You can never have too many kinds of Christmas cookies, especially when they’re as good as these ones. All the way from Austria, welcome the Linzer Kekse!
The origin of today’s recipe is Linz, Austria. Located in north-central part of the country, it’s Austria’s 3rd largest city. Founded by Romans, it served as an important trading point for many centuries. Linz is home to several notable individuals including Johannes Kepler who discovered the law of planetary motion, Anton Bruckner, the famous Austrian composer (the Brucknerhaus, a famous concert hall there, is named after him), and one of the most notorious villains in all of history – along with a couple of his cronies – considered Linz his hometown and envisioned it to become the main cultural centre of the Third Reich. Linz is also where the father of Fred Astaire is from – Frederic “Fritz” Austerlitz. On a side note, Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers are two of my all-time favorites.
Linz continues to be one of the main economic centers of Austria and has a flourishing music and arts scene. The Musiktheater (“music theater”) was opened just last year and is considered to be one of the most modern opera houses in all of Europe. Linz is home to roughly 270,000 people.
And then of course we have the famous Linzer Torte, the inspiration for the Linzer cookies which are a 19th century adaptation of the torte. Created in the 17th century, did you know that the Linzer Torte is the world’s oldest torte recipe? The distinguishing characteristic of tortes is that they use nuts rather than flour as the main ingredient.
The Linzer Torte, like the Linzer cookies, features an almond-based dough with preserves in the center. Black currant preserves are traditionally used in the Torte and raspberry preserves are most commonly used for the cookies. These nutty-buttery cookies are very popular throughout Austria and Germany. They have a fabulous texture and taste simply wonderful!
Let’s get started!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the almonds or hazelnuts (you can use blanched or unblanched) out on a cookie sheet and toast them on the middle rack for 8-10 minutes or until light golden and fragrant. Let the almonds 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 flavor 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 wax 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.
I use and LOVE cookie cutter/stencil set from Progressive International. They used to have a larger set that included the heart shape but it’s not available at the moment. But they have stars, circles, Christmas trees, gingerbread men and more and they come with the center cut outs that makes making these Linzer cookies a breeze.
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 raspberry preserves, 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.
- 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
- To toast the almonds: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the nuts out on a cookie sheet, place them on the middle rack and toast for about 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. Let the nuts cool completely and grind them in a food processor along with ¼ cup of the sugar until finely ground.
- In a separate bowl, sift the flour, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in the ground almonds.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until pale in color, add the sugar and beat until fluffy, and then add and beat the egg yolks, vanilla extract and lemon zest. Gradually beat the flour/nut mixture into the butter mixture. Divide the dough into quarters, wrap each piece with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 2 days.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator at a time. Place the dough between two sheets of wax paper and roll it out to ¼ inch thickness. Use 3-inch cookie cutters (round, stars, heart-shaped are the most traditional) to cut out the cookies and place them on a lined or non-stick cookie sheet. Cut out a top for each cookie, using a smaller cookie cutter to cut out the center so the raspberry preserves will be exposed. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
- Gather up any scraps of dough, let them chill a few minutes, and cut out the remaining cookies. Note: It's important that the cookies remain firm so that they retain their shape. If the dough becomes soft, place the cookie sheet in the fridge for a few minutes to chill before baking.
- In an oven preheated to 350 degrees F, bake the cookies for about12 minutes or until just starting to turn golden around the edges. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes until transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once cooled, spread the bottom half of each cookie with some raspberry preserves, leaving a thin border around each cookie. Place the top of each cookie on its corresponding bottom half. Use a spoon or piping bag to fill the cut out center with a little more of the preserves.
- Store in an airtight container for up to several days.
Adapted from Joy of Baking