There is something about a cookie that is a bit of a production to make – the fancy kind with lots of steps that produce a dainty cookie that’s almost too pretty to eat. It’s during the holidays – Christmas and Valentines’ Day, especially – that we’re inspired to make that extra effort in the kitchen. It’s worth it, and the rolling, cutting, spreading and sandwiching is a great project to take on with the kids if they want to make special, edible Valentines for the ones they love this Valentine’s Day. The nuts are optional – if you’re concerned with nut allergies, leave them out – there’s no need to replace them with anything. You’ll wind up with a deliciously plain, buttery cookie. It’s amazing how beautiful they look once sandwiched with colorful jam, peeking out its cut-out window.
Traditionally, Linzer cookies are made with almonds and spread with raspberry jam, but you could really use any kind. Use jelly if you want it to be completely clear, without lumps or seeds. Of course they don’t need to be hearts – you could cut the cookies into any shape, and use any cut-out for the window on top. For an extra touch, sprinkle the cut-out top cookies with powdered sugar before placing them on the jam-spread bottoms.
Hazelnut Linzer Hearts
You could of course leave the nuts out of these-if you do, you don’t need to replace them with anything.
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4-1/2 cup flaked hazelnuts or sliced almonds, toasted (optional)
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
about 1/2 cup jam or jelly (any kind-it doesn’t have to be red-apricot jam is pretty, too)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer for a few minutes, until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for another minute.
Pulse the almonds in a food processor (or grind them with a mortar and pestle) until fairly finely ground. (If you don’t have either, seal them in a ziplock baggie and bash them really well with whatever works.)
Add the flour, nuts, baking powder and salt and stir just until the dough comes together. Gather it into a ball, wrap in plastic and chill for an hour (or freeze for up to a few months). When you’re ready to bake, scatter some flour over the countertop and let the dough sit on the countertop for 10 minutes or so, until it’s more malleable. Roll about 1/4″ thick and cut into whatever shapes you like with a cookie cutter. If you want a window, cut smaller shapes out of the middle of half of them. This is easier to do once they are on the cookie sheet.
Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10 minutes, or until pale golden (depending on the size and shape of the cookies); transfer to a wire rack to cool. Spread the solid cookies with jam and top with a second cookie. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.