The standard question in Santa Fe when you order chile is “Red or green?” If you have a hard time deciding, you can just say, “Christmas”, and they will bring out a dish slathered in both colors of chiles. This week’s cookie recipe picks up on that theme. Linzer cookies are traditional for Christmas – a tender sandwich of almond or hazelnut cookie filled with raspberry jam pushing through a hole in the top. They remind some people of eyes, and so the cookies are also called Linzer Augen (eyes). Authentic Linzer cookies are delicious, but for a Santa Fe Christmas, they almost beg for a little chile kick.
As the name of the cookie suggests, it had its origins in Linz, Austria. Lenz is an ancient city founded by the Romans and home to luminaries like the mathematician Johannes Kepler, the composer Anton Bruckner, and unfortunately Adolf Hitler. But it may be more famous as the home of the Linzer Torte, a delicious pastry that can be traced back to the 1600’s and is now a feature of many of the great pastry shops of Vienna. It has become popular throughout Austria as well as the world, and especially at Christmas. The Linzer cookie uses all of the same ingredients.
For the Santa Fe version, there are local products that let the baker add that chile kick without changing the basic recipe too much. Heidi’s Raspberry Farm makes a raspberry-red chile jam that fits the bill. In New Mexico, you can find it at farmers’ markets or in specialty grocery stores. You can also order it from Heidi’s Raspberry Farm, P.O. Box 1329, Corrales, NM 87048. Green chile jam is harder to find, but you can make your own from roasted sweet green chile sauce made by Desert Gardens, Comfort Foods, Inc., 9900 Montgomery Blvd, NE, Albuquerque, NM 87111, www.comfortfoods.com. I’ll tell you how to transform the sauce into jam as well as giving you the basic recipe for the cookies. You will see that there are a lot of steps in making the cookies, but it can all be done in a morning of busy baking.
Sweet Green Chile Jam
9 ounce jar sweet green chile (see sources)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon low- or no-sugar pectin
- Empty the jar of green chile in a small saucepan. Stir in the sugar, pectin, and water, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
- Boil for two minutes. Then remove from heat and allow to cool partly
- Return the mixture to the jar. Cool completely, and then store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
½ Cup almonds
4 Cups boiling water
- Place the raw almonds in a large heat-resistant bowl.
- Pour the hot water over the almonds and let steep for 5 minutes.
- In batches, remove the almonds from the hot water. Slip the skins off the almonds.
- Spread the peeled almonds on clean paper towels and allow to dry completely for about two hours.
- Ad the completely dried almonds to a spice grinder or small food processor. Grind the nuts using pulses of the low power. Watch carefully as too vigorous grinding can turn the almonds into almond butter. Remove and set aside when the almonds resemble coarse cornmeal.
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter,melted
1 Cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon almond extract
2 Tablespoons cream
- In a small bowl, combine the butter, sugar, almond extract, and cream.
- Transfer to a plastic, zipper sealed sandwich bag and cut a 1/16 inch piece from one corner of the bag. When ready to ice the cookies, squeeze the icing through the hole to form patterns of your choice on the cookie top.
½ Cup vegetable shortening
¼ Cup unsalted butter
¼ Cup sour cream
½ Cup sugar
½ Cup brown sugar, packed
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2½ Cups all-purpose flour
½ Cup almond flour
½ Cup cornstarch
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the shortening, butter, sour cream, sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, and vanilla extract. Beat at slow to medium speed until the ingredients are well mixed.
- Add the egg, and continue to mix at medium speed until the batter is light and fluffy.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, almond flour, and cornstarch.
- Add the dry mix to the batter and continue to beat until the ingredients are well combined and you have a smooth dough.
- Divide the dough in two equal portions. Form the portions into balls, wrap them in plastic wrap, and chill them for at least one hour in the refrigerator. If the dough is too soft, it will stick to the rolling-pin when you try to roll out the cookies.
- Roll the chilled dough, one ball at a time, on a lightly floured work surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 2¼ inch round cutter, cut rounds in the dough. Then using a 1 inch cutter, cut holes in the center of half of the rounds.
- Gather up any scraps of dough and shape them into a ball. Chill, roll, and cut cookies until all of the dough is used.
- Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges, on parchment-lined baking sheets in an oven preheated to 350º. Cool on a mesh rack.
- Ice the tops of the cookies with the hole in the center. Alternatively, and more classically, sprinkle them with confectioners’ sugar. Turn the solid cookies over and place about ½ teaspoon of jam in the middle. Then top with the frosted cookies.
Makes about 4 dozen cookies