Which Cookie is: a colorful and popular addition to Cookie trays, a staple of Christmas Cookie exchanges, a Valentine’s Day favorite, and even a mainstay of some Jewish-style and kosher bakeries? Yes, that’s right, the delightful Linzer Cookie. But before we talk about its adaptability, let’s briefly cover its origin.
Linzer Tortes originate in the Austrian city of Linz. (What’s the difference between a “torte” and a “cake”? Well, it depends on whom you ask. Some equate “torte” with “cake.” But it can also refer to a flourless cake or a fancy cake.) While variations abound, Linzer Torte dough, typically rich with butter, almonds, lemon zest, spices, and sometimes flour, is filled with jam. A pretty lattice top completes the torte. Linzer Cookies, the “progeny” of Linzer Tortes, typically are buttery, nutty sandwich Cookies filled with jam. A window is cut out of the top Cookie to see the contrasting jam center, and powdered sugar can be sprinkled on top.
Unlike drop Cookies, rolled and cut Cookies, like Linzers, can take a variety of shapes—from circles to squares, to heart shapes for Valentine’s Day, to trees for Christmas, to dreidels for Chanukah. (A handy tip for those of us who believe that the function of the Cookie is to hold the jam: In her book, Rose’s Christmas Cookies, Rose Levy Beranbaum explained she likes making Linzers as squares because that shape offers the best ratio of jam to Cookie.)
Mo Sahoo, of Best Damn Cookies in Manhattan, thinks Linzer Cookies permit chefs to use their imagination to create something that speaks to them. As an example, its Carrot-Citrus Rye Linzers (developed in conjunction with Gertie, a modern diner in Brooklyn) add earthy tones, as compared with more traditional Linzer Cookies that are often bright in flavor. Mo also thinks Linzers have a very interesting history, which adds to their popularity. Best Damn Cookies offers a special Linzer Cookie for Valentine’s Day, an Amoro—a chocolate-hazelnut Cookie with a blood orange marmalade filling. And different Linzers are on the Cookie line-up over the next year.
But it’s not just the shape of the Cookie that makes them so versatile. The dough or filling can be varied. As noted in a Philadelphia Inquirer article (December 14, 2017), Linzer Cookies have been adapted for American tastes and you can even find Linzers with caramel. (I’ve been dreaming of Buttery Walnut Cookies with a Coffee Caramel filling, but I digress.)
Which states are the biggest fans of Linzer Cookies? Well, if we use online search activity as our metric, people in the Northeast are real Linzer devotees. The top five states are: Maine; New Jersey; Rhode Island; Vermont; and Massachusetts. With their strong (and wonderful!) Wedding Cookie Table tradition, I’m surprised Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia are not in the Top 10. But then again, many different kinds of (fabulous) Cookies adorn Cookie Tables at weddings in these three states.
Here’s to a sweet Valentine’s Day (with or without Linzer Cookies)!