Saturday, May 7, 2011

Linzer Cookies

If you haven't already noticed, I have quite the sweet tooth. Today alone I probably consumed more sugar than some people do in a week. A lunch made of ice cream and cake batter is far from healthy, but so, so good. And I just pretend there is no such thing as salmonella while scraping up every last bit of batter. These cookies are another delicious cure for my sweet tooth.

Make these today. Seriously. They are so good. When it comes to making cookies, I am extremely fussy. I find that most homemade cookies are average, or slightly better than average, but not always worth the time they take. So when I find one that I love, it becomes a keeper and now this cookie is at the top of my list. They're adorable (especially if you are a more delicate baker than I am), but a little time consuming. Don't let that put you off of these. They're just as time consuming as most cookies that get cut into cute shapes, I just tend to get impatient.

The trickiest part about these cookies is rolling out the dough. After several failed attempts, I decided it would be easiest to leave the plastic wrap in which they are chilled laying on top of the dough, then rolling. This was what save me from giving up on these cookies. After that it's just a matter of keeping the surface floured and not rolling the dough too thin. The thinner the dough, the more difficult it is to lift the delicate cookies onto the baking sheet. I also realized I only had a really chunky mixed berry jam, so I threw it in the mini food processor to make it smooth before decorating the cookies. Even without the jam, these were really good cookies. I intentionally left a few of mine incomplete and used them as a "dunking" cookie with a cup of tea.

Makes about 20 to 25 cookies
Recipe from Joy of Baking
Baking time: 12-14 minutes

1 cup (110 grams) blanched or sliced almonds
2 cups (260 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (227 grams or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (135 grams) sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg yolks
1 lemon, zested
1/2 to 3/4 cup (120 ml) raspberry or black currant jam/preserves
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350F, with rack in the middle of the oven. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet for about 8 minutes, until fragrant and golden. Once cooled, blend almonds in the food processor with 1/4 cup of sugar until finely ground (it is easiest to measure out the full 2/3 cup then remove this 1/4, reserving the rest for later).

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon and salt. In a mixer, beat the butter and remaining sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, egg yolk and lemon zest, mixing well. Beat in the almond mix, then add the flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Divide the dough in half. Shape into 2 rectangles, about 1/2" thick, and tightly cover in plastic wrap. If they are not fully sealed, they will dry out. Allow dough to chill and firm in the fridge for at least 1 hour, or up to several days.

Preheat oven to 350F and line 2 baking sheet with Silpats or parchment paper. On a floured surface, roll out the first piece of dough until it's 1/4" thick*. If you are having a hard time and the dough is sticking to the rolling pin too much, lightly cover the dough with the plastic wrap and continue rolling. When you've reached the desired thickness, remove the plastic and begin cutting out your shapes. Using a 2 to 3 inch cookie cutter, begin cutting out cookies. To ensure equal amounts of tops and bottoms, alternate making one base and one top. To make the top, cut out the same shape use for the base. Use a smaller cookie cutter (about 3/4") and remove the center. I didn't have such a small cookie cutter and used the base of a frosting piping tip. There are probably plenty of other odd and ends that can be used in this step. Space cookie about 3/4 to 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets. 
Use up all the scraps of dough for making more cookies. Once everything has been made, bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until very lightly browned. Allow to cool completely before decorating.

While the cookies are cooling, place the jam in a saucepan over medium heat and allow it to thicken a little. If it's lumpy, either strain it or blend it.
*Do not remove the second piece of dough until you are ready to cut out more shapes. It can become too soft to handle.
Take the tops of the cookies, the ones with the cut outs in them, and dust them with powdered sugar. On each cookie base, spread out 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of jam. Leave a slightly greater amount of jam in the center of the cookie so it can ooze through the cut out a little bit. Place the tops of the cookies on the base. Voila! Adorable, delicious cookie complete.

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