Christmas cookies in July? This girl ain’t gonna say ‘no’. (Let’s be honest, I’m not going to say ‘no’ to any cookies any time of the year.) Our Baked Sunday Mornings baking schedule is mostly aligned with the holidays represented in Baked Occasions, but sometimes we have to fit recipes in at different times of the year, particularly holiday cookies. There are 12 December cookies, so here we are in July baking for Santa! These Traditional Linzer Cookies are beautiful to serve for the holidays, but can certainly be made for any occasion depending on the cutout shapes you use. I had never made them before, nor did I know much about them. Linzer cookies originated in Linz, Austria, whence the popular Linzertorte also hails. The cutout shapes are known as ‘Linzer Augen’, or ‘Linzer Eyes’ in German. The classic lattice-topped tart is served throughout the Germanic part of Europe around Christmas, and in the United States the cookie version is very prevalent.
When I first started cooking and baking in earnest years ago, I eagerly scooped up all sorts of one-trick pony kitchen gadgets, such as an avocado slicer, a fish spatula, and yes– a set of Linzer cookie cutters. This consists of a 2″ round fluted cutter with interchangeable center cutouts that snap in, so every “window” is perfectly centered. In the ten years or so that I’ve owned said Linzer set, I have used it precisely *zero* times. But! I knew that someday I would make those pretty, scallop-edged, sugar-dusted beauties, and that day has finally arrived! Except that, um, it happened to be a spring/Easter cutter set for some reason; not exactly wintery cutout shapes! So really, it was rather fortuitous that we made these in the summer because the sun and butterfly shapes were perfectly acceptable. 🙂
I made the cookies over the course of two days. I made the dough on Day #1, then rolled, cut, baked, and assembled them the next day to break up the work. The dough is flavored with ground almonds and a little cocoa, its texture similar to sablé cookies; it is very easy to pull together.
I first ground the toasted blanched almonds in a food processor with some of the sugar– I was a couple of tablespoons short of blanched almonds, so I made up the difference in regular raw almonds, which was not at all noticeable in the finished product. After combining the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt) in a bowl, I then creamed the butter and the rest of the sugar in a stand mixer. I added the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract (I subbed an equal amount of vanilla extract for the almond extract listed in the recipe because I can’t stand the stuff), followed by alternating additions of the flour mixture and the almonds. The dough will be pretty soft and sticky– and delicious!
After chilling in the fridge for several hours (or overnight), the dough gets rolled out and cut into circles. You want to cut center windows in only half of the cookies, which will be the tops. If you have a Linzer cookie set, you can simply switch out your center cutters for different shapes, and take out the center piece completely to cut out the bottom cookies. Alternatively, you can use any tiny cutters in the middle and use a regular round cookie cutter to cut the circles. The dough is still very sticky to work with, so it’s best to roll and cut quickly while the dough is still chilled. (I had to move mine in and out of the freezer a few times while re-rolling softened dough scraps.) You’ll want to put them in the oven cold in order to keep their shapes.
We are instructed to bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes until they are set; I took mine out right at 8 minutes so as not to brown them too much. Once they had cooled, I spread my fillings on the cookies without the cutouts, and dusted the “window” cookies with confectioners’ sugar before putting them on top of the cookie bottoms. Then I put together the sandwiches using an assembly line for maximum efficiency.
The recipe recommends blueberry-rhubarb jam, which I’ve never seen at the store, so I used raspberry-rhubarb jam and apricot preserves, as well as Nutella. (How could that be a bad thing, even if a little untraditional??) The cookies were quite pretty with their jewel-toned jam peeking through the tops, but the next morning, the fruit cookies were completely mushy and soft. I’m glad that I used Nutella for ⅓ of the cookies, as those ones held up way better. I probably should have baked the cookies for another minute to yield a crisper consistency, and perhaps I also could boil the jams to thicken them and evaporate some of the water. The recipe says that the cookies can be stored for up to 4 days, but I threw out the soggy ones that morning, as they were completely unappetizing. Texture notwithstanding, the fruit-filled cookie sandwiches were still delicious, though the Nutella cookies were definitely my favorite! I think the almond cookie dough and hazelnut spread complemented each other very well.
If the summer heat makes you long for December, think cool thoughts and give these a try! The recipe for Traditional Linzer Cookies is located at Baked Sunday Mornings, and take a look at my fellow bloggers’ pretty cookie sandwiches too! 🙂
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2016.