Thursday, December 23, 2010

Linzer Cookies

I try to make one new cookie every year and one that I have never tried to make yet is Linzer Cookies. I wanted to make the cookies as close to the flavor of the real thing as possible. Most recipes I looked at made what appeared to be a rather simple sugar cookie or shortbread cookie with jam. I just knew they were missing something. When I checked out numerous recipes for Linzer Torte, I figured out what was missing. There is an extraordinary combination of spices in German and Austrian pastries - something I couldn't quite identify - like in Stollen. What I discovered was the combination of vanilla, lemon zest, cinnamon and cloves. When I added them to the Linzer Cookie dough, I knew I had hit the jackpot! They smelled just right.

Now traditional Linzer Torte dough is usually made with ground hazelnuts, but sometimes almonds or walnuts are used instead. I decided to use almonds, mostly because I had used hazelnuts in my Russian Tea Cakes and I wanted a different flavor in the cookie tin. I found a special cookie cutter for Linzer Cookies at a cookware store, which made things a lot easier. It had a special little lever that allowed for the bottoms to be cut and then when released cut the top cookie with a little cute tulip cutout in the middle. If you don't have this special kind of cookie cutter, just use a regular round one about 2" wide and then cut out the middles of half of the cookies with a tiny cookie cuter. When the top and bottom cookies are sandwiched with raspberry jam in the middle, it looks like a little stained glass window. They are now going to be a staple in my Christmas cookie repertoire. Merry Christmas!

Linzer Cookies

2/3 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extraact
1/8 teaspoon cloves
rind of one lemon, zested

1 jar seedless raspberry jam or jelly (you can use strawberry, blackberry or currant too) mixed with 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add ground almonds, the egg and vanilla and mix together until combined. Then add in flour mixture until just mixed through. Form dough into 2 balls and flatten on plastic wrap and chill the dough wrapped in plastic for one to two hours. When ready to cook, remove from the refrigerator and roll out dough between two sheets of wax paper until the dough is between 1/8" and 1/4". Using a round cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can. Place on ungreased cookie sheets about 1 " apart (parchment paper or Silpat is helpful). Use a smaller cutter to cut out the center of half the cookies. Add centers back to the remaining dough. Make more cookies from the rest of the dough.

In 350 degree oven, bake cookies for about 10 - 12 minutes or until just starting to get brown on the edges. Do not overbake. Transfer to a wire rack or a cool plate.

When cookie are cool, put about 1 teaspoon of jam on the solid cookie bottoms and place cutout cookie on top so that you can see the jam below. Sandwich all the cookies. Store covered in the refrigerator. Cookies are even better after the first day.

Makes about 2 dozen

Five Element Analysis

Once again it is obvious that sweet cookies belong to the Earth Element, but because these cookies are made with ground nuts, they have more Water Element in them than usual for a cookie. The wheat flour as always brings in the Wood Element and the little bit of lemon juice emphasizes this element even more. The raspberry jam adds some wonderful Fire as does the lemon zest and the spices and vanilla bring in the Metal Element. Who knew that these cookies would be so balanced?

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