Traditionally these cookies are made with blanched almonds and contain Red or Black Current preserves between the layers, just like a Linzer Torte, but you can mix it up a little. I am not a big almond fan, so I use hazelnuts instead. After all, I grew up in Oregon where Hazelnuts abound and old habits are hard to break. Or is that "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" ;)
Current preserves, aside from red current jelly, are a little hard to come by on the west coast so I have used Mint jelly, Seville Orange marmalade, Apricot jam, Seedless Raspberry jam and, when available, Huckleberry preserves as filling. But, this year, I found Black currant preserves,
so that is what I am using this time... YAY!!!
A Linzer Cookie cutter makes this a little easier, and most of them come with interchangeable center pieces providing you with a variety of design options,
but you can use a 2 inch round cutter and a small 1/2 inch cutter to make a center window.
The recipe that follows is how I make them, which yields slightly brown dough, if you replace the hazelnuts with blanched almonds, you will get a pale dough. This is a personal preference, I like the contrast created by the darker dough, the color of the preserves and the dusting of powdered sugar.
This makes about 3 1/2 dozen, give or take a couple depending on your cutter size. That's finished cookies... as in 40 tops and 40 bottoms.... :)
5 oz Blanched Hazelnuts (about 1 cup)
1 cup Unsalted Butter
3/4 cup Sugar, divided (your gonna steal about 2 TB out of it to grind the nuts)
1 large Egg
1 tsp Vanilla extract
Zest of 1 Lemon
2 cups plus 2 TB Unbleached AP Flour (King Arthur seems to work better than Gold Medal or Pillsbury)
1 tsp Baking Powder (Aluminum Free)
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Mace
1/4 tsp Coriander
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
2/3 - 1 cup Black Current preserves, Red Currant Jelly, Mint Jelly or whatever blows your hair back.
Toss the Hazelnuts in a food processor with 1 1/2 TB of the sugar and pulse until finely ground.
Always use the pulse button, otherwise, even with the sugar present, you will still end up with Hazelnut butter, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it won’t work for this recipe.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add egg and beat about 3 minutes;
Add vanilla and Lemon Zest, then mix some more.
In a separate bowl whisk Hazelnut meal, flour, baking powder, spices and salt.
Add to butter mixture and beat on low until combined;
Divide dough in 2 equal portions;
flatten into disks, wrap in 2 layers of plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour, or over night.
When ready to begin baking preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment (or a Silpat, although I have one, I still prefer parchment)
On a lightly floured board or marble slab, roll out the first disk to about 1/4 inch.
Use the Cutter without the center cutter.
Cut as many 2 inch round cookies as possible.
Using a well flours spatula, move cookies to prepared sheets.
Place the center cutter in.
Roll out the second disk and cut as many windowed rounds as possible (hopefully the number matches the number of solid rounds you cut from the previous disk)
Combine scraps from both batches, re-roll dough and cut equal amounts of windowed and solid rounds.
Bake until the edges just start to turn a little golden, about 10-14 minutes depending on your oven. (In my experience it takes 10-11 minutes for electric and 14 minutes for gas, I have not tried these in a convection oven yet.)
These cookies are kind of touchy, like shortbread, so keep an eye on them cause the windowed tops will burn in a heartbeat.
Place on racks until completely cooled.
OK let me stop here, cause these cookies come with a party warning.
When you serve them, inevitably someone will yawn or breathe at the wrong time, with the cookie just a little too close to their nose, ergo inhaling a cloud of confectioners' sugar. The ensuing coughing fit can be hazardous to your health as well as your guests' health and any other appetizer bits you may be serving at your party.
Just a heads up, the confectioners' sugar may be traditional, but it has a bit of an issue staying on the cookie and usually ends up in your guest's face or their clothes, on your floor, all over the drapes or settling languidly over your cheese ball.
Then lightly sprinkle/sift/dust confectioners’ sugar over the windowed tops and set aside.
Spread about 1 1/2 tsp of preserves on the bottom of each solid cookie with an offset spatula.
Sandwich together with a windowed, sugar dusted top.
Store in a air-tight container with wax paper between the layers or eat right away... :)
Mangia!! very carefully and don't breathe