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There are some things that have clearly established histories, and some that are more hidden. I, for example, long believed that the ancestry on my father's father's side was German. But any time I told a German person that my last name was German, they'd look at me and say, "Hm, 'Gritzer' sounds more Austrian to me." Then one day, a long-lost relative contacted me through Facebook, confirmed that the name originally comes from Austria, and told me that there's a peak and a mountain lake bearing my name— the Gritzer Hörndle and Gritzer See.
The Austrian origins of Linzer cookies are much easier to trace. They are simply a cookie-fied version of the classic Austrian dessert Linzer torte, a nut-based cake with a lattice top and jam filling, often red currant or raspberry. The cookies, which are particularly popular in North America, follow a similar theme, with buttery, nut-enriched shortbread sandwiching a jammy filling. Assembling them takes a little more work than a standard cookie, but it's easy enough as long as you have Linzer cookie cutters to help you punch out the correct shapes (frankly, even a set of ring cutters in various sizes would work).
To make this recipe here, one of the first things you'll need is hazelnut flour. If you have trouble finding it, it's easy to make your own from whole hazelnuts.
Start by toasting skin-on hazelnuts in a 350°F oven until the skin starts to blister, which takes roughly 10 to 15 minutes. Let them cool slightly, then rub off the skins using a clean kitchen towel. Once the nuts are completely cooled, pulse them in a food processor until finely ground.
With your hazelnut flour ready, the dough itself comes together very easily in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle. Simply beat together butter, confectioner's sugar, and granulated sugar, then work in vanilla extract, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, all-purpose flour, an egg, and the hazelnut flour until the dough forms.
For the cookies, half the dough is rolled out and punched to form the solid bottom cookies, then baked. While they're cooling, the other half of the dough is rolled out and punched to form the top cookies, which have a cutout in the center of each. When they've finished baking and cooled, spread the jam on the bottom cookies, shower confectioner's sugar over the top cookies, and sandwich them together.
The result is a festive and delicious cookie, rich with hazelnuts and sweet-tart from the berry jam, that's perfect for the holidays.
I hope to one day get around to visiting the Austrian mountain and lake after which I'm named, but in the meantime, to get in touch with my heritage, I'll make do by baking these cookies.
Let's Get Cooking!
You can jump straight to the recipe below, or check out the step-by-step gallery for a walk-through of the process.