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Friday, March 23, 2012

Hazelnut Linzer Cookies

After my hamentashen baking session 2 weeks prior, I had plenty of pie filling left over, and I didn't want it all to go to waste.  So I skimmed through my cookbooks and in The Craft of Baking I came across a recipe for Hazelnut Linzer Cookies.  They looked delicious, and I knew that my sister-in-law was going to be giving birth pretty much any second, so I wanted to make a treat to bring to her and my brother.

These were very simple to make, and I only had a few "I have no idea if I'm doing this right" moments.  First off, I realized I didn't have any cookie cutters, so I quickly ran to my favorite kitchen gadget store Chef Central and bought this 6 piece linzer cutter set then I got down to business.  The recipe calls for finely ground hazelnuts.  I decided to use my manual food processor from The Pampered Chef that I received as a bridal shower gift.  It took a little while to get all those hazelnuts ground (and I had to pick out the large pieces still in there after I was grinding them for a while)  but it ended up working out pretty well.

My other "is THIS how it's supposed to be??" moment was when I took the dough out of the fridge and rolled it.  At first, it was too hard and was cracking, so I let it sit for a few min before rolling it out.  It warmed up very quickly (maybe due to the gorgeous weather outside), so once I started rolling it, the dough became very soft and a little too malleable.  I ended up having to use my icing spatula to help lift the dough intact off of the counter to get the cookies looking right (and fitting together in the same shape).

In the end, the cookies came out looking wonderful and tasting scrumptious.  I even got to use the "duster" that came with my sifter to add the powdered sugar to the top.  I always like using new kitchen gadgets!

Hazelnut Linzer Cookies (recipe from The Craft of Baking)

1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, finely ground
12 tbsps (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for sprinkling
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
finely grated zest of 2 oranges
3 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
approx 1/4 cup fruit preserves (I used Raspberry pie filling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the ground hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes, until lightly toasted.  Remove from the oven and set the baking sheet on a rack to cool.  Turn the oven off if you won't be baking the cookies right away.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, confectioners' sugar, and the lemon and orange zests on medium speed until well mixed, about 4 minutes.  Beat in the egg yolks, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredient to the butter mixture and beat until combined.  Add the hazelnuts and beat until combined.  Turn out the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape it into a flattened disk.  Wrap it in the plastic and chill until firm, 30 minutes or up to 2 days (the dough can be frozen, well wrapped, for up to 1 month).

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness.  Using a 2 inch round cutter, cut out 36 cookies.  Transfer the cookies to parchment-covered baking sheets, spacing them at least 1/2 inch apart.  Using a 1/2 inch round cutter, cut out and remove the centers of half of the cookies; these cookies will be the tops.  Chill the tops and bottoms in the refrigerator until firm, 10 - 15 minutes.

While the cookies are chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees (if necessary).

Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are golden brown, 15 - 20 minutes.  Transfer the cookies, still on the parchment to a wire rack and let cool completely.

When they are cool, sprinkle the cut-out top cookies with confectioners' sugar.  Spoon about 1/2 tsp preserves on each whole bottom cookie then set the cut-out cookies over the whole ones to sandwich them together.

Unfilled, the cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.  Once filled, they are best eaten on the same day.

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