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December 6, 2017

Cranberry Gingerbread Linzer Cookies

One of my favorite parts about this time of year is all the cookies. You can bake cookies for no reason and nobody will question it or berate you for ruining their summer bodies or New Years resolutions. It is prime cookie-eating time, y'all, and boy do I have some good recipes for you. There's my all-time most popular recipe for white chocolate cranberry cookies, some naturally beautiful red velvet crinkle cookies, festive Christmas light cookies, and the best of holiday cookies swirled into one snickersnap. These cranberry gingerbread linzer cookies only add to the merriment and the food babies. They consist of spiced gingerbread cookies sandwiched with a fresh cranberry compote, and you can sprinkle them with powdered sugar for extra holiday flair.


The keys to any good gingerbread cookie (or gingerbread in general) are molasses and the perfect blend of spices. Here, I mix the molasses in when I add the eggs to the creamed butter and sugar. This makes sure it's properly incorporated, since you have to avoid overworking the dough once you add the flour. I normally add brown sugar to most of my cookies, but here you get the molasses flavor and chewiness from the molasses itself, so granulated sugar works just fine. The spice mixture is my favorite blend of 3 parts cinnamon, 2 parts each ginger and nutmeg, and 1 part each allspice and cloves. You can adjust that if you want extra-gingery gingerbread or have other preferences, or you can just buy pumpkin pie spice blends if you don't plan on using these spices much.


Most of my cookies are scoop and bake, meaning that you can just take a cookie scoop or spoon to the dough and bake it right away. Others are slice and bake; you roll the dough into logs, slice them into coins, and bake them. These are probably the most complicated since you have to roll them out and cut them into the proper shapes. If you want oreo-style sandwich cookies, you can use the slice and bake method, but for the classic linzer cookie shape with the center cutout to see the filling, you're going to need to roll them. I make mine about 1/4" thick (chilling for a few hours definitely helps with the rolling) so you still get some chew with a bit of crispiness, and I have a set of round cookie cutters with scalloped edges. You can make these any shape, whether it's simple round cookies (use a glass/cup if you don't have any cookie cutters) or more festive shapes. I cut all the dough to the same size then cut out the centers of half the shapes. This way, you get one whole piece for the bottom and once piece with a window for the top.


The cranberry filling is like a traditional cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving but cooked down more (and with more sugar) so it's more of a jammy consistency. If you can find cranberry jam or another flavor of jam you prefer, you can save yourself some time and swap it in. I, however, love taking advantage of the cranberries since they're only in season for a few weeks out of the year.


All you have to do is combine cranberries, sugar, and a splash of orange juice and cook it for 10 minutes or so until the berries burst. I take a wooden spoon to it to help crush the berries since I like some texture but whole berries would be a bit too clunky for these delicate cookie sandwiches. If you want it really smooth, you can pulse it in a food processor or blender and/or strain the compote to get out the big pieces. The natural pectins in the cranberries help to thicken the mixture, as does boiling off the water during cooking. If it looks too thin (it should be a spreadable consistency), put it back on the stove until it's ready.


Once the cookies and the cranberry compote cool, it's time to sandwich them. I take a whole cookie, spread some cranberry jam on the flat side (the bottom of the cookie since the top puffs up a bit), and top it with a cookie with a window. Just before serving, I like to dust them with powdered sugar to dress them up a bit and give even more color contrast. These would make lovely gifts, especially if boxed with some of the other cookie recipes, or can stand on their own for a platter to keep your holiday guests happy.

1 1/2 Sticks Butter, Softened
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
3 T Molasses
2 2/3 Cups Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Ginger
1/4 tsp Cloves
1/4 tsp Allspice
2 Cups Cranberries
1/4 Cup Orange Juice

Beat the butter and 1 cup sugar together. Add the eggs, vanilla, and molasses and beat until smooth.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices together. Gradually add to the butter mixture. Chill for at least 2 hours or until firm.

Heat oven to 375F and line cookie trays with parchment.

Split the dough in half and roll to 1/4" thick. Cut into circles and rings and bake for 6-8 minutes or until just golden.

Meanwhile, combine the cranberries, remaining sugar, and orange juice in a medium pot. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat until thick, stirring occasionally and mashing with a spoon until the berries are burst.

Spread a small spoonful of cranberry compote on each cookie. Top with another cookie or ring and repeat until all cookies are sandwiched.

Makes 28

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