{Countdown to Christmas} Of Linzer Sables and snow

I’ve always wondered about snow. The only time I was ever in a country with snow, it had already fallen and was beginning to melt away on the ground, leaving only wet, icy signs that it was ever there. I want to see it falling on me at least once in my lifetime, and then I’ll be okay. However, given that I am afraid of very cold weather, I would have to be wrapped in at least 5 layers of clothing, and I would probably only stay outside for no more than an hour. I guess that would be enough to appreciate the magic of falling snow right?

Snow is ever so fascinating to me, perhaps for no other reason than I’ve never experienced it (I’ll tell you if I think up any more reasons once I do experience it). I could spend some time in a gift shop flipping over snow globes then feel fuzzy inside afterward. I reckon that has to do with how I would likely prefer to appreciate snow, looking at it from inside the warm comfort of my house, behind a glass window with a hot cup of coffee in my hands. But for now I’m settled with just, as the songs say, dreaming of a White Christmas. Watching the snow-like flakes of confectioner’s sugar falling onto these Linzer Cookies definitely made me happy! :)

Is it just me or do you hear the bells of Santa’s sleigh jingling in the background?

Like with snow, I’ve always been curious about this whole Linzer business. I know that the Linzer Cookies are a variation of the Linzertorte from Austria, and both are typically made of ground almonds. I have mentioned before that I like to turn to a Dorie Greenspan cookbook every time I want to try out something new, so that is exactly what I did when I decided I wanted Linzer Cookies to be part of this year’s Christmas countdown. Now I am a huge fan of ground almond cookies, and one of my favourites also happens to be a Dorie Greenspan recipe. I love their sandy texture and how they seem to just melt in your mouth. So to say I was excited about these would be an understatement, because right from the photo in the book, I was already sold.

What I like best about this recipe was how amazingly easy it was to work the dough. I made mine a day ahead and left it in the fridge so it was really really firm when rolling and cutting time came. The last scraps of dough did not take long to firm up in the fridge either. The taste of the cookies remind me of long-forgotten spiced cookies I used to have as a child. They aren’t overly sweet, even when sandwiched with the jam (I used strawberry). However I find the last batch of cookies -the ones made with the rerolled scraps of dough- had the heaviest flavour of spices, especially that of cloves. I’m not such a big fan of the heavy clove flavour, so I have to say my favourites were definitely the first two batches of cookies.

Just so you know:

  • When is the best time to make this recipe? It may be a spiced cookie that usually pops up around Christmas-time, but it’s not limited to just that period. Simply use plain circular shapes for the cookies and the centres, and you’re set to make it the rest of the year.
  • Anything special we should know about before attempting this recipe? Dorie says this recipe makes 25 sandwich cookies, and mine did yield this amount using a regular biscuit cutter after I rolled my dough to a 1/8-inch versus the 1/4-inch in her instructions. For most other bloggers who followed the latter, it only yielded around 15 sandwiches.
  • Would I change anything from this recipe? Another simple and solid recipe from Dorie. Why would I want to change a thing?!

Linzer Sables

adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home To Yours, pages | Makes about 25 sandwich cookies*

1 1/2 cups finely ground almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 large egg
2 teaspoons water
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup raspberry jam or strained apricot jam plus 1 teaspoon water

Whisk together the ground nuts, flour, cinnamon, salt, and cloves. Using a fork, stir the egg and water together in a small bowl.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the egg mixture and beat for 1 minute more. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the dough. Don’t work the dough too much once the flour is incorporated. If the dough comes together but some dry crumbs remain in the bottom of the bowl, stop the mixer and finish blending the ingredients with a rubber spatula or your hands.

Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, put the dough between two large sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap. Using your hands, flatten the dough into a disk, then grab a rolling pin and roll out the dough, turning it over frequently so that the paper doesn’t cut into it, until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Leave the dough in the paper and repeat with the second piece of dough. Transfer the wrapped dough to a baking sheet or cutting board (to keep it flat) and refrigerate or freeze it until it is very firm, about 2 hours in the refrigerator or 45 minutes in the freezer. The rolled-out dough can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or the freezer for up to 2 months. Just thaw the dough enough to cut and go from there.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Peel off the top sheet of waxed paper from one piece of dough and, using a 2-inch round cookie cutter—a scalloped cutter is nice for these—cut out as many cookies as you can. If you want to have a peekaboo cutout, use the end of a piping tip to cut out a very small circle from the centers of half the cookies. Transfer the rounds to the baking sheets, leaving a little space between the cookies. Set the scraps aside—you can combine them with the scraps of the second disk and roll out and cut more cookies.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 11 to 13 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden, dry, and just firm to the touch. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to room temperature.

Repeat with the second disk of dough, making sure to cool the baking sheets between batches. Gather the scraps of dough together, press them into a disk, roll them between sheets of waxed paper and refrigerate until firm, then cut and bake.

Place the jam in a small saucepan or in a microwaveable bowl and stir in the 1 teaspoon water. Bring to a boil over low heat or in the microwave. Let the jam cool slightly, then turn half of the cookies flat side up and place about 1/2 teaspoon jam in the center of each cookie; sandwich with the remaining cookies.**

Just before serving, dust with confectioner’s sugar.***

Some notes:
*I checked other blogs that have featured this recipe before and most of them said that the yield Dorie indicated in her book was off. 25 is the amount of cookies I got, given that I rolled my dough thinner than the 1/4-inch indicated in the instructions. If you roll to a 1/4-inch thickness, expect to get around 15 sandwich cookies.
**I skipped this step and spread the jam with my spatula instead of letting it spread through sandwiching.
***I dusted my cut-out cookies with confectioner’s sugar before putting them on top of the plain cookies with jam. I didn’t want to have confectioner’s sugar on the jam in the middle.

I just had to put this last photo in, because it reminds me of fallen snow, blanketing all things in a white serenity; the kind that only snow can give.

And by the way, you’ll have to excuse the murder I did to my cookies as I tried to cut out “Christmas” shapes in the centre of the top cookie. Even I can’t recognise what I was going for anymore. :P

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