Even though my fiance and I don't bother celebrating Valentine's Day, I will still take the opportunity to do some themed baking and use my neglected set of heart shaped biscuit cutters. Not that these Linzer biscuits should be solely reserved for Valentine's Day of course, they are far too delicious for that! Obviously you don't have to use a heart shaped cutter, as long as you have one larger cutter and a small one for the cut-out (it doesn't even need to be the same shape) then you are sorted so they are suitable for any time of year.
Linzer biscuits (cookies to all you Americans) are a take on Linzer Torte - a traditional Austrian torte consisting of crumbly pastry made with ground nuts (usually hazelnuts, almonds or walnuts) filled with redcurrant jam and topped with a lattice design. I didn't have any hazelnuts so used ground almonds in my biscuit dough instead, if you want to use an equal weight of ground hazelnuts instead then go for it. I also didn't have any redcurrant jam so used seedless raspberry instead, any kind of jam is fine though, but make sure that it is a fairly firmly set one, not runny, or your biscuits will become too soft.
The biscuits are crisp as first but do soften as they sit due to the jam, so if you prefer them crispy make sure that you don't fill them until just before serving. I like them best when they have been filled for about a day and have softened slightly and the flavours mingled. I think that they would be even prettier if you used a few different kinds of jam to fill them, say raspberry, blackcurrant and apricot, so that you have biscuits in an array of colours.
Valentine's Day Linzer Biscuits (Cookies)
- 200 g (½ + ⅓ cup) softened unsalted butter
- 150 g (¾ cup) caster sugar
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 2 large egg yolks
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 260 g (2 cups + 2tbsp) plain flour
- 130 g (1 cup + 2tbsp) ground almonds
- 150 g (5oz) seedless raspberry jam
- 60 g (½ cup) icing sugar for dusting
- Place the butter, sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Whisk in the egg yolks one at a time then beat in the salt and vanilla extract.
- Stir in the flour and ground almonds to form a stiff dough then bring it together with your hands. Divide the dough in half, shape each half into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for half an hour to firm up a bit.
- Line two baking sheets with baking parchment. Roll one half of the dough out on a lightly floured surface to no more than 5mm (¼ inch) thick. Use a heart shaped cutter to cut out as many hearts as you can. Use a small heart shaped cutter to cut a heart out of the centre of half of them. Place the whole hearts on one baking sheet and the ones with a cut out on the other (the cut out ones bake slightly faster).
- Re-roll the scraps and cut out more hearts. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Place the trays of hearts in the fridge for 20 minutes while you preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3.
- Bake the trays one at a time for about 10 minutes until lightly golden. Allow the biscuits to cool on the trays for a couple of minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the other tray.
- Once the biscuits have cooled, dust the tops of the cut out ones with icing sugar. Stir the jam really well until it is smooth. Spread a dollop of jam over each of the whole hearts, leaving a small border. Place one of the cut out hearts on top of each whole heart and serve!
- The biscuits will be crisp at first but will soften after a while so if you prefer them crisp don't fill them until just before serving (I prefer them slightly soft). Store in an airtight container.