Monday, February 16, 2009

A Linzer Cookie Success Story

I have not had terribly good luck with Linzer cookies over the years. They come out too thick or too crumbly, jam overflowing the sides, powdered sugar obscuring the "window" of jam in the center. But I was determined to make some for Valentine's Day for the hubby and the kids. I read a number of recipes in books, on web sites and blogs and finally came up with one that I am happy with and that conquered my problems.

The dough recipe is important and you have to be careful about not adding too much of the dry ingredients. Reminds me of making pasta – you just don't add all of the flour. This helps keep the dough together and so it won't break up while you are rolling it out.

The second item, overflowing jam, was conquered by using just a small schmear of jam. My original theory had been to put enough on so that the window had enough jam peeking through. But in doing so, once you pressed the cookies together, the jam would ooze out the sides. This time I used a baby spoon to put a small amount in the center and then used the back of the spoon to smooth it out, not getting too close to the sides. Pop the top on and it adheres easily without overflowing the sides. Then, the trick is to refill the center windows AFTER you put the powdered sugar on, which conquers the other problem.

So once you have filled the cookies, I dusted them as usual with powdered sugar. Then I took the baby spoon and put another dollop of jam in the window. Voila! Enough jam, no powdered sugar occluding the window and a very pretty (and tasty) cookie indeed.

Three other issues that came up while making these cookies: First, I did not have any raspberry jam. Raspberries are just too expensive for me to make jam out of, so I took my strawberry jam, heated it and then pureed it with the immersion (stick) blender. This made it smooth and easy to spread. Second, I did not have a small heart-shaped cutter to make the windows on the tops. I had to get creative. I tried a shot glass but it was too big. Then I found a frosting tip and used the large funnel end to cut out circles. Third, there was a fair amount of dough scraps leftover. Trying to press and re-roll did not work, as the flour from the surface made the dough too dry. But I just could not bring myself to toss the dough, so I pulled out a tart pan and pressed the pieces of dough around to make a crust. I baked it for about 20 minutes or so, and filled it with lemon curd and fresh blueberries for our Sunday dinner dessert. Waste not, want not!

I was quite please with how they turned out. I took a dozen to Butcher son at work for all the butchers to enjoy, a half-dozen to Brilliant daughter's workplace for her luncheon group, and dropped off 4 for Electrician son and his girlfriend. Hubby got a plate of his own, and there were a few to spare (I made a double batch.) Rave reviews by all.

Raspberry Linzer Heart Cookies

¾ cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1-1/2 cups ground almonds or almond meal
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
rasberry jam
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350F

In a large mixer bowl, cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add egg and continue to beat until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add vanilla and almond extract and mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine ground almonds, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture and combine on low speed until incorporated and a ball forms. You may not need to add all the dry ingredients. You don't want the dough to be too dry or it will not roll properly. Gather dough (if dough is a little wet, pull it together with floured hands) then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

On a generously floured surface, roll half of dough out to 1/8" thickness (cookies will be thin since 2 are put together). Cut out the bottoms out of this first half of the dough. Place the bottoms on a parchment- or silpat-lined cookie sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes. Watch carefully after 12 minutes to make sure they do not darken too much.

For the tops: Roll out second half of dough to 1/8 inch and cut out whole hearts. Place the whole hearts on the parchment lined cookie sheet, then cut a small heart or circle out of each. Bake for 12-15 minutes, watching them carefully after the 10-minute mark.

Once cookies have cooled, heat the raspberry jam for about 30 seconds in the microwave. Spread a little jam on the bottoms, then gently press tops on. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, then fill the hole with additional jam.

No comments: