Create: Austrian Linzer Cookies (+Recipe)

While I was growing up, my family didn't du much Christmas decorating during December. We saved that for Christmas Eve. However, we did bake up a storm in the weeks leading up to the holiday. Gingerbread, sugar cookies, "Linzer Augen" and a half dozen other traditional Austrian baked goods.

I remember hours of standing at the kitchen counter on a chair to help cut out hundreds of shapes out of rolled out dough. It was a sure sign that Christmas was coming when my mom became a cookie baking monster. 

This year has been a bit tricky due to our impending move. We haven't been able to decorate our house the way we did last year, so I've had a bit of a hard time feeling Christmas-y. On Sunday, I realized I could get into that holiday spirit without requiring a tree.  

Within a minute of asking my mom for her Linzer Cookie (Linzer Augen in German) recipe, I got the above recipe texted to me. I'm sure that's the same recipe she's used for over 20 years. Now if you're like me, you probably don't have a kitchen scale. Well, all Austrian baking recipes are measured in grams and decagrams, so as a good little Austrian girl I really should have had a scale. 

We remedied my scale-less condition with some left over wedding Bed, Bath, and Beyond gift cards and make a quick stop at the grocery store for a few ingredients.

The dough for these cookies is stupid easy to make. It's a standard, mix butter and sugar, add the egg, and then mix in the dry ingredients. You could probably even just mix everything together at once and still be fine.

I made the dough while super distracted by the snowflakes that started to fall from the sky and accidentally added the sugar to the flour. It turned our perfectly fine and I just scooped a bit of the sugar off the top and into the butter. No harm.

As with most cutout cookies, you do have to let the dough cool in the fridge for a while. I wrapped some gifts while waiting and Dave DJed the Christmas tunes.

I only have a couple cookie cutters and had to borrow the small ones from a neighbor. But the cutters I have are my grandma's or maybe even my great-grandma's, so I love getting a chance to use them.

As I rolled, cut, and baked those cookies, I realized how cookie making is intensely associated with this season in my memory. I had never thought about it before. But as snow fell outside, and Dave did a jig to a Christmas tune, I felt more cheery and Christmas spirit-y than I had yet. 

The trickiest part of these cookies is making sure they don't burn. The bake time is 7-10 minutes, and ideally they should just have a hint of brown around the edges. There was one batch that wasn't quite done, I turned around and came back less than a minute later, and they were all over-crisped and browned. I couldn't believe how fast it happened.

Once the cookies cooled, I spread them with raspberry jam and added the cute cutout upper piece on top. I used raspberry, but the traditional jam would be currant. It would be much redder than the raspberry and add a perfect blend of tart and sweet, I just didn't have time to find some.

Once I sprinkled them with powdered sugar, I packaged a couple up to give as little gifts. I kept about half of them and have been savoring them with a hot mug of something in the evenings. I love how melty, crispy and perfectly sweet they are. 

Linzer Cookies come from the city of Linz, Austria which happens to be the place I was born. For me, these cookies are even more special because of that.

I adjusted my mom's original recipe to be in American measurements instead of grams if you'd like to give these a try. They're easy and yummy. Turn on some tunes and cozy on up for a fun time filled with baking and delicious smells.

If you make them, please let me know! I'd love to hear about your adventures in the kitchen.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 1/3 c. flour
  • 1 1/4 c. almond flour or finely ground almonds
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pinch salt
  • jam, currant jam is traditional, but raspberry is common in the States
  • powdered sugar to sprinkle on top

Dough:

  1. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl if needed
  2. Add the egg and beat until combined
  3. Meanwhile, combine together the flour, almonds, and salt
  4. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix until just combined
  5. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour

Baking:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll half the dough out until it's about 1/8"-thick 
  3. Use a 2 1/2" round cookie cutter (or drinking glass), cut out cookies
  4. Cut out a small circle or other shape out of the center of half the cookie rounds
  5. Transfer rounds to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  6. Gather the scrap dough, roll, and repeat
  7. Bake all of the cookies for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to turn brown. Keep a careful eye on them after 7 minutes as they can go from lightly browned to dark in less than a minute
  8. Let them cool for a couple minutes on the pan, then transfer to a rack

Filling:

  1. Spread  1/2 tsp of jam on solid cookies 
  2. Top each with one of the cutout cookies to make a tiny cookie-jam-cookie sandwich
  3. Sprinkle all the cookies with powdered sugar to finish
  4. Enjoy!

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Austria 2014: expectations

Austria: December 22, 2007

Austria: December 22, 2007

In a little over 6 weeks I pack this wandering heart up with Mr. Dave-man and "hop" the large pond to Austria. We get to spend Christmas there with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins! It's our first Christmas together as well as  separate from our immediate families. And then my other dear friend and college roommate will join us for the last week of our visit. Three weeks of vacation in Europe is a pretty big deal. So it's all super exciting and if I'm completely honest, I'm just a little nervous.

The logistics — transatlantic flying, taking care of travels, exchanging currency, and speaking german — don't daunt me. Those things won't be difficult. As someone who's flown since infant-hood, things like airport security, passports and suitcases are a matter of norm.

I'm more nervous about taking two people I love to a place that is special and crucial to who I am. No one outside my family really knows what Austria means or is to me.

Half of me is Austrian. I have the citizenship. I was born there. I speak the language. And yet most of the time that affects my daily life so little. But it's always there. I struggle with how to include this part of me in my identity.

And now they will meet the people, see the places, get to know the Austrian Esther. It'll all be out there for them to see. And I hope and expect them to love it all. But there is a little nagging part of me that worries they'll hate not understanding the language, or think I'm a complete weirdo when I wear my dirndl. However, when I remember all the crazy facets of my personality these two have already put up with, I realize these fears are silly and the extreme, over-the-top planner in me gets distracted by all the fun little things I get to coordinate before take off.