My childhood crush: The always romantic Linzer cookie

The Linzer Torte is said to be the oldest-known cake in the world. Originating in the town on Linz, Austria, recipes for this buttery tart have been found dating back to 1653.

Linzer cookies are a cut-outs version of the ancient pastry, created by cutting a circle of dough similar to that of the tart, covering it with jam, and stacking another circle with a hole in its center on top, allowing the jam to peek through.

One of my fondest, and earliest, memories of growing up in a small beach town in Northern Israel is that of a downtown bakery that featured these lovely beauties. Even at a young age, I was drawn to bakeries, with their intoxicating vanilla smell and their gleaming glass cases dotted with gorgeous creations like macaroons, chocolate dipped cookies and tiny marzipan covered cakes. But the ultimate treat, the one that many years later my parents diligently packed in their suitcase and brought to Minnesota for me from a trip home, was the Linzer cookie.

Linzer cookies can be made in any shape, but heart is my favorite, so it is perfectly suited for a sweet treat to share for Valentine’s Day. As my quest to share my love of baking with my daughter continues, I take every opportunity I can to weave in some Jewish traditions, even if they are just my own memories of my childhood. So together we made Linzer cookies, and I told her about my hometown and the bakery that first ignited my love for pastries. I told her about her Saba and Safta’s sweet gesture in carrying that butter-stained box all the way to Minnesota so I can indulge in a childhood favorite. Traditions can start at any moment, and I believe Valentine’s Linzer cookies is going to be one of ours.

While most Linzer recipes call for ground nuts like hazelnuts or almonds, I simplified by switching the vanilla extract in an easy recipe for almond. The result was just as delicious as I remembered.

Linzer Cookies

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

¼ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp kosher salt

¾ cup sugar

½ cup butter, softened

1 egg

1 tsp almond extract

Seedless raspberry jam

Powdered sugar (optional)

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl, set aside. In a standing mixer or using a hand-held electric mixer, beat granulated sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and almond extract. Gradually add flour mixture. Beat at low speed until dough forms. Divide dough in half, cover each half with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour until firm.

Preheat oven to 375. Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll out dough onto floured surface to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut dough into desired shapes using a floured cookie cutter. Cut 1inch centers out of half of the cookies. I used a heart shaped cookie cutter and a tiny heart shaped one for the center.

Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 5-7 minutes or until the edges are barely brown. Let cookies rest on cookie sheets for a few minutes, then remove to wire racks and cool completely.

Sprinkle cookies with holes with powdered sugar, if desired. Spread a small amount of jam on the flat side of each whole cookie. Careful not to use too much jam as it will spread past edges when you add the top cookie. Place cookie with holes, flat side down, over jam to create sandwich.

Makes about 18 cookies, depending on the size of your cutter.

Here is a link to a Kosher version as well: http://www.joyofkosher.com/recipe/almond-linzer-cookies/

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