Linzertorte was one of those things that made me immensely happy in culinary school. I was tickled to finally be making all those old-school European pastries I’d pined for as a kid pouring over my mother’s cookbooks: Dobos Torte, Marjolaine, Opera Torte, Sacher Torte and yes, the linzer. Making my own, following the exacting instructions of a classically inclined chef, made me feel good about my seemingly off-the-cuff career change, from marketing to pastry. It also cemented a particular mindset I’d started to develop regarding classic pastries. Riffs and adaptations are welcome but one must know the classic, the original, first. You have to know history before you can rewrite it. With many things of this nature, I am a traditionalist and when it comes to linzer, I have a very defined set of parameters.
First, a linzer dough is made with ground nuts. Always. Skip the nuts and you have something else entirely. Following tradition, they may be hazelnuts but are sometimes almonds or even walnuts and usually a bit of cinnamon is added for a lightly spiced flavor. It is a traditional Christmas dessert after all. Second, there is a jam filling or fruit of some sort and though it’s usually raspberry; plum, apricot or currant is not uncommon. Third, there is a lattice or criss-cross crust. So if you’re following me here it’s nuts, fruit and a decorative element. Simple, classic and delicious.
There are adaptations, of course, some better than others. I had a fantastic slice in a small Parisian patisserie made with macadamia nuts and passion fruit jam that I still dream about and cookie versions are fairly common these days but the rules still apply: nutty dough, fruit filling, pretty top. With cookies, rather than a lattice, there’s usually some sort of decorative cut-out creating a beautiful window-like effect to show off the jewel toned filling.
Now here’s the thing: if you give me a pretty butter cookie with jam in-between and call it a linzer, I’m going to raise an eyebrow. Because, guess what? You just gave me a sandwich cookie. I’m sure it’s delicious but that is not a linzer. If you took a shortbread round, spread one side with peanut butter or nutella and topped it with another shortbread round with a cut-out … it’s still a sandwich cookie. There is not one damn thing linzer about it except perhaps some vague connection to the form. Call it what it is because it’s not a linzer.
Since it’s Valentine’s Day today, that ode to hearts, chocolates, roses and silly poems, something special and sweet is in order. I wanted to make something heart shaped and cute and a chocolate version of my favorite linzer cookie seemed like a perfect idea. A chocolate dough, enriched with ground hazelnuts, a raspberry filling shown off through pretty little heart cut-outs. Except rather than raspberry jam, I upped the chocolate factor by making a chocolate filling using an old chocolatier trick: raspberry puree instead of cream in the dark chocolate ganache. Dark, rich and with that bright fruity tang characteristic of raspberries and chocolate, it’s perfect.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: BE MY VALENTINE. These make me smile. They’ll make everyone smile. Two dark, nutty cookies sandwiched together with a tangy rich chocolate filling; they’re like the best linzer meets a dark chocolate bon bon. And it’s all there … hazelnuts, a fruity chocolate filling and a pretty little cut-out. Check, check and check … It’s a linzer, my friends. Modern perhaps but with proper respect paid to it’s origins. And that makes me happy.
On this blog four years ago: Homemade Won Ton Soup
On this blog three years ago: Dark Chocolate Tart
On this blog two years ago: St. John Dark Chocolate Ice Cream
On this blog one year ago: Chocolate Raspberry Tart
CHOCOLATE LINZER COOKIES
Makes about 80 2 ½” cookies, 40 finished cookies
For a dark, chocolate-y dough be sure to use Dutch-process cocoa. Hershey Special Dark cocoa powder is readily available in regular grocery stores and works great as does King Arthur’s Black Cocoa Powder.
For the cookies:
2/3 cup hazelnuts (3 ounces)
½ cup packed light brown sugar, divided
2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (8 ounces/2 sticks)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon chocolate extract or vanilla
for the raspberry ganache filling:
12-ounce bag of frozen raspberries, defrosted
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
- For the cookies: Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Toast the hazelnuts in a shallow pan until fragrant and skins begin to loosen, about 6 minutes. Rub the toasted in a kitchen towel to remove any loose skins (some skins may not come off), then cool to room temperature.
- In a food processor, pulse the skinned hazelnuts and ¼ cup of the brown sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Set aside.
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and set aside.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and remaining ¼ cup brown sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Add hazelnut mixture and beat on low until well combined, about 1 minute.
- Beat in egg and vanilla until blended.
- On low, add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined.
- Divide the dough into 4 pieces, and roll each piece between two pieces of plastic wrap to about ¼” thick. Stack the dough on a sheet pan and refrigerate until firm, at least two hours or overnight.
- For the filling: Press the defrosted raspberries through a sieve, working the puree through to remove the seeds.
- Measure out ¼ cup puree and heat until warm, either in a small pot over the stove or in the microwave. Reserve remaining puree for another use.
- Melt the chocolate, either slowly over a pot of simmering water or in a glass bowl in the microwave at 50% power in 1 minute bursts, stirring in between bursts, until fully melted.
- Slowly and carefully, stir the heated puree into the melted chocolate until smooth. The ganache will be smoothest if you let it set at room temperature while you bake the cookies.
- Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F.
- Unwrap one sheet of dough (keep the remaining sheets cold) and cut out large hearts (or desired shape), placing on a parchment lined sheet pan about 1” apart.
- From half of these shapes, cut small hearts from the center – it’s easiest to powder sugar the “tops” if they’re all on one side of the sheet pan. Wait to cut the smaller hearts out until the dough was warmed up and softened a bit – if too cold, the dough will crack.
- Gather scraps, reroll and chill. Continue with remaining dough.
- Bake the cut out cookies 10-12 minutes, switching position halfway through baking, until cookies are just firm to the touch. Take care not to over-bake and let cool completely.
- Lightly sift the powdered sugar over the cookies with the cut-outs (“tops”) only.
- Transfer the ganache to a piping bag or heavy Ziploc bag and pipe onto the bottom cookies, leaving ¼” border all around.
- Gently nestle the powdered cookie top onto the ganache, pressing gently to adhere.
- Cookies are best the day they are made but hold pretty well, tightly covered for a few days.
- Tips for baking ahead: make, roll, chill and cut-out the cookies (do not do the smaller window cut-outs now – cut those just before baking). Arrange tightly on a parchment lined sheet pan and stack the cookies, with a layer of parchment between. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and freeze up to 3 months. When ready to bake, pick up at Step 14, letting the dough soften a bit to cut out the centers and proceed. The ganache can also be frozen, tightly wrapped, up to 3 months. Let come to room temperature before using. If the ganache looks broken or grainy, it needs to be emulsified – use a blender or immersion blender to blend until smooth.