What does the world’s oldest recorded cake, the Linzer Torte have in common with Pez, the iconic yet inedible candy turned collector’s item? Just one thing, Linz. Turns out Austria’s third largest city is the birthplace of both the Pez and the Linzer Torte. All similarities stop there and so does any further descriptions of Pez in this article.
For centuries historians believed that the first written recipe describing the Linzer Torte was written in 1696, it wasn’t until very recently, (2005) that an even older version was uncovered in the Veronese cookbook of Countess Anna Margarita Sagramosa succinctly titled: Book of All Kinds of Home-Made Things, Such as Sweet Dishes, Spices, Cakes and also Every Kind of Fruit and Other Good and Useful Things, etc. It’s not often you run across a book with a title so long its only practical ending is “etc.” It was discovered in the archives of Austria’s Abbey of Admont and precedes the other recipe by a cool 43 years.
Let Them Eat Cake
In the early 1800’s the pastry chef Johann Konrad Vogel was the first chef to mass produce the cake, its popularity rapidly spreading across Europe. By the early 1900s, the cake was in such high demand that it was being packaged and shipped in tins across the continent, each package bearing an image of the ideal woman. Rotund when held in comparison to today’s ideal of beauty the Schöne Linzerin as she was called, was all dimples and cascading curls. Even today in contemporary Austrian slang a sexually appealing woman is known as a Linzer Schnitte. Perhaps it’s the lingual gap, but the term Linzer Schnitte does more to conjure up the image of a hypoallergenic crossbreed or breaded and fried veal cutlets than an attractive woman.
Today we most often see Linzer Tortes in their cookie interpretation. The dough is high in butter and toasted almonds or hazelnuts, making it an ideal recipe for a tender flavorful cookie. Commonly associated with holiday baking, you’ve probably had some of these in those European assorted cookie tins, but the homemade variety is leaps and bounds ahead of any prepackaged versions. A simple quick recipe to put together, it just gets better with time as the flavors meld and the cookie slightly softens. It’s as foolproof as they come and will definitely be among the cookies you bring to any party or gathering in the future.
“Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.”
The Ideal Woman’s Cookie
2¼ cups All-purpose Flour
½ teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
½ teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Baking Powder
¾ cup Almonds, Unsalted
¼ cup Brown Sugar, Packed
1 cup Butter, Unsalted, Room-temperature
½ cup Powdered Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
¼ teaspoon Almond Extract
8 oz. Raspberry Jam*, Seedless
*Traditionally filled with black or red currant preserves, raspberry has taken its place in most American interpretations today.
Preheat your oven to 350℉
In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, salt and baking powder. Set aside for later use.
Pour your almonds on a cookie sheet and spread them out evenly, bake until toasty about 10 minutes. Toasting the nuts is imperative to achieving a really good flavor in your cookie dough and frankly, it doesn’t ever hurt to toast any nuts prior to use, no matter the application.
In a food processor, pulse together almonds and brown sugar until finely ground.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, whip the butter and the powdered sugar together until combined. Increase the speed and whip until light and creamy, approximately one minute.
Mix in the egg, vanilla, and almond extract. Lower the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients.
Mix until the ingredients start to come together then pour out onto your countertop and using your hands form into a cohesive ball.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate anywhere from 2 hours to 3 days. Just as in our experiments with aging chocolate chip cookie dough the longer you allow the dough to rest the deeper and more intense the flavors become.
When ready to bake, remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and preheat your oven to 350℉.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to ⅛ -inch thick. Cut into shapes of your choosing, cutting out the centers of half the cookies. Transfer to a parchment-lined pan and bake for 10-12 minutes until just barely golden on the edges.
Cool on the baking sheet for several minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
When the cookies have reached room temperature dust powdered sugar over all the cookies with missing centers, spread the jam in the center of the remaining cookies.
Place the sugar-dusted cookies on top of the others so that the raspberry jam shows through.