Many a blogger will tell you how blogging has helped them discover hitherto unknown aspects of their personality. For me, working with food, fresh produce and props has helped me discover my personal sense of colour and aesthetics. Another unexpected one has been the discovery of me as a 'jam lady'. Funnily enough, I don't eat that much jam but I do enjoy making them. My mother, of course, can't get over how her kitchen klutz of a daughter found her inner jam lady!! C'est la Vie!!
So, how does this jam lady make her jams?? Well.. they are made with the fruit of the season, without any commercial pectin and not cloyingly sweet. I am not pedantic about their consistency. As long as it's spreadable, I am good to go! And this weekend, I made a jar of plum jam. Plums have a natural tartness which in my dictionary makes them a perfect candidate for jams.
And when you make jam, you've got to make jam biscuits. Whether they were made at home or bought from the supermarket, every one has had their fill of them as a child. Mine came from the local, neighbourhood bakery!
The ones I am sharing with you today are the cookie version of the Austrian classic, Linzer Torte. Originated in the early 1700s, the Linzer Torte is nothing but a posh Jam Tart that is filled with black currant preserve and then topped off with a lattice crust. The cookies use the same principle but a different presentation. It is two almond flavoured cookies that sandwich a layer of jam. The upper cookie has a cut-out in the centre that lets the jam peek out.
I made these cookies in two batches. I nearly gave up with the first batch. This is an extremely soft dough that wasn't helped by the extreme humidity that we are facing these days, thanks to the rains. The dough kept breaking and poor quality cookie cutters had a pair of flower cut-outs looking like a pair of eyes that people carve on the pumpkin during Halloween. If you look in the background of some of the photographs, you will get a glimpse of them.
Highly frustrated, I switched on the air-conditioning and decided to go with one big cut-out in the centre. This plan worked a lot more smoothly.
Are these cookies worth the effort?? Most definitely yes! The almonds are toasted and the resultant nuttiness enhances the flavour profile of these cookies. Once completely cooled, you will taste the subtler flavours of cinnamon and lemon. And topping it all off is that plum jam that retains a certain tartness that cuts through all the sugar while the jam itself gets more.. jammy! And the fruity freshness that bursts through is simply delightful.
The cookies taste even better the next day as the jam helps the cookies to soften and the flavours to mingle. So, if you have time on your hand, these cookies are worth your time and effort.
As a child, the fascination of jam biscuits was in seeing the vibrantly coloured jam peek out through the cookie. All these years on, the same fascination endures!!
Adapted from this recipe from 'Joy of Baking'. Makes 10-12 3-inch cookies
- 1/2 cup whole almonds (blanched)
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Zest of one small lemon
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 + 1/8 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 cup jam (I went with homemade plum jam but you could go with any jam of your choice)
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C.
- Toast the blanched almonds lightly in the oven until lightly browned and fragrant.
- Let the almonds cool and then along with 1/8 cup of sugar, grind the two in a food processor until finely ground. (If you attempt to grind the almonds without the sugar, you might end up with almond paste)
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, salt and lemon zest.
- In another bowl, cream the butter along with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the vanilla extract and the egg yolk to the butter-cream mixture.
- Finally, beat in the ground almonds and then the flour mixture.
- Cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 60 minutes. (The dough can remain refrigerated for up to 2 days).
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C. Line a baking sheet.
- Once refrigerated, take out your dough and roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Using a 3-inch cookie cutter, cut out the cookies. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets.
- For half the cookies, take a smaller cookie cutter and cut out a shape in the center of the cookie.
- Reroll any scraps and cut out the remaining cookies.
- Spread some jam on each of the cookies on the prepared baking sheet, putting a little more in the centre.
- Then place the other cookies with centre cut-outs on each of the cookies with jam on them. Press the sides of these assembled cookies gently.
- Tip: The cookies need to be rolled out in a dry and cold environment or else you risk the dough constantly breaking. If it is hot or humid, it is preferable to do the rolling out in an air-conditioned environment.
- Place the assembled cookies in the refrigerator for 10 minutes before baking them. this ensures that they do not spread while baking.
- Bake the cookies for 20 minutes until lightly browned.
- Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
- 2 cups plums, pitted and chopped
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
- Combine the plums and sugar in a bowl and allow it to rest for a while. Do chop the skin of the plums because the skin will not break down during the cooking process.
- Mash lightly and cook in a saucepan over a slow flame till the mixture is syrupy. If using jam thermometer, then heat the syrup until it reaches 220 deg F.
- Cool completely, add the lemon juice and store refrigerated in a clean bottle.