Lovely linzers: Fancy cutout cookies for the artistically challenged

chocolate linzers

It’s that time of the year again–time for our annual Daffodil Watch. Those of you who’ve been reading our emails for awhile know that we track the progress of my daffodils each spring. Last year, they poked their heads up out of the ground on Dec. 31. This year, they made their appearance exactly 3 weeks later, on Jan. 21. Can spring be far behind? Sure can! These little green shoots will certainly be buried in snow at some point before they bloom. But the south-facing foundation of my house, where they grow, will keep them nice and cozy till winter finally leaves.

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I have a confession to make. I don’t like rolling out dough. It fills me with… well, trepidation. Maybe it’s because I didn’t used to be a very good dough-roller. Piecrust? Scary. It would start out fairly promising, but all of a sudden a map of Antarctica would appear: a big white blob with cracks and crevices all around the edges. And, like the polar icecap in spring, the crust would fall apart as soon as I tried to transfer it from counter to pie pan. I always consoled myself with the fact that once I patched it together and added the filling, no one would know. Still… I felt like a failure.

I’ve gotten much, much better at rolling since I’ve been here at King Arthur. A non-stick silicone rolling mat, stainless steel or silicone rolling pin, and a good recipe make a HUGE difference. Plus, practice makes… well, if not perfect, at least a whole lot better. But that said, I have to admit–I still don’t love rolling dough.

So when our merchandise director came to me and said “Could you do a recipe with those Valentine linzer cutters and put it in the blog? I think it would be cute,” I did an inward shudder. Oh no… rolling cookie dough. And cutting, and frosting, and sandwiching… fussy, fussy! As I’ve said MANY times before, I simply wasn’t born with the Martha Stewart gene. Can’t knit, can’t sew, have no interest in scrapbooking, or making a holiday centerpiece out of pinecones and glitter. When I walk into the kitchen, I want to walk out 30 minutes later (or 2 days later, for those yummy artisan breads) with something good to eat, something I can share with family and friends to accolades and satisfied lip-smacking.

But linzer cookies was the request, and linzer cookies it would be. And I discovered, like the kid who gets to school and finds himself enjoying it (despite his conviction he’d be miserable)–it wasn’t bad. In fact, I was quite proud of myself by the time I’d finished. The cookies looked good; making ’em wasn’t all THAT much of a challenge. And, after all, what can possibly be wrong with CHOCOLATE?

Not blessed with the Martha gene? You can still do this. All it takes is the cutters, our Chocolate Linzer Cookies recipe, and a little free time (though that may be your biggest challenge of all!)

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Start by beating together the butter, sugar, salt, baking powder, and espresso powder. What, these are coffee-flavored? Nope, not at all. Espresso powder heightens the flavor of chocolate just like vanilla does, so I add a bit to all of my chocolate recipes.

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Here’s the butter-sugar mixture, nicely beaten.

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Next comes the egg, water, and vanilla. The egg will smooth out the dough.

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See?

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Add flour and cocoa powder to make a nice chocolate-y dough.

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Hint: drape a dish towel over the mixer before you start it up, to avoid a flour and cocoa “dust storm” settling all over your counter.

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Yum! Looking good. The dough is very sticky at this point, so you’re going to refrigerate it for awhile.

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I divided the dough in half (one half a little bigger than the other–you’ll be using the slightly larger piece to cut out the solid cookies, which require a bit more dough than the “cutout” cookies). Pat each into a rough disk, then lay them on a piece of parchment in a 9” x 13” pan, and cover with plastic wrap. I’m actually not sure why I bothered to do all this, aside from the fact I figured the dough was sticky enough that it might be hard to scrape it off the plastic wrap once it was chilled… In retrospect, I don’t think I’d go to all this trouble. Go ahead and just wrap it in plastic; or put it on a plate, and cover with plastic. You’ll refrigerate the dough for 3 to 4 hours, or overnight; so plan your schedule accordingly.

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Several hours later (or the next day), remove the dough from the fridge. If it seems too stiff to roll, let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or so. Put one piece of dough on a well-floured counter or floured silicone mat. I like to use the mat because when I’m done, I can simply pick it up, flap it over the trash can, and rinse in the sink – no counter to clean up. By the way, don’t worry that the flour on the dough might make your cookies floury looking; it’ll all disappear by the time the cookies have baked.

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Rolling, rolling, rolling… here come the cracks! Hey, I said I was better at this–not perfect.

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Get your linzer cutter ready. At this point we’re cutting out the “whole” circles, the ones without a design in the center. Dip the cutter in flour before making your cut.

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The dough will stick slightly in the cutter, enough that you can pick it up off the mat. Turn the cutter over your prepared cookie sheet, give it a little shake, and the cookie should drop right out onto the sheet.

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Once you’ve cut half the dough into solid circles, you’ll roll out the other piece of dough, and cut it into circles with a design in the center. Press down firmly and rock the cutter a little, to make sure the design in the center is sufficiently cut. Don’t press TOO hard, though, if you’re cutting on silicone; you don’t want to scratch it.

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Shake the cutout cookies out onto the baking sheet like you did the solid cookies. Note that the dough will remain in the center hole; that’s OK. After 5-6 cookies, you can dig it out (no need to clean the opening after each cookie).

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And here they are. Still looking a little rough, a little floury… Trust me. It all disappears as they bake. Notice, also, that you can set them very close together on the sheet; they expand only a tiny bit as they bake.

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Fast forward. The cookies are baked and cooled, and it’s time to fill them with colored icing. Put 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar into each of four small bowls. 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar weighs 1 ounce. Looks like I was 1/8 ounce off on this one.

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Add milk, corn syrup, and 1 DROP of gel-paste color to each bowl. Gel-paste colors are super-strong; watch what color 1 drop of pink yields…

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WOW! Now THAT is pink!

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Use a fork or spoon to spread icing on a solid-bottom cookie.

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Place a cutout cookie on top, and there you have it–a pink-lips Valentine linzer!

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Continue with the rest of the cookies and colored icings.

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Lovely linzers! Worth the effort? Yeah. Especially if you have kids you can involve at the end, during the spreading frosting and putting on the top cookies part. Even the littlest budding baker can place-a-cutout-atop-an-iced-solid, and be proud of the cookie s/he made!

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Gala

    When I make linzer cookies I prefer to use raspberry jam filling, and they are wonderful the first day. The next day they get soggy on the bottom. How can I prevent this? I’m not sure there is a way to prevent that. Choose the thickest jam you find. Mary

    You could also fill them just before you’re going to serve; since filling/sandwiching takes no time at all. PJH

    Reply
  2. alexaro

    I’ve tried these a couple of times now using different recipes, and while they taste great, the designs on the top layer always puff up and close in so that they just look like goofy little openings, not a cool shape. Last time I chilled them before baking, per the recipe’s suggestion, and that didn’t work either. Could they be too thick?

    I’d welcome any suggestions – thank you!
    Hello, so sorry that your linzers are not coming out they way you would like. It is possible that you are rolling the dough a bit too thick. One thing that may also be contributing to this is that your dough may have been mixed for too long on too high a speed after the eggs were added. If air is incorporated into a dough or batter with the eggs, it will cause the product to rise in the oven. These cookies should not rise much at all, and should be crispy. Be sure to incorporate your eggs on a lower speed and see if this remedies your problem. Happy baking! -Amy

    Reply
  3. bobs1joy

    This past Christmas (of 2010) I purchased your chocolate cookie baking mix and made Chocolate Linzers with peppermint icing as the filling. My hubby LOVED those cookies! Does this recipe result in the same delicious chocolaty cookie as that mix? I’d like to make them again for Valentine’s Day, but I enjoy making cookies from scratch immensely, so I’m a hopin’!
    Thank you sooo much!
    ~ Joy : )

    I’d say yes, the cookies are basically the same, Joy. Go for it – make hubby happy! PJH

    Reply
  4. glpruett

    I am soooooooooooo glad I found this recipe for chocolate linzers! I have to admit, I WAS born with the Martha-gene, and I love all things creative in the kitchen! Count me in for scrapbooking, too!

    Now, to my question: I’m making about ten Valentine cookie boxes to surprise friends this year, so I’m not sure when the cookies will actually be eaten. I’ll be giving them to my friends on Sunday, two days before Valentine’s Day, at church. I would much rather the cookies not get soggy, of course, before they’re eaten. Is the comment from Dianne, to try painting the cookies with a thin layer of chocolate, in response to the previous question of how to prevent sogginess with a jam filling? I love the taste of jam in a linzer cookie, but I absolutely fell in love with the look of the bright white, pink, red and purple icing filling in your recipe. Do you think the thin layer of chocolate would prevent the cookies getting soggy? I’m also concerned that the thin layer of chocolate might make it hard for the icing to set up enough to keep the cookies together.

    Also, I’ll be making an assortment of cookies to pack in my Valentine’s boxes. (Sorry, there goes Martha again!) Do you think that putting one of your 6″ parchment squares between each kind will be sufficient to keep the flavors separated?

    Thanks for any help you can give! Now, it’s time to get baking!!!

    This sounds like a great project! Yes, all of this is going to be an experiment as you modify the cookies for a “longer/prettier” shelf life. If the chocolate layer is of concern, you could also try brushing the lower cookie with an apricot glaze and letting it set, before topping with jam. For maximum protection, you’ll want to reduce the lateral motion of the cookies within the box. Pack the cookies in muffin papers, like a box of chocolates. A single layer of paper separating the layers should be sufficient. Good luck with your project. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  5. glpruett

    Great idea, Frank, to use the muffin papers to limit lateral movement! And, of course being Martha-influenced, I have several Valentine paper cups from which to choose! The cookie dough is in the fridge, and I’ll be baking on Saturday to get my surprise packages ready. Thanks for your help in making it a sure success!

    Reply
  6. Itsalulu

    The best way that I have found not to have your jam make your cookies soggy is to heat the jam in a saucepan over medium heat until reduced and thickened (about 7 minutes). Let cool, then spread and put your cookie tops on!
    Thanks so much for sharing! ~ MaryJane

    Reply

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