To a baker, February features one really important event. Now I’m not talking about Groundhog Day, Thank a Mailman Day, or even National Chocolate Mint Day (see you next year Feb 19). Of course I’m talking about Valentine’s Day. That special day each year to dote on the one you love with a Valentine’s card, a bouquet of roses, and something sweet.
Despite the entire month of February being National Children’s Dental Health Month (who comes up with all of these holidays?), I had to create an aww-inducing Valentine’s Day dessert. Chocolates and truffles would be the oblivious choice, but I wanted to make something that better expressed the romantic love the holiday is known for.
So I reached back into my childhood and recreated one of my mother’s iconic cookies, the Linzer Heart Sandwich Cookie. These delightful cookies both melt and crumble in your mouth and their appearance is sure to be a showstopper with your beau. Since I made them to celebrate Valentine’s Day, I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter, but you can substitute other shapes to make these cookies appropriate year-round.
If you’re the type to put together a romantic home-cooked Valentine’s Day meal for you and your lover, these cookies will be the perfect dessert, since you can make them a day ahead, leaving you more time to focus on preparing the main meal. The dough can be made a couple of days before baking and the baked cookies can be stored for another couple of days before being sandwiched. If you consume the cookies the day they are assembled, they will have a crisp snap, though I prefer to let the finished cookie sandwiches sit overnight, giving them a more tender texture.
If you don’t think it’s Valentine’s Day without chocolate, you can forgo the powdered sugar dusted on the top cookie and instead dip the left or right half of the assembled cookie sandwich in melted chocolate.
I have to give a huge shout out and thanks to my friend Stephanie who is a jamming queen. Stephanie makes so many jams, jellies, and marmalades that our city has a jar shortage! And we’re not talking about run of the mill flavors either. Why settle for boring grapefruit preserves when you can have a sparkling vanilla grapefruit marmalade instead? In exchange for some of my delectable homemade Nutella, Stephanie handed over a mighty tasty jar of cinnamon-raspberry-choco cookie jam. So much better than any ordinary raspberry jam and just in time for my linzer sandwich cookies. I used Stephanie’s jam in these cookies and the extra bit of cinnamon flavor in the jam helped the flavor of these cookie sandwiches pop even more.
These heart-shaped cookie sandwiches make a great Valentine's Day treat. Circles with fluted edges or other shaped can be substituted to make these cookies appropriate year-round.
The filled cookies will soften when stored. If you want the cookies to be crisp, serve them on the same day you assemble them. I prefer the cookies one day after assembly, as they soften enough to melt in your mouth but still maintain a slight crunch and a great crumb.
The assembled cookies can be stored in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for several days.
- 1 cup (150 grams) whole almonds, blanched or with skins on
- 2 cups (280 grams) all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Zest of one small lemon
- 1 cup (228 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup (51 grams) powdered/confectioner's/icing sugar
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) raspberry jam, well mixed
- Preheat your oven to 350 °F (175 °C) with the oven rack in the center of the oven.
- Place the almonds on a baking sheet and bake about 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant.
- Remove the nuts from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Combine the nuts and 1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar in your food processor. Process until finely ground.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, salt, and lemon zest.
- In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the butter and remaining 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes).
- Beat in the vanilla extract and egg yolks, then mix in the ground almonds, and finally mix in the flour mixture.
- Divide the dough in half, cover each half with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm (30-60 minutes, or up to two days). The dough can also be frozen at this point but should first be placed in an airtight ziptop freezer bag.
- Preheat your oven to 350 °F (175 °C) with racks in the top and bottom thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Remove one ball of dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) thick.
- Using a 3-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out the cookies and place them about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.
- Using a 1-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out the centers of half of the cookies on the baking sheet.
- Reroll any scraps and cut out the remaining cookies. If you want to make mini-heart cookie sandwiches, save the smaller heart cutouts and place them on the baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.
- Repeat with the second ball of dough. If you find the cookies are soft, place the baking sheets with the unbaked cookies in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to chill the dough. This will prevent the cookies from spreading and losing their shape when baked.
- Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.
- Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
- The cookies with the smaller heart window cut out of them will be the top cookie of your cookie sandwiches. The intact heart cookies will be the bottom.
- Place the cookies with the window cut out on a wire rack set over a sheet of parchment paper and lightly dust the tops with powdered sugar.
- Take the intact heart cookies and turn them upside down so that the rough, uglier side is facing up. Place a teaspoon of jam on each cookie and spread it across the cookie, leaving a thin border along the edges without jam. Add another teaspoon of jam to the center of each cookie (this will fill in the window in the top cookie once assembled).
- Place each cut-out cookie on top of an intact cookie and gently sandwich them together. If you made any mini-heart cookies, place a small amount of jam on the rough side of one mini-heart cookie and gently stick another mini-heart to it.