Linzer Augen, Linz Eyes, are my personal favorite Christmas cookie. They’re made of jam sandwiched between two very buttery cookies, the top one of which has “eyes” cut out of it, affording a scenic view of the tasty jam filling, before being dusted with powdered sugar. The buttery cookies are made of dough called Linzer Teig, a kind of “Mürbeteig” in German, which is something like shortbread. Many recipes call for the dough to include ground up almonds, though equally many, including the one I followed, leave them out. The nutty teig is called brown Linzer Teig, and the nutless is white. The jam is usually red currant, ribiselmarmelade, though apricot is also delicious.
The name of these cookies comes from them being a cookie version of the Linzer Torte, a famous cake made from the same Linzer Teig and filled with the same red currant jam, which is incidentally the oldest known cake recipe in the world. The cookie and the cake are named for Linz, a fairly industrial city in the middle of Austria and the capital of Upper Austria state, but the cake is probably more famous than the city by now.
For this one I pretty much used the recipe from the Gute Kuche exactly as written, with just one important change… well, not important for taste, but very important if you’re planning on taking pictures of these and putting them on the internet. Specifically, the last line of the instructions says “…” which I read as, “put jam on the bottom halves, place the top halves on top, and then dust with sugar.” DON’T DO THAT. Instead, place the top halves on the counter and dust the hell out of them, THEN move the pre-dusted tops onto the pre-jammed bottoms. That way you can get a good layer of sugar on the cookies while leaving the jam-eyes undisturbed.
- 300g flour — see here for more than you ever wanted to know about flour, but basically you want pastry flour (US), type 405 (Germany), W480 glatt (Austria), or approximately うどん粉 (Japan)
- 200g butter
- 100g powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting the tops of the cookies
- 1 egg
- 1tbsp vanilla sugar — vanilla sugar is a mix of sugar and vanilla that seems to be pretty common in Austrian baking; I bought some at a specialty German grocery store, or I guess you could do this.
- A little lemon peel — Zest? I think they call it zest? Just the yellow outside of the lemon. Not too much, and honestly you could probably leave it out and not even notice.
- Red currant jam — Ribiselmarmelade in German, this seems to be much more common in Austria/Germany than elsewhere, but Smuckers appears to make it so it must be available somewhere). You can also use apricot jam, which should be easier to find.
- Mix flour, butter, powdered sugar, egg, and vanilla sugar together into a dough. This dough is exactly the opposite of the vanillekipferl dough, it feels like there’s almost too much butter in it and it sticks to everything. Once the dough is consistent — specifically, that the butter is not clumpy — leave it to rest for 30 minutes. You want it to be cool when you’re rolling it out and cutting it. Our house is cold and the refrigerator is crowded, so I just left it on the window sill. The refrigerator would work too, though.
- Very generously flour the counter and a rolling pin, then roll the dough out. The Gute Kuche says the dough should be 3mm thick, about the thickness of two pennies (or one-cent, or one-yen, coins) stacked up. I found that it worked better if I erred slightly toward thicker cookies. Also, it probably goes without saying for people who bake, but the most important thing is that the thickness is even, so that the cookies all take the same amount of time to bake.
- Using a 6mm diameter cookie cutter or a reasonable substitute — I used a small glass — cut out the cookies. You’re going to need two per cookie sandwich. Then cut three smaller holes, the eyes, into half of the cookies. I used an apple corer to do that, but I’m sure someone sells special tiny cookie cutters too.
- Put the cookies on a baking sheet and bake at 385°F or 195°C for just under 10 minutes. The original recipe called for 200°C for 10 minutes, but when I did that they were overly toasty.
- Spread your jam of choice generously on the bottom pieces (no holes).
- Lay the top pieces (with holes) on the counter and generously sprinkle with powdered sugar. I put the sugar in a sieve and wave it back and forth over the cookies.
- Carefully place the pre-sugared top pieces on the pre-jammed bottom pieces.
Supposedly these get even better — which is hard to believe, because they are amazing — if you leave them to rest for a couple weeks in a metal tin before eating them. I will report back if any batch I make manages to survive for more than a couple days.