Tuesday, December 2, 2008

TWD: Linzer Sables


Conventional wisdom says that we enjoy doing things that we are good at. Yet the fact that I show up and bake every week is a testament to the fact that it is also possible to enjoy doing things that we are not good at. It helps to be a hard-wired optimist with a short-term memory. So despite the fact that I am not exactly riding a TWD hot streak (see, e.g, liquid rice pudding and twofer pie with toofer many problems to list) I dove right into this week's project, linzer sables, by doubling, yes doubling! -- the recipe. All memories of scraping my baking failure du jour into the trash vanished, and I visualized myself placing perfectly spiced, festively shaped, deliciously crumbly cookies on a tray (isn't using positive visualization as a means to achieving success the subject of an Oprah-approved book)? Because of all of my weekly commitments, TWD is the only one that is going to work with me, instead of against me, in the mad rush to get ready for Christmas, so I wanted to take full advantage of this cookie-making session to fill my freezer. And I would not fail! I would not.



I've never made a cookie before that called for ground nuts as a significant part of the batter. I chose almonds, because I had them and I love them. Next time, I might try hazelnuts. After mixing everything up, I found the dough to be rather dry. Usually I need to barricade myself out of the kitchen to avoid eating cookie dough by the shovelful, but this one rated no more than a 1 or a 2 on my Spatula Lick-o-meter:

1 -- I'd Lick the Spatula In Private (has to be a sad, sorry dough not to meet this low, low standard)
2 -- I'd Lick the Spatula In Front of the People Who Are Bound to Me by Blood or Law
3 -- I'd Lick the Spatula In Front of the People Who Once Talked Me Out of Doing Something Stupid at 1 a.m., like my great college pal and current TWD cohort, Lisa
4 -- I'd Lick the Spatula In Front of Complete Strangers In a Completely Inappropriate Place, Like on the Subway or at an Inauguration (chocolate malted whopper drop dough)
5 -- I'd Lick the Spatula In Front of Her Majesty the Queen Herself (chocolate chunker dough)

No worries about the dry dough, though -- that just meant that there was more of it left for actual cookies! And it rolled like a dream:



Which was a good thing, because I felt like I pretty much spent the whole night rolling dough, so if it hadn't rolled easily, it would have been a pretty crappy night.

I saw these cutters at Target and immediately thought that they would work for the linzer sables:



They came with, among other things, a big and little Christmas tree, and a big and little gingerbread man. I thought that I could use the little ones to make the peep holes. I knew that they'd be bigger peep holes than the ones that Dorie envisioned, but I was feeling crazy. And I figured that even if they didn't work for the peep holes, I'd still be able to use the little gingerbread man to make gingerbread man shaped pepperoni for my Christmas Eve appetizers, like they show on the package. I sure am glad that even in these tough economic times, innovation lives.

My first cookies were a little bit too crisp and a little bit too browned.



But the great thing about a recipe like this is that there is time to make adjustments in the middle of the process. I've mentioned before that I am missing the gene that would allow me to eyeball sizes. So after seeing my too crisp, too browned first batch, I broke out my trusty carpenter's level and realized that I was rolling the dough much too thin -- more like 1/8th of an inch than the 1/4 inch that the recipe calls for. So I just rolled a little bit thicker (although probably not a full quarter inch, but who can say?) for the rest of the cookies, and they turned out perfectly.

The Christmas trees were my favorites. The larger peep hole worked fine -- the jam set up nicely, and I liked the stained glass effect.



The trees were also easiest to work with because you didn't have all of those delicate petals threatening to break off at any moment. But I also made snowflakes:



And flowers:



And I used the peep hole cutouts to make mini Christmas tree and gingerbread man sandwiches:



We loved these cookies. This is one where the baked cookie far surpassed the dough, in my opinion. Just as I had visualized before baking them, the cookies turned out perfectly spiced, festively shaped, and deliciously crumbly -- sweet mercy, The Secret really works!!!!! David said that he could eat ten of them in one sitting, and I don't doubt that for a minute. And since he is 6'6" and blessed with the metabolism of the gods, he could do that all month long and still fit into the same tuxedo he wore in high school. I, on the other hand, took one look at these cookies and immediately went up a size. December might be a long, long month, scale-wise.

Thank you so much, noskos of Living the Life, for choosing a perfect holiday cookie! This one will definitely show up on our Christmas cookie tray (and that gives me one more chance to remember to sprinkle them with powdered sugar!) And be sure to check out the TWD blogroll to see how other bakers fared!!

67 comments:

Cristine said...

I love the festive cookies! They look great!

natalia said...

Ciao ! As always I comment with a smile on my face ! Nice and good cookies !

Marie said...

Your linzer cookies are so sweet! I Love that you did them in all sorts of shapes and sizes! You are right, these are the perfect holiday cookie!

Andrea said...

Your cookies look wonderful! I was also surprised how tasty they were in regards to their dough lickability :) I have to laugh at your husband (mine is the same height) and his metabolism, glad he enjoyed these!

Jamie said...

Beautiful! I loved these suckers too! :)

Mary Ann said...

I absolutely agree with you that these are the perfect holiday cookie. I love all your shapes and your enthusiasm- reading your posts always makes me smile- even if I only got 5 hours of sleep and was woken up too early! The look really beautiful, my fave is the trees. So holiday-ish!

Prudy said...

Oh, how I've missed you. Those cookies turned out so gorgeous, and you still managed to make me laugh my pants off. I thought you got your biggest chuckles from disasters, but no. The lick the spatula gauge just gets funnier and funnier as you read down. Maybe our husbands should get together over the holidays and don their tuxedos. We can put on our mumus and bake our way through Dorie's book.

Lisa said...

Nice cookies and very cute cutters.

Di said...

I particularly like the Christmas trees. Makes me wish I had a little christmas tree cutter to go with my big one. And the Lick-o-meter is hilarious. =)

Anne said...

Those look professional Cathy, I love it! The shapes are all so cute. As for your woes about your husbands metabolism compared to yours... we're in the exact same boat. I tease mine he must have a stomach worm to blow through calories the way he does.

n.o.e said...

Ah, sweet, sweet, sweet success! And not a moment too soon. I made these and the Buttery Jam cookies last night, and the jam ones are so easy, and really good also. Our husbands might have been separated at birth (except mine is only 6'4" and was born about 20 years earlier). November was not a good scale month for me, so I'm trying for self-discipline in December??? I actually loved the clove-y goodness of the dough.
Nancy

Peggy said...

I think this is your best "bake" yet Cathy! I hope you brought me one this morning! I'll be waiting with my coffee to try yours out. Mine are definitely not as pretty as yours!! You amaze me with all your energy! Great job!!

Maria said...

I love all of your fun shapes, the trees are my favorite!! I am glad I have a husband this year...we just got married in June...I need help eating all of these goodies!! I am glad we are going to be sharing with friends, neighbors, etc. too!!

Laura said...

Spatula Lick-o-meter - LOL! You need to write a book Cathy - I hope some publishing big wig reads your blog and contacts you soon. Then I can say I knew you when you first started your food blog :-)

Your Christmas Linzer Sables look so good! I think the Christmas trees with the mini tree cutouts are wonderful! Wish I'd have remembered to make cutouts in mine. These cookies really do look so much better with that little peek-a-boo!

singletoncooks said...

I love the Lick-o-meter! I was thinking the same thing (only without the creativity and wit) as I tasted my first bite of the dough and I do agree that the raw dough is a poor indicator of the finished product in this case. Your cookies are beautiful!

Trying to Stay Calm! said...

I'm new here, what a great blog :) ♥ Hugs!

Natashya said...

Success! So happy they turned out for you. I love your new cookie cutter set.

Karen said...

I love your spatula Lick-o-meter! Fun! :)
Your cookies look delicious!

kim said...

haha, love the lick-o-meter :) and i love all of your shapes! they are so cute. the tree is definitely my fave too.

Jen said...

Cathy - those cookies look like they are right out of a Harry and David catalog! Great job! Did you bring some to work for us to sample???

spike. said...

I'm glad this recipe worked for you. The little gingerbread men are my favorite

Kayte said...

Whatever did I do each Tuesday before I discovered your blog...LOL...I just love your writing...who cares about the cookies...I tuned in for the post! Just kidding...your cookies look great and I LOVE the whole Christmas tree in a Christmas tree approach...very nice. I have one of those tall lanky husbands also...six four to be exact and eats constantly. There is just no justice in this world. Loved the Spatula Licking meter...you are such fun! Thanks for the giggles.

chocolatechic said...

Adorable cookies.

I ate a bit of the dough too.

Sometimes I make dough just to eat it.

vibi said...

How merrier could cookies get, I ask you!
The trees are beautiful Cathy!

Amy (SingForYourSupper) said...

How cute! I love all your fun Christmas shapes!!

SiHaN said...

same as you. those xmas tree cookie shapes look gorgeous! Great work with those.. i could have eaten 10 in one seating too if i didn't stop myself. haah.

pinkstripes said...

I like the christmas tree shaped linzers. I'm glad you liked them. I thought they were more pretty than tasty.

Pam said...

What pretty cookies! These are on my list to try this year. Great recipe.

Amanda said...

Cathy, Your Christmas tree cookies with red centers look so pretty!! I LOVE the Spatula Lick-o-meter!!!!! I also really like how very different the flowers are than the snowflakes :-)

Engineer Baker said...

Oh my, the cuteness of those mini mini cookies. I can't stand it. And the spatula lick-o-meter? I totally have this too.

Banjo said...

Oh gosh I love your shapes!! How cute!

Flourchild said...

Lovely cookies. I must try these soon!

The Blonde Duck said...

I love it: hard-wired optimist with short term memory... I've never had linzer cookies but they look delish!

Jacque said...

You're so funny! LOL Love your cookies, those trees really are pretty. Glad it all worked out for you.

Aggie said...

Your cookies are adorable! I'm going to have to use the Secret technique more often! :)

anudivya said...

What cute shapes... just adore them!

Jess said...

Nice cookies! The baked cookie rarely surpasses the dough for me either, but I liked these in finished form. Have fun with your new linzer cutters...

Debbie said...

Love your cookies. The Christmas trees are so cute.

Patrick said...

Very Festive! I loved the dough much better than my cookies.

Debbie said...

I preferred the taste of mine without the powdered sugar. When I make them again, I will add it with a very light touch. Just enough for presentation. ;-)

Megan said...

Bwah ha ha ha - I love the Lick O' Meter. And good grief, you must have been rolling for days with all that dough. I made half a recipe and was ready to through in the towel by the time I finished.

bakingwiththeboys said...

I think I could have written most of this post (if I had in fact made the cookies which I have not). I am an eternal optimist in the kitchen despite lack of supporting evidence and I have no sense of size or space. I finally invested in a ruler (or stole it from kids but we're splitting hairs here).

The cookies look great! and I probably need a break from cookie dough (oh, those whopper drops...) this month.

Jodie said...

I love the shapes! So Christmas-y!

n.o.e said...

Cathy, in re: your comment on my post - the thumbprint double jam variation would be GREAT! Do it!!! I will be so jealous (wish I'd thought of that!). We love the jam cookies, maybe even more than the linzer. I've got the Grandma Sugar cookies in the fridge and will be rolling them this afternoon.
Nancy

Gabe's Girl said...

I love the baby cookies.

Karen said...

I enjoyed reading this post... very funny - and the cookies lookd great! I'm not a TWD cook, but I'm amazed at how many blogs I read where the chosen recipes don't turn out well at all. I think it's rather interesting. I like your spatula-licking scale! LOL

Audrey said...

You're only PRETENDING not to be good at this. We can tell. They look wonderful...I love the trees. (PS I drove past the exit for Prospect last week and thought of you!)
Audrey

CB said...

LOL @ spatula lick-o-meter. I need to get me one of those! ;) Bummer you weren't a dough fan. I thought the dough was maybe a 2-3 on your scale. Love the xmas trees. Too cute!
Clara @ iheartfood4thought

AmyRuth said...

Success at last! Sorry about your pie? What happened? Glad you liked the cookies and I'll bet you liked making them. Pretty cute! I like almonds as well, although hazelnuts do sound petty delish.
Happy Holidays!
AmyRuth

Madam Chow said...

Your cookies are just beautiful, and your post had me laughing. It's a good thing I wasn't drinking anything, or I would have snorted it up my nose!

The Food Librarian said...

What cute shapes! I love the tree within a tree! :)

Pamela said...

Yikes!! Look at all of the comments here!! Sorry I'm so late to the comment party, Cathy! Another hilarious post! By the way, when you do cut out the gingerbread man pepperoni, could you please provide a step by step?? That would be GRAND! Nice job on the cookies!

Lisa magicsprinkles said...

Heck, I just want gingerbread man pepperoni. As for your thickness issue, maybe ask Santa for some calipers - proper tool for the proper job don'tcha know?

Melissa said...

The Christmas trees are my favorite too. They look delicious - I'm bummed I sat out this week. I'll have to make them soon. Great job!

Nazarina A said...

Exquisite pictures and exquisite cookies! Beautifully made and I love the little trees and the fact that you used the almonds!!!

MacDuff said...

These look so great! And I share with you the turmoils of baking. I'm so not good at it. Yet I love doing it, and people around me seem pleased. So I'm going to keep it up. Until I can't fit into these jeans, at least.

Heather said...

these look lovely! i love a linzer torte, so i'm pretty sure these would be up my alley! and i'm wondering if you're an attorney, cause i've never heard anyone say the word tort(e)feasor that didn't suffer through 3 years of case studying...

Proud Italian Cook said...

I'm telling you, you are the best writer Cathy!
I just love coming here, you always make me smile, see :)) Oh, and your trees turned out excelent! Did you really use a level? ha ha ha!!

Megan said...

They look so festive but I love the stain glass effect on that tree. I'm sure I could put away a dozen! :)

What's for Supper? said...

Yours look so nice. I love the Christmas tree!

Emily said...

Your cookies turned out so pretty! Love'em!

leanne said...

Awesome cookies. Can't wait to see the pepperoni gingerbread men!

noskos said...

Great looking cookies! Glad you liked them.

n.o.e said...

Hi Cathy, I'm back to give you a head's up on the cheesecake. I don't know when (if?) you're making yours, but I had a bit of a watery adventure with mine :(
So, my advice is to hermetically seal that springform pan with the foil or whatever else would do the trick. (I have no idea, obviously, as mine somehow leaked) I guess a good starting point is to get the wide roll of heavy duty foil, and wrap the bottom twice on the outside. Of course, you might be a cheesecake pro, in which case, what are your secrets?
Nancy

n.o.e said...

OK, here's the scoop on the cheesecake:

I'm about to leave the country and won't return until a few days before Christmas, so I did all my TWD baking early (except the pudding which both girls will help cook over Christmas) Otherwise I would have waited for the P&Q.

Anyway, there are two pitfalls that I fell into. One was the water problem. Dorie does say to wrap the bottom of the pan with two pieces of foil. (I did some other reading that gave the same advice) I did that, and have no idea how the water got in. Luckily, it looked worse that it turned out, and I could scrape off the ring of soggy crust all the way around. It was salvageable - edible, but not presentable for Christmas as I'd hoped. I had to cut into it to assess the damage.

The other problem was getting it off the pan and wrapped to freeze. It sort of broke up. Adding injury to insult. The cheesecake can be kept in the fridge for a pretty long time, so maybe if you make it a bit in advance and don't try to freeze it? (OTOH, it would be fun to make it with your sister - you might get to try out that rum!!! You might need that rum!!!) You could no doubt fit a re-do in between running to the store for batteries on Christmas Eve.

The P&Q will likely be helpful. I was so nervous about the cheesecake I actually emailed Laurie and asked if they could post the P&Qs for the whole month since we have permission to post in any order.

Oh, and the cheesecake tastes amazing.

One last thing: Cook's Illustrated says use Philadelphia Original - it won their taste test.

Nancy

n.o.e said...

You know, Cathy, the foil instruction was confusing to me too, but it goes on the outside of the pan! I saw an illustration in Cook's Illustrated, but I'm sure there are resources galore online.
Nancy

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