Raspberry Linzer Cookies

IMG_1613

I’ve discovered that baked goods can make the best gifts for special occasions. Whether it’s a present for a birthday or a housewarming gift, a plate of cookies has just the right mix of thoughtfulness and practicality to be a gift that anyone can enjoy. I  actually made these cookies as a present for Matt’s mom! I opted for cookies because they are portable, but I also wanted to do something with a fun and creative twist. These Linzer cookies fit the bill perfectly.

Linzer cookies are believed to have originated in the City of Linz, Austria. Traditionally they consisted of a crust made with flour, ground nuts (traditionally almonds), sugar, egg yolks, spices and lemon zest that was filled with black currant preserves and then topped with a lattice crust. You don’t have to grate any almonds or run to the store in search of black currant preserves to make the recipe I’m sharing with you today. Instead this recipe is a slight adaptation on the traditional cookie, making it slightly easier to pull together with ingredients you likely have in your kitchen.

Raspberry Linzer Cookies
Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies

IMG_1599

Ingredients
3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup good raspberry preserves
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/4-inch thick and cut 2 3/4-inch rounds with a plain or fluted cutter. With 1/2 of the rounds, cut a hole from the middle of each round with a heart or spade shaped cutter. Place all the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and chill for 15 minutes.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature. Spread raspberry preserves on the flat side of each solid cookie. Dust the top of the cut-out cookies with confectioners’ sugar and press the flat sides together, with the raspberry preserves in the middle and the confectioners’ sugar on the top.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
The baked cookies are quite crisp, but once they are filled with the jam they start to soften. So if you want to keep the cookies crisp, fill them with the jam the day of serving.

IMG_2343

Advertisements

Chocolate Brownie Bites

IMG_4877

I am admittedly a chocoholic. On a perfect day I would have hot chocolate for breakfast, some Lindt chocolates with lunch, a little chocolate pudding as an afternoon snack, and brownies with ice cream for dessert. Thank goodness every day isn’t perfect for me, or else my waist line might be a size or two larger. Last week I read an article saying that a survey found that people should have a daily amount of chocolate equivalent to 1.5 Hershey’s Kisses to reap the benefit of the healthy antioxidants found in chocolate. All of this is well and good, but who really eats 1.5 Hersey’s Kisses? When I sit down to have some chocolate we’re looking at a serving of at least four Hershey’s kisses… at least.

A couple weeks ago I set off on a quest to find the best brownie recipe online. This was no small task being that there were numerous recipes purporting to make the best brownies ever. When thinking about brownies you have one thing to consider. Are you the type of person that enjoys cake-like or fudge-like brownies? One reason I enjoy this recipe is because it meets somewhere in the middle between the two extremes. I also like this recipe because as opposed to the typical brownie bar, you get tiny brownie bites. The little bites are really easy to transport to a party or a picnic in a plastic container.

Chocolate Brownie Bites
Makes approximately 16 brownie bites

IMG_4864

Brownie Ingredients
1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Frosting Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center. Generously grease and flour a mini muffin pan.

In a medium bowl, mix together 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients. Drop batter into muffin tins, filling halfway. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook.

To make frosting, melt butter in a glass bowl in the microwave. Combine 3 tablespoons cocoa, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 cup confectioners’ sugar. Frost brownies while they are still warm. Decorate brownies as desired.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
It’s important that you don’t over-mix your batter. To help with this, make sure you beat your eggs before adding them to the mixture. This way they will combine easily with butter and sugar without requiring you to mix more than needed.

IMG_4886