Are you a big Valentine's person? Do you go all out on the love aspect or is it just a good excuse to eat chocolate? I'm sort of in-between on the whole thing. I mean, I love getting a present and all but the whole thing is sometimes so pressurized and commercialized that it kind of turns me off (Honey, this does not excuse you from anything!) However you feel about Valentine's Day though, I can guarantee you, that you will not feel wishy-washy about these Linzer Hearts. They are better-than-any-I've ever-gotten-at-a-bakery amazing!
For years, I've wanted to make linzer tarts and for some reason I've just never gotten around to it. One of my boys, LOVES them and we've purchased our fair share of them over the years, some great, some mediocre but (not to pat myself on the back) none of them have even come close to how terrific these little lovey-dovey cookies look and taste!! I made them last week to test them out and they are all gone already. If I want to make certain people in this house feel very loved, I will definitely be making more to celebrate the holiday!
The original recipe called for hazelnuts, but I'm not a huge fan of them, so I substituted pecans and they worked fantastically. Basically, you make a regular dough enhanced with those ground up nuts and let it chill for a while. Then you roll it out and use two sizes of heart shaped cookie cutters to cut out the shapes so that some of the cutouts are full hearts and some have their centers removed, which leaves you with some adorable little mini-hearts too!
Once the cookies have baked and cooled, you spread the bottoms with jam (on some we used the traditional raspberry, on others we used strawberry and cherry--all were great but the raspberry ones are my personal favorite both for the intensity of color and flavor.)
As for the cutout tops, you sift a generous amount of confectioner's sugar over them, which not only makes them taste great, but is also very forgiving, as it hides any cracks or little imperfections. Clever, huh?
Then it's just a simple matter of sandwiching them together and placing them on the Valentine heart plate of course (my husband bought this plate for me years ago, and even though it's a bit chipped we still use it for our Valentine's Day treats!)
The cookies are crisp yet somehow manage to have that buttery-melt-in-your-mouth thing going on as well. Plus each bite has that wonderful mixture of jam and powdered sugar too! Perfection! Make these and give them to someone you love (that includes you too!!)
Valentine's Day Linzer Hearts
Makes about 1 dozen large sandwiches and some mini-sandwiches too. Depends on the size of cookie cutters that you use.
Prep Time: 15 minutes (plus chilling time) Rolling Out Time: 20 minutes (plus chilling time); Bake Time: 15 minutes; Assembly Time: 10-15 minutes
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup pecans (about 4 1/2 oz)
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- at least 1/2 cup raspberry jam for filling (or strawberry, cherry or any kind you like)
- at least 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar for dusting
1. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together into a large bowl. Using a food processor, pulse the pecans until finely ground. Whisk the ground pecans into the flour mixture and set aside.
2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed together for 2-3 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, vanilla and lemon zest and beat to combine. Then scrape down the sides of the bowl and with the mixer on low-speed, add the flour mixture, beating for only 10-15 seconds until just combined.
3. Lightly flour a wooden board or flat surface, turn the dough out onto it, divide it in half and flatten the two halves into disks. Wrap both in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to one day.
4. Take one disk out of the fridge, unwrap it and let it soften a bit so that it doesn't crack when you roll it out. Place a large piece of parchment paper over your board or flat surface and dust it lightly with flour. Now roll the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness, loosening the dough from the bottom with an offset spatula (a regular one works fine too) just to make sure the dough isn't sticking to the paper. Transfer the dough still on the parchment paper to a baking sheet and put it into the freezer for about 20 minutes until firm. Repeat the entire process with the other disk.
5. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or just use the ones you've got in the freezer and shake off any excess flour). Using a 3-inch heart shaped cookie cutter cut out heart shapes from the rolled out dough. Then, using a 2-inch heart shaped cookie cutter, cut out the centers from half the 3-inch cut hearts. Place them about 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared sheets. This will leave you with mini-heart shaped cookies that you can bake and fill as well. When your baking sheet is filled, return it to the freezer for 15 minutes to chill (this helps the edges to remain neat). Meanwhile, gather together the scraps, re-roll out the dough and cut out as many cookies as you can, remembering that you want to have an even amount of plain hearts and ones with their centers cut out so that you can make sandwiches. Chill the additional cookies on the baking sheet as well.
6. After you remove them from the freezer, bake for anywhere from 10-15 minutes depending on their thickness. Rotate sheets halfway through process. Check early and often--cookies should be crisp and lightly golden brown--you don't want them to get too dark. Transfer cookies to a wire rack until completely cool.
7. Spread bottom halves with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of jam. On a separate plate, sift confectioner's sugar over the open hearts. Sandwich them together and set aside. For mini- hearts, just spread jam on one side and confectioner's sugar on the other and sandwich together.
8. Cookies are best on the day they're made but last well, individually wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Note: Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. I switched the nuts from hazelnuts to pecans and cut the lemon zest in half as well.