In this series about Christmas cookies, I am introducing four of the most popular and easiest cookies using the recipes I learned from my grandmother. Culinary anthropologists believe that Christmas cookies originated in Germany. For a long time, only noble families and the upper class could afford to bake cookies because they contained expensive ingredients and exotic spices such as ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. Poor people could only afford to indulge in fruits and nuts.
Learn more about the Czech pagan, Advent, and Christmas traditions here.
Linzer cookies are probably the best know European cookies in the US. They actually originated in Austria, another Central European country of which the Czech Republic was part until 1918. They got named after the city of Linz. They are also known as Linzer tarts, and they exist in a similar form in other countries. The dough of Linzer cookies is very similar to Mexican wedding cookies or Russian tea cakes. As with all other Christmas cookies, they have a pagan tradition, where the round cookies represent the Sun but can be made in the shape of hearts, flowers, or stars. The buttery pastry is soft and tender. The classical filling in this recipe is a seedless currant marmalade. Raspberry can also be used, but the taste of tangy currant marmalade is second to none.
Gather all of your ingredients.
- 750 g Flour “00”
- 250 g Confectioner’s sugar
- 500 g Butter European-style butter produces the best results
- 2 Egg yolks
- 2 Tbs Lukewarm water
- Lemon zest
- 400 g Seedless red currant jam
- Mix all ingredients into a dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in the refrigerator for about one hour. In my household, we usually make all of the cookie dough in one day and refrigerate them until we are ready to make cookies.
- Roll the dough out to a thickness of ¼ inch, and cut out the shapes. Various cookie-cutter sets are available, like the one depicted in the upper right.
- You can also improvise with your cutting tools if your set does not contain the right sizes, just like my grandmother used to do.
- Cut out flowers, hearts, stars, or round shapes. Make sure you cut a circle in the middle of half of the cookies so that they can be “paired up.”
- Bake in a preheated oven at 350F until golden, about 15 minutes.
- This batch will make several sheets of cookies, and while baking them, they will tell you how evenly, or not, your oven is baking. Some cookies, if overbaked, will need to be designated as “seconds.” After baking, let the cookies cool and firm overnight before decorating.
- The next day carefully spread the bottom half of the cookie part with jam and cover it with the top piece with a hole in the middle. Sugar-dust the top.
- Store the completed cookies in a tight-lidded box in a cool place and let them soften up until Christmas.
- Share with your friends!
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