I started making these cookies Tina’s first year of teaching at Carleton College. What started as a whim to make something for her to bring her department for Valentine’s Day has turned into an annual, very much-expected event. The fact that they have a Hungarian history is simply a coincidence!
The Linzer cookie has its roots in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a period of time between 1867 and 1918 during which there was a monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdome of Hungary. The cookie is actually an evolution of the famous Linzer Torte, named after the city of Linz in Austria. The Linzer Torte is Austria’s most famous dessert and is the oldest cake in the word. Using the same ingredients as the torte, two cookies are sandwiched together with a layer of preserves. The top cookie is dusted with powdered sugar and has a round cutout showing the preserves, making it resemble an eye and getting the nickname, Linzer Eyes, or Linzer Auger. These famous Austro-Hungarian desserts made their way to the US in 1850 when Franz Holzhuber, a famous Austrian artist/musician traveled to the US to work as an orchestra conductor. He was waylaid and ended up becoming a baker, introducing the torte to America. He also left many fine sketches and watercolor paintings of the New World as he saw it.
Enough history! These glutinous cookies are time consuming and a labor of love, making them the perfect Valentine. The dough is a simple mix of butter, flour and sugar, which is chilled, rolled out, cut, chilled again, baked and assembled. It takes the better part of two days for me to make seven dozen. Enough for Tina’s department and several friends. Tina’s colleagues rave about the cookies and while Tina never asks, I know she is always hoping they will appear in time for a Valentine delivery. Perhaps the greatest labor of love in these cookies is that they are not gluten-free. I can’t eat them and cleaning up after the baking is a huge ordeal that involves a deep cleaning of the entire kitchen, every surface, nook and cranny is cleaned and washcloths are thrown away. Nothing else gets cooked in the kitchen the day I make these cookies. Safety first!