Oh Linzer tarts, how beautiful art thou . . .

I love these pretty little things, but because they are more work than your typical cookie, I was waiting for an official occasion to make them.

During the spring we celebrate Lag BaOmer, a festive day on the Jewish calendar. The Talmud relates that in the weeks between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot, a plague raged amongst the disciples of the great sage Rabbi Akiva, because they did not act respectfully towards each other. This period, called Sefirat HaOmer, is observed as a period of mourning. On Lag BaOmer the deaths ceased, so Lag BaOmer also carries the theme of the imperative to love and respect one’s fellow (ahavat yisrael).

The heart-shaped red centers on these tarts are a good reminder of the importance of showing love, kindness and respect to those around us—even those we disagree with.

These are not your easy 10-minute cookie, but they are definitely doable. For the full recipe, scroll down, but here are some tips that should make it easier:

For easiest and cleanest rolling, roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper, and dip your cookie cutter into flour between every few cookies.

Cut your shapes and transfer the cookies to a parchment paper–lined pan, then cut out the centers once they’re already on the baking pan. If you cut out the centers first, the dough will be much harder to pick up and transfer to the pan.

Save the cut-out centers for tiny bite-size cookies. Bake them in a separate pan, because they require less oven time than the full-size cookies.

Refrigerate your trays of cookies for 10–15 minutes before putting them in the oven. These round cookies were refrigerated, and they kept their shape perfectly.

These cookies were not refrigerated. As you can see, they spread, almost completely closing up the cut-out centers.

But, if you forget to refrigerate them, don’t despair. They are salvageable. While the cookies are still warm, take the same cookie cutter you originally used for the center and cut it out again. It won’t look exactly the same, but it's pretty close, as you can see:

Dust the tops of the cookies with confectioner’s sugar before you assemble them. If you wait until they’re filled and closed, the sugar will land on the jam center, and you won’t see the color peeking through.

When you’re assembling the cookies, don’t put the jam on all the cookies and then put the tops on all the cookies. Work in small groups. Spread jam on 3–4 cookies, then cover those before moving on to the next. You don’t want the jam to set before you get a chance to put the tops on.

You can eat the cookies immediately, but if you let them sit for a day or two, they will taste better.

I think that pretty much covers it.

Oh, one more—a cookie cutter with scalloped edges will give you an elegant look without any extra effort on your part.

Cookie Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter or margarine
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 cup almond flour (or very finely ground almonds)
  • Optional: ½ tsp. cinnamon and ½ tsp. nutmeg

Filling and Topping Ingredients:

  • Approximately 1½ cups fruit preserves (jam) in the flavor of your choice (I used strawberry)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2–4 tbsp. confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Cookie Directions

  1. Cream the butter, sugar and confectioner’s sugar.
  2. Add the flour, almond flour, egg, salt, baking powder, cinnamon (optional) and nutmeg (optional). Mix until the dough comes together. You might need slightly more or less flour, so add the last ¼ cup slowly and see how the dough feels.
  3. Wrap the dough in saran wrap or parchment paper, or put it in a Ziploc bag, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
  5. Take the dough out of the fridge, cut off about one-quarter and return the rest to the fridge for later. If the dough feels sticky, add a little bit of flour and/or flour your hands. Roll out the chunk of dough (check out this easy rolling method) about ⅛ inch thick.
  6. Choose which shape cookie cutters you want to use, and begin cutting our your cookies. Make sure you cut an even number of each shape, so that you can sandwich them later. Carefully pick up the cookies and transfer them to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a small cookie cutter, cut out the centers on half the cookies.
  7. (For cute mini-cookie bites, save the cutouts and bake on a separate pan for about 8 minutes.)
  8. Place the cookie sheet in the fridge for 10–15 minutes. Then put it straight into the oven and bake for approximately 10 minutes until the edges are very lightly browned.
  9. Remove pan from the oven, but don’t try to pick up the cookies immediately. Let them cool for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  10. Repeat with the rest of the dough, until the dough has all been used.

Filling Directions

  1. Place the fruit preserves (jam) and water in a small saucepan over a medium-low flame. Let it come to a slow boil, and then reduce to a low flame. Let the mixture simmer and reduce by about half. Stir occasionally.
  2. If the mixture reduces too much, just add a little water and cook until the water is incorporated. Then remove from the fire.
  3. Let the mixture cool and thicken a little, but don’t let it set completely.

To Assemble

  1. Separate the tops and bottoms of the cookies. The cookies with the centers cut out will be the tops. Place them on a sheet of parchment paper and dust with confectioner’s sugar. Set aside.
  2. Turn the cookie bottoms upside down. Spread with the jam and cover with the matching cookie tops. Set aside for about 30 minutes, until the filling sets.
  3. For best flavor, let the cookies sit for a day or two before serving. This allows the cookies to soften a little as they absorb some of the moisture from the jam. Store in an airtight container.

Yields: 20 large Linzer tarts