Its amazing how new traditions are formed.
A couple of years back exactly around these holidays, a 5 something year old girl wanted to bake cookies with her mom. So, they went to the store, bought some cookie cutters, came home and baked the cookies that they both wanted to bake. Then the two giggled with joy and gorged on the most delicious and prettiest cookies they had ever baked, as the sun sunk into the horizon. And that is when they knew their favorite holiday tradition was born.
When I was little, we hardly ate outside food. Even though eating out was not such an uncommon thing back then, it was strictly ruled out in my grand dad’s house where we were raised, for all kinds of genuine reasons of course. We were pretty well behaved kids, my brothers and I, and followed every bit of that.
That would change when my parents came to visit us once a month or when we would go spend our summer holidays with them. During those three months, we would get to eat whatever we wanted from the world outside home. Mom would bring us all kinds of goodies from the bakery. Jam biscuits in particular, I figure, must have been a favorite of hers. She’d buy it for us often. I relished every aspect of eating those biscuits from the colorful packaging to the kind of jam in it to the simple fact that mom bought those for us.
Those jam biscuits dug deep in my mind perhaps as a symbol of pampering and a taste of never-before-seen freedom. When I became a mom to a girl, history was almost waiting to be repeated. The jam biscuits had to re-appear in some form in our lives, waiting for the right time, place and the right moment.
I cannot fathom what a mark those jam biscuits must have left on me subconsciously. Reminiscence of the jam biscuits from my childhood and my little girl’s eagerness to bake cookies nudged me to bake these Linzer cookies for the first time, a couple of years back.
Baking with our little ones is the best feeling in the world. Living in the moment in the simple things that matter is when memories are created to last a lifetime.
Life is better with fresh baked cookies.
Cookies are made of butter and Love
Linzer cookies are originally from Linz, Austria the deemed home of Linzertorte, a traditional European Christmas pastry and the world’s oldest torte, apparently. Linzer cookies are made from the same recipe as that of Linzertorte where the dough contains nuts rather than flour as the main ingredient other than butter and sugar. Traditionally black currant preserve is used as the filling. In the American version, raspberry jam/preserve is commonly used. Variations use lemon or orange zest to spike some flavor, a combination of nuts and any fruit preserves, jam or jelly as the filling.
Don’t ever taste the cookie dough before baking though. Consider it a fair warning in good faith. Or you won’t be left with any to bake the cookies!
Needless to say, these cookies make for a perfect edible gift during the holidays.
Adapted from wilton linzer cookies recipe (on the cookie cutter set)
Makes 20 sandwich cookies plus center cookie cutouts
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), softened
- 2/3 cup granulated cane sugar
- 2/3 cup almonds
- 1/3 cup hazelnuts
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp non-gmo corn starch
- 1-1/2 tbsp ice cold water
- 1/2 cup seedless raspberry/blueberry/strawberry/apricot preserve of your choice
- confectioners' sugar for dusting (optional)
- linzer cookie cutter set
- 2 baking trays
- parchment paper
To soften butter, leave it on the kitchen counter (30 minutes before cookie prepping).
To make almond meal, pulse the almonds in a blender or food processor several times until ground to fine powder (not paste). sift if required and repeat pulsing until finely ground. makes about 2/3 cup almond meal.
To toast hazelnuts, place them in a pan on medium-high heat and keep tossing until brown and toasty and skin begins to crack. let cool completely. grind to a fine powder similar to almond meal. makes about 1/3 cup. mix both the nut meals together to make 1 cup.
In a bowl, whisk together unbleached flour, almond and toasted hazelnut meal, salt, baking powder and cinnamon to combine; set aside.
In a small cup, mix corn starch and cold water to be used as egg substitute; keep aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat softened butter and sugar with whisk or electric mixer until light, cream colored and fluffy. Pour in corn starch liquid and vanilla extract; mix well. Add flour mixture and mix only until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl using a silicone spatula and divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Dump each portion onto cling wrap sheets, press into palm size flat round discs about 1 inch thick and wrap separately. Refrigerate 2 hours or until firm enough to roll or up to 12 hours.
Line 2 baking trays with parchment sheet.
Place one disc of dough on a lightly floured surface or between two parchment sheets and roll out with a thick rolling pin (for even rolling) to 1/8 inch thick (thickness of a marie biscuit). Keep remaining dough chilled.
Cut out half of the dough with your chosen shape cookie cutter insert (this is top cookie); cut an equal number of rounds using the cutter without the insert (this is the bottom cookie). Transfer to parchment paper lined baking trays placing the cookies 2 inches apart (they will spread). Form dough scraps into a disc, chill for at least 30 minutes and re-roll. You can choose to bake the center shape cutouts of the top cookie or add them to the dough scraps and re-roll to make only cookie sandwiches. Repeat with the second disc of dough.
Chill the cut cookies in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to firm up.
When ready to bake the cookies, Preheat oven to 350°F
If baking all cookies (2 trays) at once, place a tray each on the top and bottom racks. otherwise, place the tray on the middle rack.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn light golden brown. Top rack cookies tend to burn faster. Make sure to switch the trays midway. Cool on baking tray for 2 minutes; remove from the tray and cool completely on a wire rack.
Store in an air tight container.
Just before serving, dust the top cookies (with cutouts) with confectioners' sugar (optional).
To assemble the cookie sandwich, invert bottom cookies (cookies with no cutout). Smear about a teaspoon of your choice of preserve starting from the center covering 3/4 th of the cookie. Gently press the dusted cookie on top. Repeat till all are done.
Chill the dough for 2 hours in the refrigerator. Dough becomes hard to roll when refrigerated longer.
It is important to chill the cut out cookies before baking or else cookies will spread and not hold shape when baked.
Cookie dough will be difficult to handle and roll on a hot or humid day. If possible, keeping the kitchen cool helps. Try not to handle the dough with your hands as the warmth from the hands will turn the dough mushy.
If the dough becomes difficult to roll, dust the surface and the rolling pin with flour, chill again and redo.
Make sure to be near the oven to avoid over baking. Cookies will burn quickly.
- To soften butter faster, cut 1/4 inch slices and let sit in a mixing bowl on the counter.
- Make sure hazelnuts are fresh before using as they go rancid very quickly. Buy only as much you need from bulk bins. They store well in the freezer for up to a year.
- I ground almonds straight out of freezer which helps in making nut meal easily rather than a paste.
- Don't skip the salt as it helps in bringing out the nuttiness of the nuts as well as balances the sweetness.
- Substitute hazelnuts with a whole cup of almonds. You can use up to 1/2 a cup of hazelnuts as well.
- In the absence of linzer cookie cutters, you can still make these cookies by using jar/bottle lids of different sizes with sharp edges for the cookie and center cutout.
- This recipes makes two trays full of cookies. You can bake both at once or one now and the other later.
- Cookie dough can be frozen to bake another day. Just transfer to the refrigerator on the day before baking and proceed as per the recipe.
Here are a few more holiday worthy goodies (& linzer cookies galore!) from friends:
Lintzer Cookies by Madhuri Aggarwal of MADaboutkithcen
Nankhatai (Indian Shortbread Cookies) by Anjana of at the corner of Happy & Harried
Spicy Hot Chocolate by Prerna of Indian Simmer
Chewy Gingerbread Man Cookies by Simi Jois of Turmeric n Spice
Linzer Cookies with homemade Jam by Bina at a bit Wholesomely
Chotolate Truffles, three ways by Himanshu Taneja of The White Ramekins
Gingerbread Cookies by Nandita of Paaka Shaale