Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Baking Part 1: Linzer Cookies

First off, let me apologize for the lack of posts of late - I haven't entirely given up on cooking, I've just been having my term finals, been in San Francisco for a conference and chilling out (literally) in front of the heater and drinking hot cocoa. It's been snowing here for the past couple of days, and in Seattle, anything below 38F is considered madness.

When it's snowing, there's always the danger of ballooning up to 300 pounds because
a)You can never (or don't ever want to) leave the house
b)You're hungry ALL the time
c)You get addicted to hot chocolate and marshmallows with a dollop of creme fraiche

I decided to put to use my time moping around the house by doing some holiday baking. I trudged out last night in the snow to haul back one pound of blanched almonds since both cookies I've decided to make this year are based around almonds.

The first of the baking craze is the Austrian favourite - linzer cookies. I've been wanting to make these cute little things since I picked up a linzer cookie cutter set from Crate and Barrel just for the heck of wasting some hard-earned money. I used my favourite Bonne Maman raspberry preserves, but you can also use any other kind of good quality fruit preserves (a good alternative would be Stonewall Kitchen's Cranberry Orange Marmalade for a festive twist).

Linzer Cookies
Makes 30 2" sandwiches
Adapted from Joy of Baking, Tuesdays with Dorie and Barefoot Contessa

1 cup blanched or sliced almonds, toasted and ground
2 cups (280 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
Zest of 1 lemon
Confectioners' (Icing or Powdered) Sugar for dusting
1/2 cup Raspberry Preserves

Toast the almonds (or pecans) on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for about 8-10 minutes (or until lightly browned and fragrant). Once the nuts have cooled, place in a food processor and process with 1/4 cup of the sugar from the recipe until finely ground. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter and remaining sugar until light and fluffy (approximately 3 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract, egg yolks, and lemon zest. Beat in the ground nuts. Add the flour mixture beating just until incorporated. Divide the dough in half and shape into two rectangles about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) thick. Wrap the two rectangles of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least one hour and up to several days).

Preheat oven to 350°F and place rack in center of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Remove one rectangle of dough from the refrigerator. (Amanda's note, the dough will be crumbly, it would work better if you leave it out at room temperature for 10 minutes). On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch (1 cm) thick. Using a 2 to 3 inch (5 to 7.5 cm) cookie cutter (round, square, heart, etc.) cut out the dough. Place the cookies about 1 inch (2.54 cm) apart on the prepared baking sheet. Use a smaller cookie cutter (3/4 - 1 inch (2.54 cm)) to cut out the centers of half of the cookies on the baking sheet. (You will be sandwiching two cookies together and there will be a small 'window or cut out' in the top cookie so you can see the jam underneath.)

Re-roll any scraps and cut out the cookies. Remove the other half of the dough from the refrigerator and roll and cut out the rest of the cookies. Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes or until they are very lightly browned. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

To Assemble Cookies: Place the cookies with the cut-outs on a wire rack and lightly dust the tops with the confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar.

On the bottom surface of the full cookie (top of cookie will face out) spread with about a 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of jam. Place the cut-out cookie on top and gently sandwich them together, making sure not to smug the confectioners' sugar. Using a small spoon, fill the cut-out with a little more jam.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. But way too difficult. Not at all like my Special Kay cookies that don't even have to be baked!