'Tis holiday season, 'tis the season to make merry. This is my favourite time of the year. I feel like a child in a candy store. I get so much joy in soaking in the aromas of warm pecan pies, spiced plum cakes and the buttery shortbread Christmas cookies being baked in every bakery around every corner. Also, the magnificent and sparkling Christmas trees adorned in beautiful lights and trinkets that we get to witness in every mall, on every street, at every hotel makes for a lovely sight.
You can never have too many kinds of Christmas cookies, especially when they’re as pretty as these ones. It’s cookie-art, that’s what it is. All the way from Eastern Europe, welcome the Linzer Kekse! Linzers have origins in Germany, Poland, Austria, Croatia, Slovakia and of course Czech Republic. No one can agree as to who actually invented them. Does that really matter? I mean the important thing is that they exist. Linzer cookies are two thin hazelnut/almond shortbread cookies sandwiched together with raspberry jam and topped with powdered sugar.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole almonds or hazelnuts (blanched or unblanched)
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large egg yolks
- Zest of one small lemon
- ½ cup raspberry jam
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the almonds or hazelnuts (use blanched) out on a cookie sheet and toast them on the middle rack for 8-10 minutes or until light golden and fragrant. Let the nuts cool completely and then grind them in a food processor with 1/4 cup of the sugar. Set aside.
- I highly recommend using whole nuts, toasting and grinding them. They have much more flavour than using already ground almond meal/flour.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until light pale in color. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy.
- Zest the lemon. Organic lemon is recommended since you’re using the rind.
- Beat in the egg yolks, vanilla extract and lemon zest.
- Sift together the flour, salt and cinnamon in a separate bowl.
- Stir the ground nuts into the flour mixture. Beat the flour/nut mixture in the butter mixture, adding it gradually. You’ll have a fairly soft but malleable dough.
- Form the dough into a log and divide it into four pieces. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to two days. Place the chilled dough between two sheets of parchment paper.
- Roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out the desired shapes and place them on a cookie sheet. Reform the scraps of dough, roll them out again, and cut out more cookies. Refrigerate the dough first if necessary.
- Cut out the corresponding tops of the cookies (with holes in the center to expose the raspberry preserves you’ll spread on later) and place them on the cookie sheet as well.
- *Important: You need to work fairly quickly so the dough stays chilled/firm. If the cut out cookies get too soft, place the cookie sheets in the fridge until the dough has firmed up again. This will prevent the cookie dough from spreading and will help them retain their shape.
- In an oven preheated to 350 degrees, bake the cookies for about 12 minutes or until just starting to turn light golden on the edges. Allow the cookies to cool a few minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once cooled, spread the bottom halves of each cookie with P&Z's Plum Raspberry Rosemary preserve, leaving a small border around each cookie.
- Dust the tops of each cookie with sifted powdered sugar.
- Place the tops of the cookies on each bottom. Use a spoon or piping bag to fill the open centers of the cookies with some more of the preserves. Keep stored in an airtight container for up to several days.
I hope you enjoy baking these cookies as much as I do. Please leave a comment below with your feedback. Do tag @pepperandzest on Instagram and Facebook whenever you do try this recipe out.
There is a reason we all look forward to December. And this December is more special than any of the previous Decembers. We are all waiting to welcome the New Year with hope and faith of a COVID free 2021.