Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Treats with international flavour

Cathi Litzenberger looks around the world for Christmas inspiration and finds it in New Zealand and Austria

Traditions in the foods we prepare and bake for the Christmas season are as varied as the people who have made Canada their home, and add an amazing variety to our enjoyment.

The Austrian linzer cookie has been a tradition throughout Europe under different names and with a wide variety of different fillings. This one is a favourite in our family and perfect for a hostess gift or any cookie exchange. The second recipe is a very popular New Zealand cookie. These extravagant cookies have a double-layered topping of rich caramel  and crumbly butter streusel and are a welcomed holiday treat. Enjoy adding a new cookie to your platter this year.

Best Austrian Linzer Cookies

1 bag (8-oz.) pecans

1/2 cup cornstarch

1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter (no substitutions), softened

1-1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 tsp.  vanilla extract

3/4 tsp. salt

1 large egg

2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cups seedless red raspberry jam

In food processor with knife blade attached, pulse pecans and cornstarch until pecans are finely ground.

In large bowl, with mixer on low speed, beat butter and 1 cup confectioners’ sugar until mixed. Increase speed to high; beat 2 minutes or until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula. At medium speed, beat in vanilla, salt and egg. Reduce speed to low; gradually beat in flour and pecan mixture just until blended, occasionally scraping bowl.

Divide dough into 4 equal pieces; flatten each into a disc. Wrap each disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 to 5 hours or until dough is firm enough to roll.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Remove 1 disc of dough from refrigerator; if necessary, let stand 10 to 15 minutes at room temperature for easier rolling. On lightly floured surface, with floured rolling pin, roll dough 1/8 inch thick. With floured 2 1/4-inch fluted round, plain round, or holiday-shaped cookie cutter, cut dough into as many cookies as possible. With floured 1- to 1 1/4-inch fluted round, plain round, or holiday-shaped cookie cutter, cut out centres from half of cookies. Wrap and refrigerate trimmings.

With lightly floured spatula, carefully place cookies, 1 inch apart, on ungreased large cookie sheet. Bake 17 to 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough and trimmings.

When cookies are cool, sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar through sieve over cookies with cutout centres. In small bowl, stir jam with fork until smooth. Spread scant measuring teaspoon jam on top of whole cookies; place cutout cookies on top. Store cookies, with waxed paper between layers, in tightly covered container at room temp. up to 1 week or in freezer up to 2 months. (If stored in freezer, you may need to sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar again before serving.)

Caramel Crumb Bars

20 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

2 1/2 cups flour, plus  more for pan

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tbsp. light corn syrup

1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk

Heat oven to 350°. Line a 9” x 13” baking sheet with parchment paper; grease and flour.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle, beat together 16 tbsp. butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt until fluffy. Add 2 1/4 cups flour; mix.

Transfer 3/4 dough to pan; press into bottom; chill. Rub remaining dough and flour into large crumbles; set aside. Combine remaining butter, brown sugar, syrup, and milk in a 2-qt. saucepan. Cook, stirring, over medium-high heat to make caramel, 8–10 minutes. Pour over dough; scatter crumbles over top. Bake until golden, 25–30 minutes.

Let cool. Cut into bars.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.