Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Linzer Star Cookies




The Linzer cookie recipe has caught my eye often in the past year. The cookies looked so pretty but I didn't have a good enough reason to make them. After seeing them in the Holiday issue of Cooking Light, I decided to see how the different recipes differed. Further, I thought they'd be the perfect choice to make as stars for a New Year's dessert party. After reading over 3 variations, I decided to do a test run with Martha Stewart's cookie recipe. Martha's recipe calls for placing the dough in the fridge for an hour. No problem. That's not unusual for sugar cookies either. However, once the dough was removed, it was still rather sticky. I waited til the next day and while the dough was less sticky, it required quite a bit more flour to be able to work with it. Since this was a trial run, I modified the recipe significantly to adapt for the the moisture. The cookie part is a lot like a traditional sugar cookie only with nuts inside. I made mine with pecans and almonds because our town was out of hazelnuts that week. They were delicious so substituting is not a problem.

Filling notes: My sister and brother-in law are not fans of raspberry (the typical jam flavor) so I decided to use strawberry instead. Since I and others in my family happen to love lemon, I decided to make lemon curd as an alternate filling and combine the two as well. The results were delicious. The making was longer than expected however. The lemon curd recipe came from Williams Sonoma Baking. I added more lemon though (I mentioned we like lemon, right?). The curd sat overnight and was excellent! The first few cookies I prepared by spreading the back cookie with curd or jam with a little space at the edge. The result was a tasty but messy to eat cookie. Later, I put most of the filling in the middle (just enough so that the hole in the top cookie had filling all through it. This was the perfect amount. Hands didn't get covered in mess and there was plenty of curd. Jam had no leakage issues.

Tasters liked the strawberry and lemon lovers loved the lemon curd. Non-lemon lovers felt the lemon had a lot of "Zinginess." (Lemon was definitely my favorite.)


Linzer Cookies (my version)


Ingredients


¾ c. (1.5 sticks) butter

2 ½ c. all purpose flour

2 eggs

1 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

2/3 c. sugar (could increase to ¾ c. sugar)

½ tsp. vanilla extract

½ tsp. (or so, I was probably closer to 1 Tbsp) lemon zest

½ tsp. of cinnamon OR cardamom (I made cookies both ways and found the cardamom less likely to overpower other flavors. The cardamom is quite nice if using lemon curd!)

½ c. pecans*

½ c. almonds*

*can use 1 c. almonds, pecans, or hazelnuts. Our stores were out of hazelnuts so I decided to mix the nuts.

½ c. strawberry or raspberry jam or lemon curd (recipe used follows)

¼ c. powdered sugar (for dusting)


Instructions


WARNING: These cookies are a significant time investment. If making lemon curd, prepare the curd before starting the cookies so it will be ready for use. If possible prepare the curd 3 hours prior to use to prevent it from rolling off the cookies. Overall time for making cookies with curd prepared: 1.5 – 2 hours. This time estimate assumes use of 2 oven racks at a time. Curd prep time is approximately 20 minutes.

1. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. (You can do this without an electric mixer. It takes longer but that is the way I made them the first time. If a mixer is available to you, use it, unless you plan to count making the cookies as a form of imbalanced arm exercise.) Add eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest and beat to combine.

2. Place nuts into the food processor and grind until they are very fine, practically flour. If you do not have a food processor, I recommend double bagging the nuts in ziploc or ziploc and an empty cereal bag. Using a rubber mallet or hammer, beat them until they are fine. (If using a mallet or hammer on ceramic tile, be sure to place something between the nuts and the floor so that you do not crack the tile.) In a bowl separate from the liquid mixture, mix the ground nuts with plain flour, baking powder, salt, and your choice of cinnamon or cardamom.

3. Combine the flour and liquid mixtures and stir until just combined. Place the dough on a floured surface. Divide dough in half to make it easier to work. If you have time and want dough that is easier to work with, refrigerate for 1 hour. If you are in a hurry, add up to 1/2 c. plain flour as you roll out the dough and the cookies will come out fine. If you do not refrigerate, be careful not to overwork the dough or add too much flour as it can become tough to work. If the dough becomes tough, DO NOT PANIC! Add a few drops of water to your hands to moisten the dough and keep going.

4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Flour your rolling pin and roll the dough to ¼ inch thickness. Cut out cookie shapes. I used 2 sizes of stars. Others have used squares, hearts, etc. Cut out the larger stars first. Then cut smaller stars out of half of the larger stars (or shape of your choice). You can either wad the smaller stars back into the dough or bake baby stars.

5. Place cookies on a greased cookie sheet or silicone baking mat. Feel free to place them closely together as they rise little. Bake 8-10 minutes at 350 F. Place on cooling racks or plates to cool.



6. After cooling, create sandwiches by spreading jam or curd in the central region of the solid cookie base. Top the sandwich with a powdered sugar dusted open cookie. When spreading jam, there is generally no worry about losing the inside. For the curd, it is important not to overfill because it can slide off the cookie edges, becoming difficult to transport. If you forget to powder the cookie top before topping the sandwich, the cookies can be dusted by sprinkling with your fingers.


7. If desired, feel free to combine both lemon curd and jam. YUM! Sweet and tart!





Lemon curd (from Williams Sonoma Baking)


2 large whole eggs, 3 egg yolks

Juice of 2 lemons

Zest of 2 lemons

¼ c. butter

6 Tbsp sugar


Combine all ingredients in the top saucepan of a double boiler. Place water under the double boiler and heat to a simmer. Do not let the water touch the saucepan base. Whisk ingredients until sugar dissolves and butter melts. Continue whisking until the curd coats the back of the spoon (about 8 minutes). DO NOT let the curd boil. Remove from heat. Using a colander or medium sieve, strain curd into a small bowl (cereal sized). Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours, or for up to 5 days. Makes ¾ c. of curd.


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