Linzer cookies

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Linzer cookies

In its wildest dreams, a jammy dodger could never aspire to the melting tenderness and celestial lightness of the Linzer cookie. The idea is the same: two biscuits, sandwiched together with jam, a hole or small shape cut out of the top one, so that the jam glints beckoningly through. But the Linzer cookie is the extravagant Austrian Christmas version, the dough rich and short with ground toasted hazelnuts.

You’ll need a 6cm/2½in round cookie cutter (smooth, not crinkle-edged) to make these and, ideally, a set of mini Christmas cutters – bell, heart, Christmas tree, snowflake, angel, star – though you could always use the sharp end of a piping nozzle to make a small hole. I do feel the investment in the mini cutters is worthwhile, however, as I foresee many batches of these in your future.

Ingredients

Method

  1. If you have a food processor, tip the toasted hazelnuts and caster sugar into the processor and blitz to a fine sandy texture, then add the flour. Cut the cold butter into 1cm/½in dice and add to the processor, along with the cinnamon, salt, whole egg and egg yolk. Run the processor until the contents start to form a dough; this won’t happen instantly, so be patient.

  2. If you don’t have a processor but have a bullet blender, you can grind the hazelnuts in that. Or if you have neither, simply use ready-ground almonds. To make the cookies by hand, mix the ground nuts with the flour, cinnamon and salt and set aside. Cream the butter and caster sugar together. Very gradually beat the eggs into the butter mixture. Add the dry ingredients, a little at a time, and beat in until the mixture forms a soft dough.

  3. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then gently squash to form fat discs. Cover tightly in cling film and put in the fridge for 1 hour. You can leave them in the fridge for up to 3 days.

  4. Once your dough has rested, take 2 of the discs out of the fridge and let them stand for about 15 minutes, or longer if either your fridge is very cold or the dough’s been sitting in it for a long time. While you wait, preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Get out 2 baking trays and measure out 2 pieces of baking paper the same size as the trays.

  5. Put 1 piece of baking paper directly on the worktop and when the dough is firm, but not too cold – roll out 1 of the discs thinly (2–3mm/less than ¼in thick) on the baking paper. If your dough is very sticky, you can roll it out between 2 pieces of baking paper. Using a 6cm/2½in round cookie cutter, dipped first in flour, cut 6 circles in the rolled dough – you don’t have to leave a huge gap between the cookies, as the dough doesn’t really spread much. Lift away the excess dough, leaving your circles on the baking paper. Carefully place this baking paper on 1 of your baking trays. Form a ball with the excess dough to re-roll later.

  6. Repeat the process with the next disc of dough, only this time you’re making the top half of the cookies, so once you have your 6 circles you will need to dip your mini cutters in flour and then cut out your shapes – and if the shape you’re stamping out doesn’t come out with the cutter, use a cocktail stick to help. Add the offcuts to the other scraps of dough, ready for re-rolling. If your kitchen is warm it can really help to put these cookies in the fridge on their parchment-lined baking sheets for 10 minutes or so, as it will help the cut-out shapes keep a clean edge.

  7. Bake the cookies for 9–10 minutes, until they’re only just beginning to turn a very light gold at the edges; they will, overall, still be pale. Transfer immediately to a wire rack or, if you’d feel safer, gently slide the loaded parchment on to the rack instead. Repeat the process with the 2 remaining discs and all the squidged-together offcuts, making sure the baking sheets are cold before you load them up.

  8. When all the cookies are completely cold, they are ready to be sandwiched. Dust the biscuits you’ve cut a shape out of with icing sugar and leave on the wire rack. Mix the jelly and jam together until smooth, and spread ½ teaspoon of this mixture over one non-dusted cookie half, leaving a pale frame around the edge. Pick up a sugar-dusted cookie, carefully holding the edges only, and place it on top of the jam-loaded cookie, feeling justifiably proud of yourself and your beautiful Christmassy creation. And carry on with the rest of the cookies, your festive sense of bliss increasing giddily as you go.

Recipe Tips

I buy skinned hazelnuts that have already been toasted, but it’s easy enough to find blanched or skinned hazelnuts and not enormously hard work to toast them on a lipped baking sheet in a 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4 oven for 10–15 minutes. But you must make sure they’re completely cold before you grind them to dust. Of course, you could change tack altogether and replace the hazelnuts with 100g/3½oz of ready-ground almonds.