There are certain things that always get me into the holiday spirit! Donating time at a local homeless shelter. Giving unexpected gifts to random strangers. Watching the movie Elf. Sipping hot cocoa in the dark, while watching the christmas lights on our tree and of course, making Christmas cookies!
My favorites are Gingerbread Cookies, Russian Tea Cakes, Peppermint Twists and Linzer Cookies! This Linzer Cookie recipe is just a simple cookie recipe with homemade jam or citrus curd sandwiched in the middle.
Linzer Cookies remind me a little of stain glass windows with bright colors peeking out of the center. Not only are they beautiful but they are also cookie with a delicious history!
The Linzer Torte, the Austrian mother of the Linzer Cookie, is the oldest known written recipe in history. (How cool is that?) A copy of the recipe was found in the Veronese Admont Abbey’s journals, dated 1653! The cake however, was made famous in the little town of Linz Austria in the early 1800’s. Johann Vogel, a Linz baker, started mass producing the tortes (Torte is the german name for Cake) and made them famous around the world. So what is a “Linzer Torte” exactly? Basically a thin nut cake, filled with jam, decorated with a lattice crust and then baked till hot and bubbling. They are a European Christmas specialty!
Linzer cookies employ the same basic recipe as a Linzer Torte but the dough is cut into cookies and form a sandwich around the filling. The top cookie has a small cutout in its center (known as Linzer eyes) to show off the jam underneath. Traditionally the cutout is round but I’ve seen many variations! I think it’s fun to make the cutouts and cookies in a variety of different shapes.
This year, I made Linzer Cookies and took them to the Los Angeles Food Bloggers cookie swap! It was the first time I’ve ever been to their cookie swap and it was a lot of fun! I filled my Linzer cookies with homemade Blackberry Jam and Key Lime Curd. (For the Key Lime Curd, I used this recipe for Lemon Curd, and substituted about a dozen Key Limes for the Meyer Lemons.)
1 cup of butter softened
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 large orange, zested
1 large lemon, zested
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of ground roasted nuts such as hazelnuts or almonds
1 cup of your favorite seedless jam or homemade citrus curd
Powdered sugar for dusting
In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Beat in the zest, egg and vanilla until fully incorporated. In another bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. With your mixer on medium, carefully incorporate the dry ingredients into the egg and sugar mixture, until completely combined. Add the ground nuts and stir until just incorporated. Put the dough out onto several layers of plastic wrap and shape into a disc. Cover the dough completely with plastic and put it in the fridge for at least an hour (or even overnight) to chill.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Remove the dough from the fridge and place half on a well floured surface. Return the other half to the fridge until you are ready for it. This dough can be sticky so use a well floured rolling-pin, or cover the dough with another sheet of parchment paper! Roll the dough out to about 1/8 of an inch thick. You will need to flour the cookie cutters as well, so they don’t stick. Cut out two circles of dough for each cookie. Then take a smaller cookie cutter and cut the center out of half the cookies to create a “window” in the top cookies to show off your jam! Place the cookies on your prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 10 -12 minutes until golden brown. (NOTE: I put all the top cookies on one cookie sheet and all the bottoms on another. The tops will cook faster than the bottoms and you want to take them out just a bit earlier so they don’t get overdone.)
Let your cookies cool completely. Generously spread the bottom cookies with your homemade jam or citrus curd. Dust the top cookies liberally with powdered sugar then place the “window” cookie on top of the jam (or curd covered) cookie. These cookies are best eaten the day you make them, but they can be stored between layers of wax paper in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days. The cookies will soften as they are stored, so if you want them crisp, eat them the same day! Enjoy and Happy Holidays!!