Holiday Traditions, New and Old
24 Dec 2006

It's a Ferroni tradition, at least for Cam, to have butter tarts on the holidays. Perhaps it's not fair to say it's a holiday tradition, since butter tarts are desired and quickly devoured on any occasion... but definitely at Christmas time. This year is definitely no exception. Butter tarts are in the making. I also wanted to try something new this year. Several months ago, after surfing through the Baker's Catalogue, I decided I must have Linzer Cookie Set - Christmas. There is no good reason to own a cutter specifically for Linzer cookies. A large scalloped cookie cutter along with several smaller cutters of various shapes is perfectly functional and probably easier to clean. But, I am perfectly capable of being queen of the land of rationalizations. If I had a special Linzer cutter then certainly I would be more likely to bake Linzer cookies! And, how beautiful they would be to photograph! I ordered it immediately. The cookie cutter arrived, I examined it giddily, added make Linzer cookies to my list, and placed toy safely into a drawer. Where it sat, untouched, of course. Rationalization only gets you so far. It doesn't make the cookies for you. But, lo and behold, the holidays came around, and I rediscovered my cookie cutter and, believe it or not, actually proceeded to make Linzer cookies! Woo hoo! And, on top of that, they are perfectly delicious, with each little jam filled bite. Half, I slathered with raspberry jam and half with blueberry, made from berries I had tucked away in the freezer this summer. The raspberry jam is more vibrant, the blueberry stays truer to the flavors of the fruit, and is my favorite. I highly recommend making your own jam for these, but if you don't have the time, it's fine to use store-bought.

One note about the recipe, which I adapted from the Linzer cookie recipe from Food & Wine... there is lots of chilling time required for the dough, as it is practically a pastry dough. While the active time is only an hour and a half (still quite a while for cookies), you'll need at least 5 hours start to finish. Better yet, make the jam and the dough the day before and put them in the fridge to chill overnight. Then, complete the final cutting, baking and assembling steps the next day. Happy Holidays Everyone! See you next year!
Linzer Cookies (adapted from Food & Wine) 3 sticks ( 3/4 pound) unsalted butter, softened 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar 1/2 cup finely ground blanched almonds (2 1/2 ounces) 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cinnamon Pinch of salt 4 large egg yolks 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling 1/4 teaspoon baking soda powdered sugar for dusting For the jam 2 cups fresh or flash-frozen berries (any type will do, but raspberry is traditional) 3/4 cup granulated sugar, or to taste 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice If making your own jam: Place the berries and granulated sugar in a heavy bottomed pot, and bring to a boil, stirring to incorporate the sugar. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice and cook for another 5 minutes to thicken. The liquid should coat the back of a spoon. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Refrigerate until set. Note: it's fine if it's not as thick as regular jam... but it should be able to puddle without running. To make the dough: Beat room temperature butter with the powdered sugar until blended. Add the ground almonds, cinnamon and salt. Beat to combine. Beat in the egg yolks and then the Grand Marnier. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and baking soda and mix until evenly combined. Divide the dough in half and place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap the dough well, and flatten slightly. Refrigerate at least 3 hours. To prepare the cookies: Prepare three to four baking sheets by lining with parchment paper. Remove the one of the chilled doughs from refrigerator, and on a well floured surface, roll out until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Lightly flour the dough and rolling pin as necessary (and flip the dough, carefully, a few times to make sure that it doesn't stick to the work surface). Using a 2 inch cookie cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can from the dough, carefully transferring the cookies to the parchment lined baking sheet as you go. Leave about 1/2 inch between cookies. Gather any remaining dough, and rewrap and flatten and place back in the refrigerator. Place each cookie sheet into the fridge as it becomes full to chill the cut out cookies. Repeat with the second dough, but this time, you are making the tops. If you have a Linzer cookie cutter, put the center "bit" in, and start cutting, trying to get the same number as you did from the first dough. If you don't have a Linzer cutter, then cut out the disks, and then use a smaller cutter of your choice to remove the center of the cookies. Gather up the left over dough, rewrap, and chill. Repeat with the scrap doughs until you have no more remaining. Chill the cut cookies for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F. Place two cookie sheets in the oven at a time on the middle and lower racks. Bake for 5 minutes, and then rotate the pans and switch racks. Bake for another 5 minutes and check. The cookies should be a light golden brown. Remove from oven, and allow to cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack.
To assemble the cookies Separate the tops (with the cutouts) from the bottoms, and lightly dust with powdered sugar. Flip the bottoms so that the bottom side (the side that was against the parchment during baking) is up. Spoon on a 1/4 to a 1/2 teaspoon of jam. Immediately cover with a cookie top. Repeat with the remaining cookie top and bottoms. Let set at room temperature for a couple of hours to set. Or, give into temptation and have one right away.
Other great looking variations: Epicurious Karen Demasco of Craft/Craftbar via the New York Times

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