Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christmas Cookie Madness

The flour canister, which usually hides behind the cabinet door, has been front and center on the counter for days. The stack of washed zesters, cookie cutters, measuring cups, measuring spoons, spatuala and other baking utensils grows ever larger as each kind of cookie is in the oven and clean up takes place. Cookie madness has taken over and I love it.

So far I've blogged Barbered Santas, Chocolate Shortbread Hearts and, a while back, Saucepan Fruit Bars. The latter are long gone and a new batch will be made soon for the cookie tins. The next cookie is one of my very favorites. I only make it once a year for Christmas because it takes time and patience, two items not always easily found the rest of the year. Actually it's hard to find time at this time of year, too, but I make the effort because these are fantastic.

Viennese Linzer Bar Cookies are another great cookie from cookie maven Maida Heatter. These are found in Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies, another cookbook to purchase if you don't own it already. This recipe only makes 24 fairly small bars, but they are rich with raspberry jam and almonds and butter, keep well (so they can be made far ahead of Christmas and still be yummy), and ship well. They are the classic Linzertorte transformed into bar cookies. I've made these with blanched almonds as the book suggests, but found that lightly toasted almonds with the skins on seem even better to me. It is a long recipe, but each step makes sense. Try these soon. They are that good.

Viennese Linzer Bar Cookies
1 1/2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon powdered cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
Finely grated rind of 1 large lemon
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, chilled
2 1/2 oz. (1/2 cup) almonds, lightly toasted
1 egg
3/4 cup thick red or black raspberry preserves, seedless if possible

1) Adjust oven rack one-third up from the bottom and preheat to 375 degrees F.
2) Sift together 1 1/2 cups of the flour (reserve remaining 2 tablespoons), baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, salt, granulated sugar (minus 1 tablespoon), and lemon rind into a large mixing bowl. Add the brown sugar and stir to mix well.
3) Slice the butter into pieces. With a pastry blender, cut it into the dry ingredients until the mixture is fine and crumbly.
4) Grind the almonds and the reserved one tablespoon of sugar to a fine powder in a blender, or a food processor. (If you have a nut grinder, put all of the sugar into the flour spice mixture, not with the nuts.) Watch carefully and pulse so that the nuts stay powdery. Add the ground almonds to the dry ingredients and butter, and stir to mix well.
5) In a small bowl stir the egg lightly with a fork just to mix. Add the egg to the dough and, with a fork, stir well until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. (I wash my hands and finish the mixing with them if needed.)Remove and reserve 3/4 cup of the dough.
6) Place the remaining dough in an unbuttered 9-inch square pan and set aside.
7)Replace the reserved 3/4 cup of dough in the mixing bowl. Add the reserved 2 tablespoons flour. Stir together (or mix with hands) until the flour is all incorporated. Form the dough into a flattened squaare and place between two large pieces of wax paper. With a rolling pin, roll over the wax paper to roll the dough into a 9-inch square, (or as close to a square as you can manage). Slide a cookie sheet under the paper and transfer the dought to the freeezer for a few minutes.

8) Flour your fingertips and press the dough that is in the pan to even it out on the bottom of the pan. In a small bowl, stir the preserves slightly just to soften. Spread them evenly over the layer of dough in the pan, keeping the preserves 1/4 to 1/3 inch away from the edges.
9) Remove the chilled dough from the freezer. Remove and replace one piece of waxed paper just to loosen it. Turn the dough and both pieces of wax paper over. Then remove and do not replace the other piece of paper. With a serrated knife, cut the dough into 1/2 inch wide strips; you will have 18 strips, each 1/2 inch wide and 9 or so inches long. Place half of the strips over the preserves, placing them 1./2 inch apart and parallel. Work carefully as dough strips are delicate. If they break, put the pieces in line and press ends together gently. Turn the pan and place the remaining 9 strips crosswise over the first ones, again placing them 1/2 inch apart. This forms a lattice top. If the strips become too soft to work with, rechill as necessary.
10) Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is a rich golden brown.
11) Cool completely in the pan, then use a small, sharp knife to cut around the pan to release the cake. Cut it into quarters, cut each quarter in half, then cut each strip into thirds. With a metal spatula, transfer the bars to a tray, serving plate, or storage tin, with waxed paper between the layers. You can cut them into smaller bars if you wish. You can also wrap each cookie in plastic wrap or waxed paper if desired.


  1. Anonymous1:22 AM

    Mmmmm. :) TW

  2. I love that cookie madness is acceptable this time of year!

  3. Brilynn...yes, probably the only time of year. Are you baking cookies, too?

    anonymous...try 'em. They taste even better than they look :)