Jam-filled sablé cookies have always been a holiday tradition in my family – it just wouldn’t be the holiday season without some kind of shortbread cookie in the lineup! In fact, when I used to come home from university, my mom had a box of these yummy cookies frozen and waiting for me. She still does that anytime I go home, no matter what time of year it is.
This holiday season, I tried a new version of jam-filled cookies: Linzer Cookies, from the Holiday Cookies* cookbook by Alice Medrich. The combination of almonds, almond extract, lemon and lime zest made the cookies unique, crunchy, and oh-so-tasty! Linzer cookies are, by definition, made with almonds, and originated in Linz, Austria.
Our wedding anniversary is between Christmas and New Year’s and, given that jam cookies are my husband’s most requested cookie, it gives me the perfect excuse to make one more holiday cookie (not that I need one) at this time of year. In fact, my husband reminded me earlier this week that I hadn’t made any this year! He also likes anything with almond flavoring, so these cookies were made for him! And, he loved them.
When I received Holiday Cookies*, part of The Artisanal Kitchen series, I was very excited because it’s a compact hardback book packed with lots of hand-picked recipes. I don’t often spend the time reading the first few pages of a cookbook because I just want to go to the recipes, but this time I did. The User Guide in the beginning explained a lot things that I hadn’t understood about baking before.
The tips and FAQs are intended to help you understand why some recipes may not turn out as you expect. For example, Alice explains why too much flour can harden cookies (seems obvious, but how you measure flour may be the reason and so can over-mixing), why chilling is important (helps the flavors deepen), and why you need to rotate pans (for even baking as the temperature in the back and front of the oven may vary). Anytime I learn a few tips from a pro, I’m happy.
And, I’m always thrilled when I can add a new recipe to my repertoire!
Although this post is on Linzer Cookies, I’m looking forward to trying out a few more recipes from Holiday Cookies, including Bittersweet Decadence Cookies and My Ginger Cookies. Look for future posts on these recipes where I’ll be sharing the special tips for making perfect cookies from the author.
These Linzer Cookies are made by grinding almonds in a food processor along with all the other dry ingredient, adding the butter, almond extract, and citrus zests at the end. They’re so good and so flavorful. You can taste the almonds, lemon, and lime zests in each bite, and it’s these flavors that make the cookies so delicious.
Of course, I chilled the dough as required and avoided too much flour when rolling out the cookies. I filled the cookies with Black Cherry Spread from Bonne Maman, a French company famous for its natural, old-world spreads and traditional packaging. The contrast of the dark cherry flavor with the almond and citrus zests was perfect.
as it appears in The Artisanal Kitchen: Holiday Cookies, by Alice Medrich
Linzer Cookies by Alice Medrich*
*Recipe excerpted from The Artisanal Kitchen: Holiday Cookies by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs of the cookies on the book cover and inside the book are by Deborah Jones & Lauren Volo.
2 1/4 cups (10.125 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (5 ounces) almonds and/or hazelnuts
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon grated orange zest or 1/4 teaspoon orange extract
Strained or pureed good-quality preserves or fruit spread
Powdered sugar for dusting
Cookie sheets, lined with parchment paper or ungreased
Large and small cookie cutters of the same or two different shapes, such as a 3-inch square and a 1 1/4-inch square
Combine the flour, nuts, granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon, and cloves in a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the butter (cut into several pieces if firm). Pulse until the mixture looks damp and crumbly. Add the almond extract and the lemon and orange zests or extracts and pulse until the mixture begins to clump up around the blade. Remove the dough, press it into a ball ,and knead it a few times to be sure all of the dry ingredients are blended into the dough.
Form the dough into 2 flat patties. Wrap and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight or up to 3 days. The dough may be frozen for up to 3 months.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
To roll and cut cookies: Remove 1 patty from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature until supple enough to roll but still quite firm. It will continue to soften as you work. Roll the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch between two sheets of wax paper or between heavy plastic sheets cut from a resealable plastic bag. Turn the dough over once or twice while you are rolling it out to check for deep wrinkles; if necessary, peel off and smooth the paper or plastic over the dough before continuing to roll it. When the dough is thin enough, peel off the top sheet of paper or plastic and keep it in front of you. Invert the dough onto that sheet and peel off the second sheet. Cut as many large shapes as possible. Dip the edges of the cookie cutters in flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Cut a smaller shape from the center of half of the large shapes. Use the point of a paring knife to lift and remove scraps as you transfer the cookeis to the lined or ungreased pans. Place large cookies at least 1 1/2 inches apart on the cookies sheets. If the dough gets too soft at any time – while you’re rolling, cutting, removing scraps between cookies, or transferring cookies – slide a cookie sheet underneath the paper or plastic and refrigerate the dough for a few minutes, until firm. Repeat with the second patty of dough. Gently press all of the dough scraps together (don’t overwork them with too much kneading) and reroll.
Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies are just beginning to color at the edges. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. (The small shapes may be baked for 8 to 10 minutes on a separate cookie sheet to make miniature cookies, or the dough may be combined with other dough scraps to be rerolled and cut.)
Let the cookies firm up on the pan for 1 to 2 minutes. For lined pans, set the pans or just the liners on racks to cool; for unlined pans, use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to racks. Cool the cookies completely before stacking or storing. The cookies are delicious fresh but even better the next day. They may be kept in an airtight container for a month or more.
To assemble, shortly before serving, spread each solid cookie with a thin layer of preserves. Sift powdered sugar over the cookies with cutouts. Place a sugared cutout cookie on top of each preserve-covered cookie. Leftover cookies can be stored in an airtight container, but the moisture from the preserves will soften them.
Here are some of the tips I can offer, based on how I made the cookies:
I didn’t have almonds at home, but I had almond flour. I used 1 cup of loosely packed almond flour. I reduced the flour to 1 3/4 cups. I omitted the cloves. Wax paper is my preferred method for rolling cookies and I place one hand under each shape under the wax paper, while peeling it off with the other. And, by far, the best tip is to assemble cookies only when you plan on serving them. I used to assemble my sablé cookies and freeze them in the past, but they would be so soggy and I would be so disappointed. One call to my mom is all it took to figure out that freezing the cookies unassembled is key!
Have you ever made Linzer cookies? What tips do you have? And, if you bake a lot, have you checked out my post on packaging holiday cookies, here?
Happy New Year and all the best for 2018! Make sure you try some new recipes, ideas, and ways of doing things because it’s the best way to add more recipes to your repertoire.
*Recipe excerpted from The Artisanal Kitchen: Holiday Cookies by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs of the cookies on the book cover and inside the book are by Deborah Jones & Lauren Volo. Email This Post