Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hunt Country Christmas Linzer Hearts


Count Down to Christmas Cookie Recipes

These cookies take their name from the classic Linzer torte. When you see the name "Linzer" on a recipe or dessert, it's a clue that the flavor will be raspberry and almond.

You may think their shape is better suited for Valentines' Day but the heart in seen often at Christmas and comes from both the German and Scandinavian traditions.  It's to remind us that the meaning of Christmas should forever be in our hearts.

Corn meal, in this recipe, is unusual but it gives a nod to our southern heritage and gives an extra bite to the dough. You'll see cornmeal, by the way, added to all sorts of recipes these days - everything from scones to pound cake. And since you make them in the food processor, they couldn't be any easier to make!

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Makes about 4 dozen (2 1/2 inch double cookies)
Uses both a 2 1/2 inch and a 1 1/2 inch heart shaped cookie cutter (measured at the widest point)
Parchment baking paper required
Prepare in food processor
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The Christmas Heart is a
Classic Holiday Cookie

1 1/2 cups natural or blanched almond slices
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for rolling out cookies)
1/2 cup corn meal
1 1/2 sticks butter (6 oz cut into random 1 inch chunks)
1 large or extra large egg

Filling - raspberry jam (with seeds or seedless - about 2/3 cup)
Powdered sugar for serving
Pulse sugar and almonds together in the food processor until the almonds are finely ground and uniform looking - about 45 seconds.

Pulse in the flour, corn meal and butter until uniform - about 1 minute more. (Scrape down bowl, if necessary, once or twice to help the mixture become uniform before the butter gets too soft and melted.)

Add egg and pulse together until mixture comes together and almost forms a ball. Remove dough and gather together all the dough and any small pieces. Still using your hands, flatten dough with into a 4 inch round circle. Refrigerate, covered, at least one hour. Over night is OK.

When ready to bake, position oven rack so cookies will bake in center. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cookie sheets with baking parchment.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Cut into 4 equal portions. Take one portion and work a bit with your hands to soften slightly. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface making a 9 inch circle. Dough will be about 1/8 inch thick. Using the larger cutter, cut out hearts. Place them on the parchment lined pan about 1 inch apart. (You can get about 15 hearts of this size on a standard size cookie sheet.) Using the smaller cookie cutter, cut out the centers of half the cookie and remove. Save the centers to bake separately or to re-roll. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake, one sheet at a time, until bottoms are a very pale brown - about 10 to 12 minutes. Do not over bake. Slide parchment (with cookies) onto cooling rack.

Assemble cooled cookies by spreading jam on the solid hearts and topping with a cut out heart. At serving time, sprinkle with powdered sugar.


Baker's Tips:
Cookies spread with jam will soften - characteristic of classic Linzer cookies. If you prefer crisp cookies, you can keep them in an air tight container and spread them with jam at serving time.

We like to bake the center cut outs and freeze them. We use them and a garnish to top ice cream and decorate frosted cakes. We've even made cookie snack mix with them adding raisins, dried apples, cranberries and salted pretzel sticks.

Collect cut out scraps but do not re-roll until all the dough has been rolled out.  Then, put all the scraps together and roll out.  This will keep the dough from being over handled and pick up too much flour.

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