LINZER COOKIES: A Festive, Fragrant, Delicious Austrian Christmas Tradition
I’ve finally finished my gift shopping, wrapping and shipping. While I love to buy presents, I hate to wrap them—maybe because I’m not very good at it. I usually just throw on whatever leftover holiday paper I find in the attic (adding a patch to the underside of the package where I cut the wrap too short—am I the only one here?), then tie on a lame bow using the red or green ribbon I bought too many giant rolls of on sale after Christmas a few years ago. Black marker initials on the underside of the gift so I know who it’s for, then under the tree, and thankfully I’m done!
Now I can start on my favorite holiday pastime: baking! Every year my kids and I make gingerbread men and sugar cookie stars, trees, angels and snowmen, then spend an afternoon decorating them. It’s a fun mess, with frosting and sprinkles everywhere. But, alas, no one’s coming home for Christmas, so I decided to change it up.
This year I’m baking traditional Austrian Linzer cookies, the lovely little sandwich cookies sprinkled with powdered sugar with jam peeking out of a cutout (“eye”) in the top. You’ve probably seen them in the store or in a gift tin of holiday sweets. Now, not to throw shade on store-bought, but I will say there’s no comparison to these homemade! Festive, but not overly sweet, they’re fragrant with cinnamon, cloves and almond flour, a bit buttery and filled with raspberry jam. Oh, and dusted with powdered sugar. What could be better? Yes, they are a bit of a project--you make and chill the dough, cut them out, bake, then assemble them (and I did use half a roll of parchment paper in the process)-- but they really are worth it.
A couple things to note before you get started. This is an easy recipe, but I think it’s best done in two phases: making and chilling the dough, and later cutting out, baking and assembling the cookies. Be sure you have parchment paper on hand and use a good quality jam.
What makes Linzer cookies so delicious is the perfect ratio of pastry to jam. Since each one is a sandwich you need to roll the cookies very thin—about 1/8”. That can be challenging after chilling the dough for a while. With this recipe you roll out the dough between sheets of parchment before chilling, so it’s easier to get the right thickness.
Regarding cookie cutters: a 2” circle and a smaller round “eye” is traditional, but you can use any shapes you want. (I like the idea of a snowflake with a small star in the middle.) For this batch I used a 2 ½“ circle for the outside. It worked, but I wouldn’t go any larger. A plastic cup or bowl also works for the outside, and a metal piping tip can be used to make the small cutout. That’s it!
Linzer Cookies* (Makes 2 dozen)
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cup almond flour
¼ TSP kosher salt
¼ TSP ground cinnamon
¼ TSP ground cloves
1 large egg
2 TSP vanilla extract
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup raspberry jam
Phase I: Make and Chill the Dough
Start by hand whisking the flour, almond flour, salt, cinnamon and cloves together in a medium bowl. Set aside. Next, whisk the egg and vanilla together in a small bowl. Set aside. Now using a mixer beat the butter and sugar together until it’s light and creamy. Beat in your egg and vanilla mixture, then lower the speed to mix in the dry ingredients until the dough comes together.
Cut four large pieces of parchment paper. Divide the dough into two portions, patting each into a disk. Sandwich each disk between two pieces of parchment, then use a rolling pin to roll the dough very thin, about 1/8”. Place each parchment/dough “sandwich” on a cookie sheet and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Phase II: Cut Out, Bake and Assemble
Get ready to bake by preheating your oven to 375F. Lining your baking sheets with (even more) parchment paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator/freezer and peel back the top layer of parchment. Use your 2” cookie cutter to cut out as many rounds as possible from the dough. On half the rounds use a smaller cutter to create the “eye”. With a thin metal spatula, transfer all the rounds to your baking sheets. (You can always gather up and reroll the dough scraps between parchment, but be sure re-chill).
Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, watching carefully, and rotating the pans after 5 minutes to prevent uneven browning. Remove when cookies are lightly brown around the edges, and cool on a rack. (My first batch came out a little too brown!!)
Place the cookies with “eyes” on a piece of parchment and dust generously with powdered sugar. Next spread a dollop of jam onto each remaining cookie. Gently press a powdered sugar cookie on top, creating a jam sandwich. And that’s it—aren’t they pretty?
-This recipe was adapted from the “delish” website:
-The rolled-out dough can be chilled for a couple days in the refrigerator, or frozen. Longer chilling gives the flavors a chance to blend and makes the cookies even tastier.
-The cutout in the top of a Linzer cookie is called the “eye"; a circular eye is traditional, but hearts and other shapes are also common.
-Here’s an interesting tidbit: The original Linzertorte is the oldest cake recipe in the world! It was found in 1653 in a cooking manuscript belonging to the Countess Anna Margarita Sagramosa. The Torte is a lattice-topped tart made with almond flour and traditionally filled with black current preserves. Eventually, bakers in Linz, Austria started using the tart dough to make cookies. In the 1850s the recipe came to America via German and Austrian immigrants.
-Although raspberry jam is traditionally used in the U.S., feel free to fill your Linzer cookies with whatever flavor jam you like. Try adding grated lemon peel to your dough, to complement blueberry jam filling.