Now that the Holidays are coming, I’m getting out all of my recipes that I only make at this time of year, such as these Linzer cookies. I love having these baking traditions that mean so much to me and my family. When they come for our Holiday gatherings, they can count on finding these little pastries that help connect all the memories of our shared past. This is my absolute favorite time of the year.
These Linzer Cookies are actually a riff on the famous Linzer Torte, which is named for the city of Linz, Austria and is the oldest-known torte in the world. The recipe was found in 1653 in the archive of the Admont Abbey in Austria. The Linzer Torte has a lattice design on top of the pastry and the dough is made with ground nuts, usually hazelnuts, sometimes almonds or walnuts and is filled with black currant preserves. It is a Christmas classic in Austrian, Hungarian, Swiss and German traditions.
Unlike a cake, a torte replaces all or most of the flour with ground nuts. White torte dough is made with blanched almonds, and brown torte dough with toasted hazelnuts. In North America the same torte dough is used to make these cookies and they’re filled with raspberry jam. The top cookie has a small cutout in its center (known as Linzer eyes), through which you can see the shiny jam which adds to the visual appeal. While the traditional cutout is circular, all sorts of shapes, such as hearts, are also popular.
When you have your dough rolled out between plastic wrap, use an offset spatula to loosen the dough rounds from the bottom wrap and to place them on the baking sheet.
I like to make my cookie dough with hazelnuts, because I love their flavor and the way they complement the raspberry jam. If you can’t get hazelnuts, you can certainly use almonds or walnuts. Your dough will still have that wonderful nuttiness to go with the jam. Be sure to process your nuts very finely, so you will have no trouble pushing the cookie cutter through the dough. I like to use a fluted cutter, but a plain round one is fine, or any other shapes you choose. Just make sure to make a cutout in the middle.
I would love to hear what you bake for your traditional Holiday gatherings.
Linzer Wreaths with Raspberry Jam
5 Dozen Cookies
3 1/3 cups whole hazelnuts (or almonds), roasted, then finely ground
1 ½ cups salted butter, room temperature (3 sticks)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon vanilla
3 1/3 cup unsifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Seedless raspberry jam
Sifted powdered sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake hazelnuts on ungreased cookie sheet for 8 – 10 minutes until browned and skins are beginning to crack. Wrap in terrycloth towel and sweat for 10 minutes. Rub nuts vigorously to remove as much of skin as possible. Grind fine in food processor.
2. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with a fork until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, yolk, lemon zest and vanilla. Stir in the ground nuts. Blend in flour, baking powder and cinnamon – it may be stiff. Divide dough in half, form each into 1-inch thick disc, and wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill well – several hours or overnight.
3. Remove one dough disc from refrigerator for about an hour, until it is soft enough to roll out. Cut two pieces of plastic wrap about 2 feet long and place on rolling surface, overlapping about 6 inches. Place disc of dough in the middle. Place two more pieces of plastic wrap over dough, overlapping them 6 inches.
4. Keeping the other half chilled, roll out the half of dough between pieces of plastic wrap to ¼-inch thick or lightly less. Remove the top sheet of wrap and cut 2-inch round cookies. Remove the rounds from the wrap with an offset spatula and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
5. Cut out the centers of half the cookies with a ¾-inch round cookie cutter. Bake the rounds in a 350 degree oven for 9 minutes or until the edges of cookies are golden. Remove from oven and let stand 1 minute, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
5. Reform the remaining dough back into a ball and roll out, cut and bake. Continue until entire piece of dough is used. Repeat with the other ball of refrigerated dough.
5. Sift powdered sugar over the rounds with the cutout circles. Spread the remaining circles with 1-2 teaspoons raspberry jam. Top each with a cut out round and press gently together. Spoon a little more jam into the opening of each. Enjoy!