All I kept thinking of when I saw these Linzer cookies on a white plate was the Queen of Hearts.
I’m sure by now you’ve noticed the fairy tale theme, right? Snow White, the Twelve Dancing Princesses, now the Queen of Hearts? If you haven’t noticed, what do I have to do, beat you over the head with my 800+ page volume of the collected works of the Brothers Grimm? Anyway… the Queen of Hearts poem above was supposedly in reference to the motif, or rather the suit, of hearts in playing cards; the character had been subject of songs & poems long before Lewis Carroll used her for his stories (although there is an extension of the above poem that includes characters from each suit- i.e., “The King of Spades flirts with maids”, etc, and why they never gained popularity I don’t know). Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts (from Alice in Wonderland) has been interpreted many different ways. Disney’s popular red-faced fat woman & Tim Burton’s short squat big-headed version are just two of the many, many variations. Contrary to popular belief, she is not the same person as the Red Queen from Through The Looking Glass. She’s her own person, the embodiment of passion & fury. It used to be that the Queen was represented in a more flattering way, but even still, before Disney & Burton there were versions of her that weren’t so pretty. Some of my favorites are:
Although Lewis Carroll’s particular version of the Queen didn’t bake any tarts, unlike the poem’s version, she just bitched & moaned about her red roses being white roses painted red. At any rate, the original Queen of Hearts baked some tarts, and in many illustrations they were heart-shaped, so these cookies or “tarts” made me think of that right away. Of course, it’s not the real version, as it goes with most baked goods we’re familiar with:
Linzer Torte is a very short, crumbly pastry made of flour, unsalted butter, egg yolks, lemon zest, cinnamon and lemon juice, and ground nuts, usually hazelnuts, but even walnuts or almonds are used, covered with a filling of redcurrant jam or, alternatively, plum butter, thick raspberry, or apricot jam. It is covered by a lattice of dough strips. The dough is rolled out in very thin strips of pastry and arranged to form a criss-cross design on top of the preserves. The pastry is brushed with lightly beaten egg whites, baked, and sometimes decorated with sliced almonds.
Linzer Torte is a holiday classic in the Austrian, Hungarian, Swiss, German, and Tirolean traditions, often eaten at Christmas. Linzer Torte is often made like small tarts or cookies in North American bakeries.
Linzer sablés (German: Linzer Augen, “Linzer eyes”) are a cookie-sized version, made by cutting a circle of a similar dough, covering it with jam, placing a donut-like circle with a hole in the center piece of dough on top, and dusting with confectioner’s sugar.
I used a heart-shaped cutter, obviously, but you can use whatever shapes you want; hearts, stars, circles, diamonds, flowers, etc. Even just circles will work.
LINZER COOKIES- THE CUPCAKE REHAB WAY
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (or one cup all-purpose and one cup almond flour)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- ¼ cup powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon pure almond extract (or ¼ teaspoon if using almond flour)
- Preserves for filling (raspberry, strawberry or quince work nicely, I also used candy apple– can be jelly, jam or thick preserves) or if you prefer, Nutella or a thick chocolate sauce
- In a separate bowl whisk the flour with the salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla & almond extracts. Gently mix in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill the dough for at least an hour.
- Preheat oven to 350° degrees F with the rack in the middle of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to around ¼”- inch thick. Cut into rounds or whatever shapes you wish using lightly floured cookie cutter, cutting out smaller shapes from the centers of some. Re-roll & re-cut all the scraps until finished. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. This will firm up the dough so the cookies will maintain their shape when baked. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until cookies are lightly brown. Cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then gently move to rack to cool completely.
- Once cooled, spread preserves or jam or jelly on top of the “bottom” pieces, or “whole” pieces, going almost to the edge. Place the “window” or cut-out pieces on top, being careful not to press too hard or break them. Use the cut-out shapes as extra cookies, or “glue” them on top with a little bit of jam as I did. Or, “glue” them on before baking using a dab of water. Then sprinkle all cookies lightly with confectioner’s sugar.
Psst.. if the sugar on the jelly part bothers you, here’s a secret: it disappears after a while, and all that’s left is the sugar on the cookie. Like magic.
Oh and I should warn you. THIS IS A SHORTBREAD DOUGH. Therefore, it is very delicate. It will break if you move them too fast. They have to be thoroughly cooled and even then, if you make large cookies & don’t support them as you move them, they will break. Be aware. Example:
You know The Island of Misfit Toys? That’s the island of broken cookies. Oh well. They tasted just as good. Lesson learned; don’t watch TV while making cookies. Stick with the music. Although they made a good excuse to snack on some while putting the rest of them together. And don’t worry if your top pieces are a bit differently shaped than the bottom, they look great anyway, trust me.
I used Wilton heart-shaped cutters that came four to a box; two smooth edged red heart cutters, and two scalloped edge heart cutters. I got them at Target, they were around 5 bucks I think. They’re quite large, about 4-5″ across for the biggest one, so I got less cookies out of the recipe. If you have small cutters, then you’ll get far more. Duh. I happen to think they’re amazing because they’re so much bigger than normal. I want to make some heart-shaped homemade pop-tarts with them next.
Everybody thinks of them as Christmas cookies, but once they’re done in heart-shapes they become perfect for Valentine’s Day. So easy, so pretty. I used homemade (of course) strawberry jam (the dark red) & homemade candy apple jelly (the lighter color), but anything goes. For this time of year though, the heart-theme with the red colored filling is nice, but lemon curd also works nicely, as does apricot jam or jelly. And for St. Patrick’s Day, what else but shamrock-shaped cookies filled with bright green, glistening mint jelly? Actually that’s a really good idea…
Anyway, they’re great to package up (gently) and give to someone special. But if anyone takes or eats your cookies without asking, off with their heads!