Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Linzer Cookies and Raspberry Macarons

Tart and refreshing with a brilliant red color, raspberries are an ideal fruit to serve around the holidays. They are an excellent foil for buttery cookies, chocolate cakes, and rich buttercream, and the fact that they’re not in season shouldn’t stop you from using them. 

Individually quick frozen raspberries, picked and frozen at their peak flavor, and homemade or store-bought raspberry preserves provide excellent alternatives to fresh berries. This week I’m showcasing one of my favorite Christmas treats, Linzer Cookies, 

made with seedless raspberry preserves. This recipe was adapted from one I developed for The Good Cookie, and it features a hazelnut dough that is extremely tender and flavorful, yet remarkably easy to work with. So easy, in fact, that you can even re-roll the dough scraps without chilling them. And they are quite 

delicious—I myself at several dozen (ok, maybe not that many) as an accompaniment to a pot of strong black currant tea.
            Running with the raspberry theme, I also made a batch of Raspberry Macarons, filled with a raspberry buttercream made with pureed frozen berries. I flavored my macaron shells with

raspberry powder, a powder made from freeze-dried raspberries, but this step is optional. The flavors of almond and raspberry marry well together, particularly in these crunchy little bits of fluff, and the puree provides plenty of raspberry flavor. I do dust the tops lightly with a little raspberry powder, though, for effect.

Linzer Cookies

Makes 42 sandwich cookies
Special Equipment: One 2-inch round or flower-shaped cookie cutter; one 3/4-inch round aspic cutter or pastry tip
Storage: In an airtight container at room temperature for up to four days.

Linzer dough:
1/2 cup blanched toasted hazelnuts
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg yolk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup seedless raspberry preserves

1/3 cup confectioners' sugar

Make the linzer dough:
1. Place the hazelnuts and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a food processor and process until finely ground, about 45 seconds.
2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or beaters, beat the butter with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar at medium speed until light, about 1 minute. Add the egg yolk and beat until thoroughly blended. Add the ground hazelnut mixture, flour, lemon zest, vanilla extract and salt and mix on low speed just until combined. Divide the dough in 2 and shape into discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until firm.
3. Arrange 2 racks near the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Place half of the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle the dough with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/8 inch, flouring it as necessary to prevent sticking. Use the 2-inch cookie cutter to cut out as many rounds from the dough as possible. Continue to reroll the scraps until all the dough is used (no need to rechill the dough). Repeat with the remaining dough. Arrange half of the cookies on a large ungreased baking sheet. Use the 3/4-inch round aspic cutter or pastry tip to cut out the center of these cookies. Place the remaining whole cookies on another baking sheet. Bake the cookies 11 to 13 minutes, until they are lightly golden around the edges. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets set on wire racks for 15 minutes. Using a metal spatula, gently transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Fill and assemble the cookies:
4. Place the raspberry preserves in a small bowl and stir it vigorously until smooth. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of the raspberry preserves onto each whole cookie and with a small, offset spatula, spread it to within 1/4 inch of the edge of the cookie. Place the confectioners' sugar in a fine-mesh sieve and liberally sprinkle the surfaces of the cut-out cookies. Sandwich the cut-out tops and the bottoms together.

Raspberry Macarons

Makes about 24 macarons

Raspberry Macarons:
¾ cup (96 grams) almond flour
1 3/4 cups (201 grams) confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons raspberry powder*
3 large egg whites*
3 tablespoons (37 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered or gel pink food coloring, as needed

Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
1/2 cup (3.5 oz/100 g) granulated sugar
2 1/2 large (2.6 oz/75 g) egg whites (to measure the ½ white, beat 1 white in a bowl with a fork and then measure out 1 tablespoon)
1 1/2 tablespoons (22 ml) water
1 cup (2 sticks/8 oz/227 g) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup raspberry puree (puree fresh or thawed frozen berries and pass through a fine sieve)

Optional Garnish:
Raspberry powder

*Note: If you have time, it’s best to ‘age’ your egg whites before using them. Separate the whites, then store them in the refrigerator in a covered container for 48 hours. Bring them to room temperature before using.

Make the macarons:
1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
2. In a food processor, process the almonds with the confectioners’ sugar and raspberry powder until well blended. Sift the mixture through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until foamy. Very gradually add the granulated sugar and beat until stiff and glossy. Add the vanilla and food coloring and mix until blended and you have the right color.
4. Add half of the sifted almond mixture and fold it in with a spatula. Add the remaining almond mixture and mix it in a light circular motion. Press and spread out the batter against the side of the bowl. Scoop the batter from the bottom of the bowl and turn it upside down. Repeat this motion about 20-25 times. When the batter becomes nicely firm and flows slowly as you scoop it with the spatula, it is ready to be piped. (When you spoon a little on the baking sheet, it should not form a peak.)
5. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375° F. Fit a pastry bag with a .4-inch plain tip (Ateco #4). Scrape the batter into the bag. Pipe out 1-inch rounds of batter onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them ½ inch apart. Rap the baking sheet firmly against the counter. Dry the batter at room temperature, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
6. Stack the baking sheet with the macarons on it on another baking sheet. Place both sheets, stacked, in the oven and bake the macarons for 13-16 minutes, until slightly crisp (they will crisp more upon cooling). Cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the buttercream:
7. Pour enough water into a skillet so that it comes 1/2-inch up its sides. Bring the water to a simmer; reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer.
8. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar, egg whites, and water. Place the bowl in the skillet of water and whisk gently until the mixture registers 160°F on an instant-read thermometer.
9. Transfer the bowl to the mixer stand and, using the whisk attachment, beat at medium-high speed until the meringue is cool and forms stiff, shiny peaks, about 5 minutes.
10. Reduce the speed to medium and beat in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Beat in the vanilla. Beat at high speed until the buttercream is smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in the raspberry puree until combined.

Assemble the macarons:
11. Scrape the buttercream into a pastry bag fitted with a .4 inch plain tip (about the same size as you used to pipe the macarons).  Pipe a grape-sized dollop of buttercream onto the underside of a macaron. Gently press the underside of another macaron against the buttercream until it spreads almost to the edge. Repeat with the remaining macarons and buttercream. If you like, lightly sprinkle some raspberry powder through a fine sieve onto the top of the macarons. Store the macarons in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.