Holiday Linzer Cookies

I threw the “Holiday” part in the title because they really were for the holidays in my home. They’re my mom’s favorites! You can try this recipe out and maybe they can be your mom’s favorites too. See, just because I was on vacation in real life doesn’t mean I took a break from baking, so you’ll have plenty of new stuff, my family favorites, coming your way.

I made the dough for these Linzer Cookies before I left to hang with my parents and sister down in Florida for a week. I was told that no one needed any gifts, so I could just bake cookies for them all week. And so I did! I tried a new recipe, re-made some standard favorites, and also recreated some I had made before I decided to start keeping track.

I have decided that’s going to either be the fun part or the nightmare of this blogging endeavor – recreating some of the cookies I made a while ago so I have a visual record of them. Why a nightmare you ask? Have you ever tried making Rainbow Cookies? Usin marzipan? Nightmare. Don’t want to go through that again, no matter how fantastic they tasted. We’ll see what happens. Even these Linzer tarts were a pain, but we’ll get to that. And yes, I plan to make them again because Mom loved them!

Why am I telling you this? One of my favorite things I’ve discovered through my foray into baking is how Julia Child was so beloved partially because she’s just awesome, but partially because she wasn’t afraid to make, and to show you, her mistakes. That’s what I’m trying to do here. I can give you a recipe no problem, but I also want to be able to warn you before you try to tackle it so you can learn from my mistakes.

So, without further ado….

LINZER COOKIES (from Epicurious.com)

  • 2/3 cup hazelnuts (also called filberts in some places – about 3 oz)
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • raspberry jam- I used maybe 1/3 cup, bought a new jar to be safe though
  • powdered sugar for decorating

First, toast the hazelnuts in a shallow baking pan until they’re fragrant and skins loosen. I just put them in the toaster for a few minutes. You don’t want them brown, just starting to brown. The hazelnuts I bought were mostly skin free anyway, so you’ll see that this step is more for the aroma. (That’s what they mean by fragrant, it’s unbelievable, you’ll see if you haven’t toasted nuts before.)

To get any excess skin off you can rub the hazelnuts in a kitchen towel. It says to let them cool completely, but I also know that nuts are more easily chopped when they’re warm, so I let them cool almost completely so there wouldn’t be problems in the food processor.

Pulse nuts and 1/4 cup brown sugar in a processor until they’re finely ground. Smells like heaven.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

Beat butter and the leftover brown sugar in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Then add the nut/sugar mixture and beat until combined, about a minute. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Put the mixer on low speed and add flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. I recommend breaking this up into at least 2 additions, otherwise you get clouds of flour dust and it’s harder for the mixer to do its job.

The directions then read “with floured hands, form dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 5 inch disk. Chill disks, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 2 hours.” I flattened my dough into one long rectangle in plastic wrap. I made it early so I could take it on vacation with me, and just wanted to carry one thing of dough.

Just for everyone’s information, should you ever choose to travel with dough… I wrapped the dough in wax paper, then plastic wrap, then a zip-top bag. I left it in the fridge overnight, and took it out just before I went to the airport. I put it in my CHECKED bag. Yes, you know why? Because my bags always come out from under the plane ice cold, and that’s what I wanted. Let me tell you, 5 hour flight, 1 hour drive home, 1 hour of stopping for groceries and shenanigans before I got home, and the dough was still cold and solid in shape. SCORE. I popped it back in the fridge until I was ready to bake.

Back to the recipe… prepeat the oven to 350°F. Set racks on the top and lower 3rd of the oven. I didn’t do this, I only cooked one sheet at a time because I couldn’t get the cookies cut out fast enough and didn’t want to waste time.

Now, although I put the dough in the fridge as one big rectangle, I did only work with half of it at a time. Roll out the dough somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4″. I tried to make them as flat as possible because you’re putting them together as a sandwich and you don’t need as thick a cookie since there will be 2. However, I had a very difficult time picking up the cookies when they were too thin, so I started making them a bit thicker. I think I’ll try to use a spatula next time.

Using a 2-2 1/4 inch round or fluted cookie cutter, cut out as many circles as you can from the rolled dough. Put the cookies about 1 inch apart. You will want an even number of cookies for the sandwiches, and for half of them you will use a smaller cookie cutter to create a window. I made my windows with holiday shapes, so I kept the cutouts to make some hazelnut cookies. FYI – it was even harder to lift the cookies with the windows in them. It seemed as though the recipe called for cutting out the windows once they were on the tray, but that doesn’t make sense to me as it’s a lot easier (ha) lifting a cookie up around a center than pulling a piece out of the center of a cookie without ruining it.

Originally I had tried doing other shaped windows too, but they kept ripping. The candy canes look cute though!

The recipe recommends, and I use that word because I didn’t heed its advice, you only roll out the dough once, and reroll only once with the scraps. There were way too many scraps for me to not keep rerolling. So I kept popping half the dough back in the freezer while I was working with the other half. As I mentioned earlier, this whole endeavor was kind of hellish. The dough is SUPER STICKY. And it only takes a little bit before it starts warming up too much and is impossible to lift up cookies without ruining them.

Anyway, that’s why I baked one sheet at a time in the middle of the oven. It took too long to make the cookies otherwise. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the edges are golden. (I did the lower end, turns out my mom’s oven takes a minute or so less than my oven at home. I’m sure there are scientific reasons for this that involve altitude, latitude, and obviously the respective ages of the ovens, but to hedge my bets I just started taking stuff out of the oven a minute early.) If you’re baking 2 sheets at a time, swap the sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through. If you’re only doing one sheet at a time like I did, Martha Stewart says you should still turn the sheet around front to back, if you remember. (I didn’t.)

Here’s a shot of my cookies with my new U Miami oven mitts. GO CANES!

When I baked my little cutouts, I only left them in for 8 minutes because they were so small. You might need even less time.

They look just like my graham cracker cookies.

Let these cool completely. Then, I put all my window cookies on a tray together and sifted powdered sugar over the tops. Not too much, more for decoration than anything else. Also, I didn’t have a sifter so I kind of just used my fingers to spray sugar everywhere. It got the point across.

Spread about 1 teaspoon of the jam on the flat side of the solid cookie. I didn’t measure, I just made sure there was enough for flavor but not too much that it globbed over the edges. Put the window cookie over the top. I got about 30 cookies out of this, which made about 15 sandwiches. Then I had more than 15 of the cutouts because there was leftover dough and I just kept cutting out little shapes until I was sick of it.

I threw a little ‘J’ cookie in there just for me 🙂

I hope these cookies are easier for you than they were on me, because they’re delicious and totally worth it. Happy New Year everyone!

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