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
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!