Holiday Linzers: Too Pretty To Eat

Linzer Cookies

Last Saturday morning, while warming up with a cup of coffee and some sweets in an adorable cafe in Boulder, my mother offered me her latest theory: “The prettier a cookie is,” she said, setting down a handsome palmier, making no effort to hide her disgust, “the less edible it becomes.” Though the palmier may have been an unlucky pick that morning, I think Liza might be on to something. 

I had been eyeing this Dorie Greenspan recipe for linzer cookies for weeks. And after reading last Wednesday’s New York Times’ article, “Butter Holds The Secret To Cookies That Sing,” I felt primed for an all-star baking session in my all-but-neglected kitchen. I would follow the recipe to a T, and with my recently acquired butter knowledge, I would think science not just mechanics.

I would cream my 65-degree temperature butter — “cold to the touch but warm enough to spread” — for at least three minutes with the paddle attachment of my stand mixer set on medium speed — no higher, lest the butter’s temperature rise to 68 degrees — until enough air bubbles formed to create the required texture and aeration to produce a cookie to rival all cookies. My adrenaline was pumping. It was game time. I laced my apron around my waist, pounded a quart of Gatorade and set to work, not veering ever so slightly from the recipe, fighting off laziness every step of the way. 

I whipped. I chilled. I rolled. I baked. I baked again. I dusted. I jammed. I sandwiched. I admired. 

Expectations were high. Perhaps too high. After assembling all of the linzers, I ate one. And then another. And then another. I kept tasting, hoping with each new bite, I would be overwhelmed with satisfaction and joy, which I could then take to my computer and report to all of you. But alas, it never came.  

I can’t quite pinpoint my disappointment. These cookies are not too sweet, which I like, but I find them a bit too dry, which I don’t. The final sandwich, I felt, needed more jam to combat the dryness, but the nature of the cookie only allows so much jam to exist between the two layers before a mess oozes out the sides. I offered one of my creations to a four-year-old boy who promptly spit it out. His six- and eight-year-old siblings ate theirs happily, with smiles even, but I think at that age, they’ve already learned tact.   

I can say with certainty these are the prettiest cookies ever to emerge from my kitchen. Truly. I only wish I could say they were the tastiest, too.

Linzer cookies

cookie shapes

As the above tale reveals, I am not totally satisfied with this recipe. Several years ago I made a batch of linzer cookies for Valentine’s Day, which I prefer to this recipe. It has a higher butter content, which I think adds to the flavor. The cookies are not as pretty, but if taste is what you are after, I think you might have better success with this recipe

Linzer Sablés
Adapted From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home To Yours  

1½ cups finely ground almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
Scant ¼ teaspoon ground cloves (optional — I did not use any cloves)

1 large egg
2 teaspoons water
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar

½ cup raspberry jam (or any jam you like) plus 1 teaspoon of water (optional)
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1. Whisk together the ground nuts, flour, cinnamon, cloves (if using) and salt. Using a fork, stir the egg and water together in a small bowl.

2. Working with a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the egg mixture and beat for 1 minute more.

3. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until incorporated. Don’t overmix. If the dough comes together while some dry crumbs remain in the bottom of the bowl, stop the mixer and finish blending the ingredients with a rubber spatula or your hands.

4. Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, put the dough between two large sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap.(*See note) Using your hands, flatten the dough into a disk, then grab a rolling pin and roll out the dough, turning it over frequently so that the paper doesn’t cut into it, until it is about ¼-inch thick. Leave the dough in the paper and repeat with the second piece of dough. Transfer the wrapped dough to a baking sheet or cutting board (to keep it flat) and refrigerate or freeze it until it is very firm, about 2 hours in the refrigerator or about 45 minutes in the freezer.

Note: I divided the dough into two pieces, chilled it overnight, then rolled it out the next day. It was a little tricky rolling out the dough the next day because it was so cold, but I made it happen. I chilled the cut cookies on the pans for about 15 minutes before baking.

Note: The rolled-out dough can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Just thaw the dough enough to cut out the cookies and go on from there.  

When ready to bake: 

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.  

2. Peel off the top sheet of wax paper from one piece of dough and, using a 2-inch round cookie cutter — a scalloped cutter is nice for these — cut out as many cookies as you can. If you want to have a peekaboo cutout, use a small fluted cutter or the end of a piping tip to cut out a circle (or heart or whatever shape you have) from the centers of half of the cookies. Transfer the rounds to the baking sheets, leaving a little space between the cookies. Set the scraps aside — you can combine them with the scraps from the second disk and roll and cut more cookies.

3. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 11 to 13 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden, dry and just firm to the touch. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to room temperature. Repeat with the second disk of dough, making sure to cool the baking sheets between batches. Gather the scraps of dough together, press them into a disk, roll them between sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, then cut and bake.

Preparing the sandwich cookies: 

1. Place the jam in a small saucepan or in a microwaveable bowl and stir in the 1 teaspoon of water. Bring to a boil over low heat. When the jam is hot, pass it through a sieve to remove the seeds (optional), then let it cool slightly.  

2. Place the cookies with the holes in them on a cookie sheet or cooling rack and dust with confectioner’s sugar. Turn the remaining cookies flat side up and place about ½ teaspoon of the jam in the center of each cookie. Top with the confectioner’s-sugar-dusted cookies.

cookies1


22. December 2008 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Baking, Cookies, Desserts | 29 comments


Comments (29)

  1. STUNNING!!

  2. They look gorgeous! Although I wouldn’t hesitate to gobble one down!

  3. They are so pretty! Just beautiful, happy holidays to you!

  4. I think the previous ones do look pretty too :) A shame that these didn’t make the grade texture-wise. Maybe it could also be the quality of the nuts? Hazelnuts tend to become not-so-good fairly quickly. But yeah, they do look fantastic :)

  5. They look so pretty! Merry Christmas!

  6. They look beautiful! Have a very happy holiday and a happy new year :)

  7. This type of incident (working your holiday rear off for hours for a lovely cookie with no taste personality) is on the top 10 kitchen frustrations (next to running out of yucca frites mid-service and Mariano refusing to go downstairs to get the cut bucket that actually doesn’t even exist). Merry Christmas. May there be ugly delectables under your tree.

  8. They are beautiful cookies… too bad they were as tasty as they looked.

  9. it still looks too pretty to eat to me ;) merry christmas to you!

  10. These are indeed pretty but I would have no problem eating them up!

  11. I have absolutely no doubt that these cookies, no matter the texture, would be inhaled in very short order around here – by ME!!! Who says we need a good personality to be gorgeous??? :)

    Happy Holidays!!

  12. I almost made this recipe over the weekend, but made Dorie’s world peace cookies instead – sounds like I made the right choice. Your cookies do look beautiful though!

  13. So beautiful…and tasty too.
    Enjoy the holiday!

  14. Beautiful!

    Merry Christmas!

  15. Your photos are great and so is your blog. Linzer cookies caught my attention. I make my mother’s recipe, chocolate linzer, similar to yours but two are sandwiched together with a thin chocolate sauce. The top cookie has a small round hole in the center so the chocolate shows through as a tiny window.

    I have similar recipes in my latest (Nov/08):

    Tried and True Recipes from a Caterer’s Kitchen—Secrets of Making Great Foods

    http://www.eloquentbooks.com/TriedandTrueRecipes.html
    http://www.howfoodswork.blogspot.com

  16. Gorgeous cookies! Happy New Year!

  17. We made those a few weeks ago for TWD and I used hazelnuts and Nutella for the filling. I thought they were SO good. Yours are surely beautiful. Sorry you didn’t love them. I’d rather have a gooey choc chip cookie, but thought these were good.
    Happy Holidays!

  18. They are so pretty but I agree it is hard to get motivated to slave over a cookie that’s just meh. I hate that too because I have always wanted to make Linzers because they look so pretty and I figured the jam would make them super tasty.

  19. I felt the same way about these cookies… pretty, but too dry. I thought they were better the next day, but I suspect that might be because the jam had time to soften the cookies.

    You certainly did a wonderful job at making them beautiful.

  20. I’m not a fan of linzers for all the reasons you mention. I have an old Pillsbury recipe that I’ve used for years that is so tender and soft and wonderful with the jam sandwiched in between the layers — IMHO it’s better than the much-touted linzer cookie. But we all have to try things to find what we like best and what we don’t. That’s the fun — and downside — of the kitchen process.

  21. they are pretty, but I’m pretty sure that’s not enough butter to make a good buttery cookie – sorry you worked so hard to be disappointed!

  22. I agree w/ you… the more buttery the cookie, the better it is. They’re certainly gorgeous.

    Hope your holiday was happy, and have a Happy New Year too!

  23. Ooooooooooooooooooooh.
    These are gorgeous!

  24. They really do look regal sitting on a plate. I have enjoyed getting to know you over the past while and am looking forward to all the tasty dishes in 2009!!!

  25. indeed too pretty to eat! Hoping you had a great Christmas!

  26. So lovely. I read that same article about butter. The stuff is amazing…finicky…but amazing.

  27. Gorgeous cookies indeed! Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!

  28. Ali – I’m glad to see you’re using your time well, now that you have a break from homework! I bought linzer cookie cutters on a whim a couple of years ago and I’m afraid I’ve only used them once :) Maybe I’ll pull them out and try again. Chava

  29. Really pretty! So delicate!

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