Monday, November 28, 2011

Linzer Tarts

In 2005 Dave and I tackled the long distance relationship, him living in Massachusetts while I still lived in central Pennsylvania.  Dave bought his house the year before and for Thanksgiving in 2005 I visited him and his family for the holiday with the caveat that he allow me to complete several of my cookie recipes for my holiday baking.  Living the bachelor life, Dave didn't particularly care what I did with his oven so long as he got some of the treats. 

So on during Thanksgiving week when so many people spend their time in the kitchen making real food, I stumbled into the kitchen and prepared to make many batches of cookies.  Busying myself in the kitchen, Dave was in the living room watching TV or playing video games. I had several cooling racks full of cookies, having just completed a batch of Classic Peanut Butter Cookies, and just starting on a recipe of Oatmeal Cranberry. My first two sheets of oatmeal cookies were in the oven when the timer went off and I opened the oven door.

There was a flame.

In the electric oven.

So I did what any logical person would do. I shut the door. I stood there for a second and thought, "Surely that wasn't a flame." Assuming the flour had officially gone to my head, I chalked it up to me seeing things, and opened the oven door again.

Nope, there's still a flame in there.

Me: S#!T!
Dave: (no response)

Me: S#!T! S#!T! S#!T!
Dave: (no response)

See, here's the thing. Even at this early stage in our relationship, and only seeing each other for a few days each month, Dave had already become immune to my use of the word S#!T!. Turns out I use it so frequently that when Dave would ask, "What's wrong?", my standard response was, "Nothing." It became a new twist on crying wolf. Only I was crying S#!T! and needed to find a way to get his attention. So I searched my vocabulary for a word that would express the dire situation unfolding in the oven.

Dave, boy scout and lab safety professional that he is, sprang to his feet and practically jumped over the couch. He grabbed the fire extinguisher (I'm not sure I knew where that was) and asked where the fire was. I opened the oven door and then immediately began opening doors and windows to blow the smoke out, sort of stunned and a little scared. I just set my boyfriend's kitchen on fire!

After the fire was out and the smoke cleared, Dave calmed me down and we went about cleaning up (all those poor, innocent, extinguished cookies) and figuring out what had happened. Apparently at some point in the oven's life prior to Dave, someone had a messy oven episode and something had dropped onto the heating element in the oven (the black oval shaped thing on the bottom of the oven that turns red when it gets hot). Whatever the mess was got stuck on the element and was never cleaned off. It had never been a problem before since Dave never left the oven on for that long. But since I had the oven cranking for so many hours, eventually the goop just combusted and when it did, the element caught on fire as well, completely ruining it.

Luckily, Dave is also very handy and knows how to fix things. This was the day before Thanksgiving. So the day after Thanksgiving, he called a local appliance store, explained what he needed and started to give the serviceman the part number. The guy at the store actually rattled off the last few digits of the part number and said, "Yeah, I've got one of those left. We always have a few people who need one of those the day after Thanksgiving."

Why am I telling you this little story?  Well, it just so happens that on Black Friday 2011 I again found myself in the kitchen, with a nearly completed batch of Old Fashioned Sugar Cut-Outs in the oven and rolling out these Linzer Tarts, I glanced from my rolling station to the oven. 

Where I saw a spark.

Dave was in the kitchen, so I opened the door and sure enough, there was a flame sparking from the electric heating coil.  


Me: Fire!

Dave (upon hearing the proper word for the situation) popped into action.  I told me to turn off the oven and ran for the fire extinguisher.  After completing my task, I immediately thought of how to save the cookies cooling on the racks and the dough rolled out on the kitchen table.  Luckily, with no electricity, the sparked subsided then stopped without using the fire extinguisher (and more importantly, without loosing any cookies or having to clean up the mess from the extinguisher). 

And that's the story of how I came to make these tasty cookies in my toaster oven, one painful sheet at a time.  Because I'm resourceful.  And because the appliance store was closed that day and Dave couldn't  get a replacement coil until Saturday.

Despite their dramatic tale, these cookies are delicious.  The ground almonds serve as both a flour replacement and a flavor enhancer, bringing an excellent texture to the cookie and providing almond flavor in a way that can't come from extract.  The key here is to grind the almonds very fine--any chunks are going to make it difficult for the dough to bind together and will give you a headache when you roll the dough out (this is coming from my first experience making these cookies).  Any flavor jam can be substituted, but I like the almond-apricot combination and definitely a sweet but refined holiday flavor.  You'll often see these cookies dusted with powdered sugar or made with a raspberry jam, which is also tasty, but I like them just like this.  They are crisp out of the oven but soften (due to the jam) when stored. 

A few years ago I hosted a cookie exchange at work and one of my coworkers, Lisa, shared this recipe.  I think it's fantastic and haven't changed a thing.  I happen to have a Linzer Tart cookie cutter, shown below, but any two graduated cutters will serve the purpose.  These pretty cookies make a wonderful addition to a dessert table or look sophisticated packaged up as a gift.

Linzer Tarts


1 cup blanched almonds
2/3 cup plus 1 Tablepoon sugar divided
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 2/3 cups flour
3/4 cup apricot jam or preserves

Spread almonds in an even layer on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 6 minutes to lightly toast.  When cool, place almonds in a food processor with one Tablespoon sugar and grind until fine.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a beater attachment, beat butter on medium-high speed, then add remaining sugar and beat on medium until fluffy, scraping sides of bowl as necessary.  Add ground almonds, egg, egg yolk, salt vanilla extract, almond extract, and nutmeg.  Beat on low until combined, continuing to scrape bowl as needed.

Swap to a paddle attachment and gradually stir in flour until combined.  

Turn dough out onto a cutting or dough mat and knead to gather any loose dough.  Divide dough into four portions, wrapping each portion in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 2 hours or until easy to handle.  Note: I usually refrigerate the dough overnight.

Roll out one portion of the dough on a floured surface, to about 1/4 inch thickness. 

Using a fluted two inch cookie cutter, cut dough and arrange about one inch apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silcone baking mat.  Then use a one inch fluted cookie cutter to cut out centers from half the cookies.  Alternatively, you can find a Linzer Tart cutter that has removable center shapes, like two cutters in one.  I use this and cut out a dozen whole cookies and a dozen window cookies at a time.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until tops are pale golden brown.  Turn baking sheet 180 degrees halfway through baking. If using more than one sheet at a time, rotate positions in the oven for more even baking.

Cool on sheets for 2 minutes before transferring to wire racks to complete cooling. 

When cool, spread about 1 teaspoon of jam in the center of each whole cookie.  Top with a window cookie, flat side down, and sandwich together. 

Makes about 5 dozen sandwich cookies.

Happy Baking,
The Cookie Princess

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1 comment:

  1. This has happened to me too! When we were stationed in Hawaii I was making Caramel Apple Sticky Buns (which include apple brandy), it was like an inferno in the oven.

    Baking mishaps make me laugh (weeks after they initially happen), I'm not sure what I find so funny about them, because for sure at the time they happen I am no where near laughing, but looking back, they're hilarious.