Monday, February 10, 2014
Valentine Linzer tarts
Last week was just plain hard. I had dental work, and my mouth hurt for days afterward. It snowed, on and off, for a few days. I happen to like snow, in moderate amounts. But we usually don't get enough snow here to really enjoy playing in it. This was the case last week. The small Bears were confined indoors because it was very cold outside and the snow was the wet, slushy kind, not so good for playing in. The LB was sick again, too. He started showing signs of illness on Tuesday night and by Wednesday morning, he had a high fever and a terrible cough. He stayed home from school for the rest of the week. The GB was feeling well, and went to preschool as normal, but cabin-fever was becoming an issue around here. By Thursday afternoon, I was feeling a bit squirrelly myself, and I decided to bake some Valentine's Day cookies with them. I was going to do this anyway, perhaps over the weekend, but it's a good thing I decided to do it early; by Friday morning, I too had a fever and a bad cough. I spent much of the weekend lying uselessly on the couch, side-by-side with the still-recovering LB*. I'm on the mend now, still coughing a lot and feeling run-down, but at least we've had cookies to eat while we've convalesced...silver linings and all that.
The cookies are delicious, and they were relatively easy to make, though there were a fair number of steps. I really love the Linzer tart cookies at a little bakery-cafe the Bear and I sometimes visit on Private Fridays. They make them with a buttery dough and delicious raspberry jam. I think their dough also contains ground almonds. I thought I could try to make something similar for Valentine's Day, using sugar-cookie dough and making them heart-shaped. There are lots of recipes out there for Valentine's cookies like this, but I wanted to stick with something familiar, so I used the sugar-cookie recipe in the venerable Betty Crocker cookbook. I've used this recipe many, many times, to make cookies for virtually every holiday on the calendar, and it always works well for me. The tart-construction aspect of the cookies is my own take on the traditional method; I just made upper and lower cookie parts and spread seedless raspberry jam between the parts before sandwiching them together. It made a pretty and tasty cookie.
Valentine Linzer Tarts
1 1/2 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Seedless raspberry jam
Confectioner's sugar for sprinkling
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, butter, egg and extracts in mixing bowl, stir until fluffy (I use my standing mixer with paddle attachment). Slowly add dry ingredients, mix at medium speed to combine. Dough will be a bit sticky. Remove dough from mixing bowl, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours.
When dough has chilled, remove from plastic wrap and place on a lightly-floured surface for rolling-out. Dough should be rolled to 1/4 inch. For cutting, I used heart-shaped cutters in two sizes, 3-inch and 1-inch. The larger cutter is used to make both the top and bottom parts of the cookies. The smaller cutter is used to cut out a little heart-shaped window in half the cookies, the ones destined for the tops of the tarts. You could use any combination of sizes here, depending on how large you wish your tarts to be. My larger heart cutters range from 2 to 4 inches wide, so the 3-inch one seemed like a good compromise for use with the 1-inch small heart cutter. The tarts are pretty large, but I think this helped make for sturdier top-cookies. Using the above measurements, I had enough dough for 20 tops and 20 bottoms, for a total of 20 assembled tarts.
Bake top and bottom cookies for 8-9 minutes. They will be lightly browned around the edges. Allow to cool on the pan for one minute, then carefully transfer to wire cooling rack, using a spatula. Cool for 10 minutes on rack.
While the first batch is cooling, prepare the jam. I used the remains of a jar I already had, about half a cup of jam. I put it in a small crockery dish and microwaved it for 20 seconds to thin it a bit. Then I spread about a teaspoon of jam on the bottom side of a bottom cookie. I used a small off-set spatula for this, being careful not to have the jam run over the sides of the cookie. After spreading, I placed a top (window) cookie over the jam.
As I sandwiched each tart, I placed it back on the wire cooling racks, which I set on top of sheets of waxed paper, to catch jam drips. The jam hardened a bit as they sat. I also sprinkled each tart with a little confectioner's sugar from a shaker-can. I realized that it may have been better to sprinkle the sugar over the top cookies before sandwiching, because it wouldn't land in the jam. But after awhile, the sugar seemed to "melt" into the jam and you couldn't really see it anymore, so I don't think it matters much when you do the sugar-sprinkling.
I placed the finished tarts in a waxed paper-lined cookie tin for storage. They were delicious and the whole family loved them. I hope you'll want to try my ideas for Valentine Linzer tarts. You have time to make them before Valentine's Day and they aren't difficult but I will admit that they were a bit time-consuming. But fun too! It was a great way to spend the afternoon, with my little girly baking-helper next to me, and my big-boy sickie watching from the couch. Your family will like them too - the baking and the eating. So go, go, go - make some pretty cookies for your Valentines.
*My blog-consumption has fallen by the wayside while I've been sick. I'm trying to catch up. In the meantime, hello and welcome to new readers and followers. Thank you for the lovely comments on my hot-pads, I had fun making them and I hope my tutorial is easy to understand. Please show me if you make any yourself!