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Linzer Cookies

Servings: Makes 1 dozen
Though it's now famous around the world, the motherland of this elegant, rich tart is Linz, Austria. Ground almonds, grated lemon rind and spices add their magic to the buttery crust, which is spread with jam (usually raspberry) before being topped with a lattice of crust. After baking, the tart is served at room temperature.

Linzer Cookies
The Linzer Cookie is the cookie variation of the famous Linzertorte; two cookies sandwiched together with a seedless jam (usually raspberry), and then topped with a dusting of confectioners' sugar. A delicious and very pretty cookie to serve during the holidays, and one that makes a lovely Christmas gift.

1 cup hazelnuts or slivered almonds, toasted and skinned* (See "How to Toast and Skin Nuts" below)
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at
room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. finely grated orange or lemon zest
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
About 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

In a food processor, finely grind the toasted hazelnuts using short pulses. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter on high speed until fluffy and pale yellow. Add the granulated sugar and continue beating until combined. Reduce the speed to low. Add the egg yolk, orange zest, vanilla and almond extract and beat until blended.

Sift together the flour, cinnamon and salt into another bowl. Add the ground hazelnuts and stir to blend. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low speed or stir with a wooden spoon until blended. The dough should be soft. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, divide into 4 equal portions and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly grease 2 baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

Remove 1 portion of the dough at a time from the refrigerator, place between 2 sheets of waxed paper and roll out 1/4 inch thick. Using a cookie cutter about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, cut out the cookies. Using a 1 1/4-inch cutter, cut a hole in the center of half of the cookies. Repeat with the remaining portions of dough, then reroll the dough scraps as needed to make 24 cutouts total, cutting holes in half of them. If the dough becomes sticky, wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze for 10 minutes before rolling out.

Using a thin spatula, carefully transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are firm to the touch, about 12 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks. Loosen the cookies with the spatula, but leave the cookies on the sheets until thoroughly cooled.

To assemble, spread the solid cookies with a thin layer (about 1 tsp.) of raspberry jam to within about 1/4 inch of the edges. Dust the cutout cookies generously with confectioners’ sugar. Top the solid cookies with the cutout cookies.

Makes 1 dozen cookies.

How to Toast and Skin Nuts
To toast nuts, preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are fragrant and golden (or their papery skin starts to crack). Depending on the type and size of the nuts, this will take 10 to 20 minutes. Start checking after 10 minutes. The moment the nuts come out of the oven, pour them onto a plate to cool. They will continue to toast and may burn if left on the hot baking sheet. To remove skins of nuts such as hazelnuts, rub them while still warm in a clean kitchen towel.

Date: December 16, 2002