My parents were divorced when I was quite young. My brother and I would make the trek over the George Washington Bridge every other weekend to visit my dad. There was a peculiar mix of emotions on those trips. I never particularly enjoyed house hopping, but I loved crossing that towering bridge on our way to the Bronx. With cheek pressed against the window, my eyes would widen as I approached the great gray structure. The clink of a few coins in the toll basket would remind me to turn my gaze to the right. It was then that I would stare out over the Hudson River in awe. I would wait in anticipation for the moment where I would cross over from New Jersey to New York.
Home for me was the country suburbs of Northern New Jersey. Wooded expanse as far as the eye could see. Abundant wildlife. Starry skies. Quiet. I loved it. My visits to the Bronx were quit different. Sirens and street noise seemed to play on a continual loop. Front door wreaths were replaced with deadbolts and locks. Each time I would make the towering ascent to the second floor apartment, I ached for the comfort of my home. But then something wonderful always happened; a friendly face filled the doorway. My grandmother. When my parents separated, my dad had taken up residence with her. With a smile and a hug, things felt normal.
I spent a lot of time in my grandmother’s tiny city kitchen. I still remember her white and red checked mugs, filled to the brim with ice-cold milk. A cup of milk was never complete without cookies. Grandma always had a cookie tin filled with fresh-baked goodies. My then tiny fingers always seemed to struggle to pry the lid off of the tin, but once I did, I would tear away the wax paper lining like a child on Christmas morning. What kind of cookies did she make? Sugar cookies? Rugelach? Spritz cookies? It really didn’t matter what she made…I loved them all. However, I have to admit, my favorite cookies, the ones I anticipated the most, were her sandwich cookies. They looked much like Linzer Torte cookies. Some were filled with jam, others with peanut butter. But the best cookies were the ones she filled with fudge. Oh my! How I adored those little gems! I spent many an afternoon seated at the kitchen table with a glass of milk, a tin of cookies, and my grandmother.
Something special always happened during our December visits. I would make cookies with my grandma. They weren’t fancy cookies, just sugar cookies with a simple powdered sugar glaze and sprinkles. I chuckle a bit now because the cookie cutters we used were heart, diamond, spade, and club-shaped. I don’t think my grandmother was a betting woman or an avid card player, so I’m not sure why those cutters were the cutters of choice, but they were. As if making the cookies wasn’t special enough, my grandmother would pack a huge, super-sized tin of cookies for us to take back home to New Jersey. It was like taking a piece of Grandma back to New Jersey.
Cookies and Grandma hold a special place in my heart. She was the only one I ever made cookies with as a child. I kind of like that. I wish I would have been able to have had some of her hand-written recipes, but I do have the next best thing: some of those crazy card themed cookie cutters. In the mix of cutters is a beautiful, round, fluted one. It is a vintage rose gold color and is incredibly unique. I keep it in my kitchen drawer and use it often.
Several years ago I developed a recipe for Linzer Torte cookies. They were a nod to my grandmother and showcase that lovely fluted cookie cutter. In the recipe I took the classic jam filling and paired it with a dark chocolate layer. The two together form a scrumptious cookie. These cookies are the star of my Christmas cookie tray. A revolt would ensue if they were absent! I know that you won’t be disappointed if you give them a try.
By the way, upon arriving back home to New Jersey, cookie tin in hand, I would always discover a few of my favorite fudge filled sandwich cookies hiding below our cut-out cookies. They were little reminders to me that my grandmother loved me!
The photo for this post is courtesy of Cook’s Country. My Black Cherry and Chocolate Linzertorte Cookies were a finalist in their 2013 Christmas Cookie Contest and featured in the January 2014 magazine.
Black Cherry and Chocolate Linzertorte Cookies
yields 24 sandwich cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking pwder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup superfine sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup black cherry preserves
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and almond extract until well combined. Gradually add in the flour mixture, scraping the bowl as needed. Divide the dough in half. Form each half into a 5″ disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Let the chilled dough soften at room temperature for 10 minutes. Roll one disk of dough out into a 13″ circle, about 1/8″ thick, onto a lightly floured surface. Using a 2 1/2″ cookie cutter, cut out 24 rounds, rerolling scraps just once. Space cookies 1/2″ apart. Bake until edges are lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Let cookies cool on the tray for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
Roll out the second disk and cut out 24, 2 1/2″ rounds. Using a 1″ cookie cutter, cut circles from the centers of the cookies. Space cookies 1/2″ apart and bake for 7 minutes. Let cookies cool on the tray for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
Microwave chips in a bowl at 50 percent power for 2-4 minutes. Spread the chocolate onto the bottoms (flat-side) of cookies without cutouts and let stand until chocolate is set, about 5 minutes. Spread 2 teaspoons of preserves on top of the chocolate. Top with a cutout cookie to form a sandwich. Sprinkle with powdered sugar