This time last year I was traveling around Europe to see the holiday markets, lights and festivities in some of my favorite cities. Starting in London and ending in Rome, one of the stops on my 5-country itinerary was Salzburg. The already adorable Austrian city was dressed to the nines for the holidays – the streets were buzzing with music, shops adorned with decorations and the many Christmas markets overflowing with people browsing the stalls of hand-crafted gifts, drinking warm mulled wine and indulging in baked treats. Every now and then we would come across someone selling big bouquets of fresh mistletoe on a corner. If this isn’t Christmas, then I don’t know what is.
One of my favorite memories from Salzburg was a lady with a small table off to the side of a busy street near the farmers market in Universitätsplatz making fresh gingerbread cookies. We watched in awe as she rolled out the dough, baked the cookies in her portable oven and finished them off with smiling faces. Of course we had to try a gingerbread cookie along with one of the large Linzer cookies she was also selling. Needless to say both were delicious, but it was the Linzer that stopped us in our tracks (we literally devoured it within seconds).
These cookies get their name from the traditional Lizner Tort, which traces its roots back to the northern Austrian town of Linz in the late 1600s. It’s said to be the oldest recorded cake recipe in the world, consisting of an almond-based crust with redcurrant jam filling under a lattice-pattern top. Linzer cookies rearrange the same ingredients in cookie form and can be found in various shapes and sizes, one of the most common being round with a circular cutout in the center (known as “Linzer Eyes”). Over the years they have become an especially popular treat in Austria during the Christmas season, so after last year’s trip I was inspired to make some of my own at home for the holidays. And while it’s a great recipe to add to your cookie exchange repertoire, it’s also a cookie that you can enjoy year-round.
Linzer Augen (aka “Linzer Eyes”)
Makes approximately 30 cookies
1 cup of almond flour*
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Zest from 1 lemon
1 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated white sugar, divided
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Apricot, raspberry or other fruit-flavored preserves
*Note: You can make your own almond flour by processing 150 grams of whole almonds (with skins or preferably balanced) in a food processor until finely ground.
- In a bowl combine the almond flour and 1/4 cup of granulated sugar and set aside. In a separate bowl whisk together the all-purpose flour, cinnamon, salt and lemon zest.
- Using an electric mixer, beat butter and remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract and egg yolks, followed by the almond flour mixture and finally the all-purpose flour mixture.
- Divide dough in half and shape into 2 smooth discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut out the cookies with a cookie cutter, leaving half of the cookies whole and cutting out a smaller shape from the center of the other half. Continue to reroll and cutout cookies from the remaining dough, making sure you have an equal number of whole cookies for the bottoms and cutout cookies for the tops.
- Place cookies 1 inch apart on the baking sheets and bake for about 12 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To assemble, lightly dust the cutout cookies with confectioners’ sugar and set aside. Spread a thin layer of preserves on the whole cookies and carefully top with a cutout cookie, gently sandwiching the preserves between them.
- Store cookies in an air-tight container in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
Recipe with instructional video from Joy of Baking.