a recommendation and she suggested Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts by Alice Medrich. Medrich, author of the highly acclaimed Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy, filled this book with quick, effortlessly elegant recipes. After flipping through the first few pages, I knew this was the perfect book for me: a girl who loves to bake refined desserts but doesn’t have time to spend hours poring over the kitchen counter. 

Every item in this book appealed to me, but I chose two cold-weather options to bring to my family’s Thanksgiving celebration. One of them was this Linzer Blitz Torte made with a buttery, almond crust, layered with raspberry preserves, and spiced with fragrant ground cloves and cinnamon. This torte was easy to put together, delicious, and beautiful- one of the best baked goods I have ever made. You could replace the raspberry preserves with apricot, lemon, or fig jam; the dough would complement whichever fruit you prefer. I received rave reviews from everyone who tried it, and am thrilled that my pursuit for a go-to recipe source is over. If you are a Northern California native or in SF for a few days, definitely stop by at Omnivore Books. It is a quaint, charming shop chock full of wonderful foodie finds. 

Recipe courtesy of Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts

3/4 cup whole raw almonds or hazelnuts, or a combination 
1 cup all-purpose flour 
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
1/4 tsp salt 
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 
1/2 tsp ground cloves 
11 tblsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks and slightly softened 
1 large egg yolk 
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon 
Grated zest of 1/2 orange 
1/4 tsp pure almond extract 
2/3 cup raspberry or blackberry preserves 

1. Combine the almonds, flour, granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon, and cloves in the food processor and pulse until the almonds are finely ground. Add the butter, egg yolk, grated lemon and orange zests, and almond extract and process until the dough comes together. Scrape the butter from the bottom of the processor to help distribute evenly. 
2. Measure 1/4 cup of the dough and shape it into a ball. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it. Grease the sides of a 9 x 2″ cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Press the remaining dough evenly over the bottom of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. 
3. To bake the torte, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the preserves evenly over the dough, leaving a scant 1/2-inch border all around. Using the largest holes of a grater, grate the chilled reserved dough over the jam (or cut the dough into matchsticks and scatter them over the jam). 
4. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Tent the torte loosely with foil and bake for 10-15 minutes longer, until it is a deep golden brown. 
5. Cool the torte in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the sides to release the torte. Let it cool completely. Invert the torte onto a plate and serve sprinkled with powdered sugar, if desired. 

Omnivore Books On Food 
3885 Cesar Chavez St. 
San Francisco, CA 94131
(415) 282 4712 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 
Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday, 12 – 5 p.m. 


Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Pecan-Brown Sugar Streusel

4 Nov

This is not just any pumpkin cake. This Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Pecan-Brown Sugar Streusel is the first baked good I have made since submitting my first college application; and boy, did it taste sweet. Applying to college is like watching an action film: one moment you are energized and hopeful, a second later you become massively overwhelmed, and by the time the movie’s over, you’re so drained all you want to do is sleep. What better way to celebrate this whirlwind experience than with a little baking therapy? 

I baked slowly and leisurely, enjoying every moment of my return to the kitchen after a long separation. Spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground ginger and sprinkled with toasted pecans, this cake embodies fall flavors. The batter is perfectly moist with a pumpkin taste that is present but not overpowering. My favorite part of any coffee cake is the buttery crumb topping. This cake has not just one, but two layers of nutty, sugary streusel, which means double the goodness. Cut into generous wedges and served with a cup of coffee, it makes a wonderful breakfast or afternoon snack. I particularly enjoy sneaking into the kitchen and nibbling on it sliver-by-sliver.

Recipe slightly adapted from Home Baked Comfort 

For the streusel:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour 
1/2 cup light brown sugar 
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
Pinch of kosher salt 
5 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks 
1 cup pecan pieces, lightly toasted for 10 minutes at 325 degrees F 

For the batter: 
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
2 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp baking soda 
2 tsp ground cinnamon 
1 tsp ground ginger 
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg 
1/2 tsp kosher salt 
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
1 cup light brown sugar 
2 large eggs 
1 cup pumpkin puree 
1/2 cup sour cream 

For the glaze:
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted 
2 tsp milk 
1 tsp vanilla extract 

Makes one 9-inch coffee cake.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan or a 9-inch cake pan with 3-inch sides. To make the streusel, in a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add the cubes of butter and, using a pastry cutter or fork, break down the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the toasted pecans. 
2. To make the batter, in a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the pumpkin puree and sour cream and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture in thirds, incorporating on low speed. The batter will be quite thick.
3. Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle half of the streusel over the batter. Spread the remaining batter over the streusel and top with the remaining streusel. 
4. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 50-55 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove the sides from the pan and slide the cake onto the rack. 
5. To make the glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. Drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake.