Perfect for holiday spreads, these are traditional Austrian cookies with a healthier twist: Whole Grain Linzer Cookies with Rye Flour and Lingonberry Jam.
In addition to epically long shopping trips, my oldest sister would take me on holiday house tours when I was but a lil’ sprout. I loved peering into people’s lives (I guess I was a little creep too. ha!) and their holiday collections.
As we toured the homes, I would imagine nestling into their Victorian couches with my American Girl books and mugs of hot cider. At home, I filled a spiral bound notebook with collages for my dream home. This fascination later blossomed into an architectural education, which then rippled into the creative career I have now. Through it all though, I love a good holiday tour!
For three years now, the ladies in my family and I bundle in warm clothes for the guided holiday walking tour through Old Allegheny. An historical neighborhood, the Pittsburgh neighborhood was once home to several tycoons. There were even enough richie riches, at the turn of the twentieth century, for the main street to be dubbed “Millionaire’s Row.” To be clear, the wealthy were millionaires back then, which would make them some sort of kajillionaires today.
By the grace of forward-thinking homeowners and preservation societies, much of the architectural character of the area’s heyday remains. Our family tradition is to carol from house to house (the caroling isn’t really a choice), then take in the stories and details of the homes. Though, at this point, we’ve started reciting the stories with the homeowners, so we may need a new tradition next year (any ideas?).
In conjunction with the house tours, I prepare a holiday spread and hot mulled wine, so we can warm up and continue the merriment. Last year’s spread included a wintry cake with layers of chocolate gingerbread and a forest of gingerbread “twigs,” but this year, I went simpler: Whole Grain Linzer Cookies with Lingonberry Jam.
Whenever I plan gatherings, I choose to invest more time in one (or at least I try to invest in only one) menu item. This winter, I had been craving the flavors and simple beauty of Whole Grain Linzer Cookies, or Helle Linzer Plaetzchen if you fancy the German title.
Named for the Austrian Linzer Torte, a latticed pastry with jam filling, these buttery shortbread cookies and peeks of jam feel like little ornaments. In the vein of European traditions, I chose a Swedish lingonberry jam for a burst of red filling (and because I dream of participating in a St. Lucia celebration someday!).
Almond flour gives these buttery cookies a tender crumb, and being the grain nerd I am, I used Arrowhead Mills’ whole grain rye flour to add a more complex, nutty and earthy flavor to the dough. Almond extract also boosts the almond flavor, which takes my palate back to almond croissants in Paris, when I toured French bakeries and not holiday homes.
Add a simple dusting of powdered sugar, and these Whole Grain Linzer Cookies are quite the beauts!
Happy Holiday Baking!
Whole Grain Linzer Cookies
Yield: approx. 1 dozen cookies
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup coconut sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup whole grain rye flour
3/4 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
lingonberry jam for filling
confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
To Make the Dough: Beat the butter, coconut sugar, and zest until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as needed, about 3 minutes. Add the yolk, vanilla and almond extracts, and beat until combined.
Meanwhile, whisk together the rye flour, almond flour, cinnamon and salt. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix until just combined. Don’t over-beat.
Divide the dough in half, and pat each half into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
To Assemble: On a lightly floured surface, roll out the first disc of dough to ¼-inch thickness (keep the second disc chilled until ready to roll). Cut the cookies using a small cookie cutter or biscuit cutter. Transfer rounds to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Gather the scrap dough, roll, and repeat. Chill the cut cookie rounds while you roll out the second disc.
Once all the rounds are cut, divide them into bases and tops. Use a smaller biscuit cutter to cut the holes in the centers of the top cookies. You can either gather the holes to re-roll and create more cookies, or bake them as small plain cookies.
Add a dollop of lingonberry jam (about 1 Tablespoon) to each base cookie. Top with the hole-punched top cookie, and pinch the layers together. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.
To Bake: Bake all of the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes (depending on the size of your cookie cutter), or until the edges are just beginning to turn brown. Let them cool for 5 minutes on the pan, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.