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Cooking from the World Pantry: Gingerbread Linzer Cookies

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Gingerbread Linzer Cookies | Photograph by Maria Zizka

If you're looking for a little treat for your pantry, look no further than a jar of lingonberry jam.

The lingonberry also goes by a whole host of other names, including foxberry, partridgeberry, beaverberry, and, perhaps most charming of all, bearberry. Evidently animals enjoy the bright red fruits just as much as we humans do.

Native to subarctic regions in the Northern Hemisphere, lingonberries grow in clusters on short, evergreen shrubs. They're extremely hardy and can survive temperatures as low as -40°F. In fact, the berries are best picked just after a sharp frost.

Throughout the Nordic countries and in parts of Canada, foraging for lingonberries in the wild is a popular summertime activity. The wild shrubs can be found in densely wooded forests, on exposed rocky cliffs, and even in the peat soil of raised bogs. They produce one crop of berries per year, typically ripening in August or September. Cultivated lingonberry shrubs, on the other hand, often produce two crops per year; the first ripens sometime around August and the second during late fall.

In their raw state, lingonberries taste quite tart, similar to a cranberry. As such, they are often turned into jam. But unlike cranberries, they have a sophisticated bitterness that plays against the sweetness of all the sugar that goes into jam. Lingonberry jam teeters on the brink of savory--it tastes equally at home on a piece of buttered toast as it does on a thick slice of roasted meat.

Look for lingonberry jam in the preserves aisle of your nearest grocery or specialty foods store. The Swedish brand Felix makes a delicious rendition with lots of whole berries in it. Alternatively, you could head to IKEA, where you're sure to find a jar.

Gingerbread Linzer Cookies
Makes about 25 cookies

This recipe is a combination of two of my favorite holiday treats: gingerbread men and Linzer cookies. The Linzer part of the recipe is based on Dorie Greenspan's buttery, nutty cookie dough. The warm spices of gingerbread give these cookies an unexpected, darker sweetness.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1½ cups finely ground nuts (such as hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds, or a combination of these)
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
½ cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of ground nutmeg
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg
2 tablespoons molasses
Lingonberry jam, for spreading
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy and light, 3 - 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together the nuts, all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, cinnamon, ginger, cadmamom, cloves, nutmeg, and salt.

Add the egg and molasses to the butter-and-sugar mixture, and beat well to combine. Quickly stir in the flour mixture. Wrap the dough in plastic and place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to ¼ inch thick. Cut into scallop-edged circles, punching out a small hole in the center of half of them. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets and bake for about 10 minutes, just until the edges are a little darker.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

Spread the jam on the cookies that do not have holes. Place the other cookies on top so that the jam peeks out from the holes, then dust generously with confectioners' sugar.

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