When I was a little girl, seeing piles of presents underneath the Christmas tree was the best part of Christmas. While there were certain presents that only Santa would bring, my parents would start to pile a few gifts, a little at a time, under the lowest boughs of the tree in the weeks leading up to the big day. It was enough to send my hyperactive imagination into overdrive, and in the wake of my endless curiosity and constant pestering, my mother would inevitably allow me to open just one gift before Christmas arrived.
When I was younger, it was usually a toy of some sort, and as I grew older, it was more often an outfit for Christmas eve or some cuddly pajamas. And as I entered college and eventually moved out onto my own, this tradition fell by the wayside as I no longer spent the weeks leading up to Christmas at home.
But this past weekend I went home to bake cookies, and my mom decided to reinstate our childhood tradition. And as a baking-obsessed semi-adult, I opened this.
Linzer tarts have always been one of my favorite types of cookies, especially those extra-large ones that are sold at every bakery and bagel shop on Long Island, thick and crumbly with a centimeter of powdered sugar on top and gooey raspberry jam smeared through the center. Growing up, these were enough to lure me away from any other baked good on a weekend morning, and to this day, I am still occasionally tempted to indulge in a mini linzer as I walk past the Hot and Crusty bakery on my morning commute.
This cookie cutter is incredibly genius. One round ribbed cutter is used to cut both the solid bottoms and windowed tops of the cookie. However two small hooks inside the cutter attach to any of six different shaped attachments that can be used to create linzer tart tops with stars, hearts, flowers and diamonds in the center. What more could a linzer-loving girl ask for?
While buying linzer tarts is easy, making them yourself is a little bit more difficult – and absolutely worth the effort. These linzer tarts are smaller (which means you can eat more of them), insanely tender (because we use butter – and bakeries, well, I’m not so sure…) and have just a hint of nuttiness from the toasted hazelnut crumbs this dough is laced with. Not to mention, they’re dusted with a soft fluffy layer of confectioner’s sugar, essentially the baking equivalent of fresh snow. If you are dreaming of a White Christmas, these cookies are for you.
Old Fashioned Linzer Tart Cookies
Loosely adapted from Epicurious.com
- 2/3 cup of chopped hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 12-oz jar seedless raspberry jam
- A linzer tart cookie cutter, or a large scalloped cutter and small circle cutter
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Toast chopped hazelnuts in a thin layer until fragrant, watching closely to ensure they do not burn. This should take 3 to 5 minutes. Remove any loose skins and cool.
Add nuts and 1/4 cup brown sugar to a food processor and pulse until finely ground. There should be no large pieces of hazelnuts – it should be a cornmeal consistency.
Whisk or sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl.
Cream together the butter and remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add nut mixture and beat until combined well, about 1 minute. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined.
With floured hands, form dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 5-inch disk. Chill disks, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 2 hours.
While dough chills, add jelly to a small sauce pan over low heat. Stir jelly and allow to reduce until thickened – about 10 minutes.
Roll out 1 disk of dough into an 11-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick) using as little flour as possible to dust the work surface and rolling pin. Keep the dough as cold as possible. Cut out as many solid cookies bottoms as possible from the first disk of dough and transfer to 2 large baking sheets, arranging about 1 inch apart.
Using the second disk of dough, cut out the cookie tops either with a linzer top cutter, or by using the cutter for the bottom cookies and a smaller cutter for the center. Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool completely.
Keeping the tops of the cookies separate, dust tops of cookies with powdered sugar until completely covered. Spread about 1 teaspoon jam on top of each solid cookie bottom and sandwich jam with flat side of the top cookies. Enjoy immediately or freeze to enjoy later on.