Nothing says Valentine’s Day quite like a heart-shaped Linzer cookie. And while I would never, ever, turn down chocolate and red roses, secretly, it just might be those heart-shaped cookies that make the day extra special.
I love to fill my home with the aroma of freshly baked goods. While Thanksgiving and Christmas become marathon baking seasons, each holiday has its own sweet traditions. And once again, another baking session is on the horizon.
And while I have a recipe box chock-full of tried and true recipes as well as those I want to try, some of my favorites are those passed down from generation to generation.
February is approaching and our thoughts turn to Valentine’s Day and all things heart-shaped.
But I think it’s the heart-shaped cookies that have an extra special appeal. A delightful treat that brings smiles and warm thoughts.
First … a little history.
Linzer cookies are derived from Linzertortes, one of Austria’s most famous desserts. Most believe Linzertortes originated in the city of Linz. Written recipes began to appear in the early 1700s. Traditionally they consisted of a crust made with flour, ground nuts (almonds), sugar, egg yolks, spices and lemon zest that was filled with preserves and topped with a lattice crust.
Linzer cookies use similar ingredients, yet with an entirely different presentation. In this case, two cookies are sandwiched together with a layer of preserves and are lightly dusted with confectioners sugar. While the traditional black current jam may be difficult to find, a blackberry or raspberry jam works just as well. The top cookie, dusted with powdered sugar, has a cutout so the preserves are visible.
Valentine Linzer Cookies
1 cup blanched or sliced almonds
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
Zest of 1 lemon
Confectioners’ Sugar for dusting
1/2 cup Raspberry or Blackberry Preserves
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the almonds on a baking sheet and bake for about 8-10 minutes (or until lightly browned and fragrant). Once the nuts have cooled, place in a food processor and process with 1/4 cup of the sugar from the recipe until finely ground.
In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, cinnamon, and salt.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the butter and remaining sugar until light and fluffy (approximately 3 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract, egg yolks, and lemon zest. Beat in the ground nuts. Add the flour mixture beating just until incorporated. Divide the dough in half and shape into two rectangles about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) thick. Wrap the two rectangles of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least one hour and up to several days).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment. Remove one rectangle of dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch (1 cm) thick. Using a 2 to 3 inch (5 to 7.5 cm) cookie cutter (round, square, heart, etc.) cut out the dough. Place the cookies about 1 inch (2.54 cm) apart on the prepared baking sheet. Use a smaller cookie cutter (3/4 – 1 inch) to cut out the centers of half of the cookies on the baking sheet. (You will be sandwiching two cookies together and there will be a small ‘window or cut out’ in the top cookie so you can see the jam underneath.)
Reroll any scraps and cut out the cookies. Remove the other half of the dough from the refrigerator and roll and cut out the rest of the cookies. Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes or until they are very lightly browned. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
While the cookies are cooling place the raspberry jam in a small saucepan and heat gently until it has thickened slightly. Strain if there are any lumps in the jam. Let cool.
To Assemble Cookies:
Place the cookies with the cut-outs on a wire rack and lightly dust the tops with the confectioners’ (powdered or icing) sugar.
On the bottom surface of the full cookie (top of cookie will face out) spread with about a 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of jam. Place the cut-out cookie on top and gently sandwich them together, making sure not to smug the confectioners’ sugar. Using a small spoon, fill the cut-out with a little more jam.
Note: You can store the unassembled cookies in the refrigerator for several days in an airtight container. It is best, though, to assemble the cookies the same day as serving in order to keep the cookies crisp.
Makes about 20 – 2 inch sandwiched cookies.