Now seems like a very appropriate time to tell the story of the linzer heart cookie. I feel like I’ve told it a million times, but because it is my favorite cookie, and because it is almost Valentine’s Day, I can’t resist telling it one more time.
A long time ago when I was young(er), I worked at a bakery in Vermont. I would drive a half an hour to work in the middle of the night, and on my way back home in the afternoon, more often than not I would go about a half a mile in the wrong direction to stop at a tiny little gourmet food store where I would purchase the most delicate little treats ever…linzer hearts. The hearts were stored in a large glass cookie jar that sat on a wooden table right next to other glass jars filled with other delights. You would think that after baking cookies, biscotti & making croissants all day I would want nothing to do with anything involving sugar, but I just couldn’t help myself. These cookies spoke to me, perhaps a bit too loudly, and they quickly became my #1 comfort food.
And then, the day came when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to buy these little gems any longer. I was heading to Massachusetts to open this bakery. Bereft at the thought of never crossing paths again with this little cookie, I stopped into the shop one last time.
I took the tongs, and emptied the jar of hearts into two bags. The woman at the counter looked quizzically at me as I stood on my tiptoes, looking over the glass partition and peered over where the pastry chef was busy working. ‘Can I help you?’
In my head: Why yes, you can. Can you please give me this recipe? I really love this cookie & can’t bear to be without it.
In reality: Um, no. Well, yeah, but probably not. Do you happen to have any more linzer hearts?
The woman called over the pastry chef, who wiped her hands on her apron and came over to me with a face half worried, half amused.
In my head: You are a goddess. Please oh please oh please can I have the recipe for this cookie before I move? I promise I’ll take such good care of it and will make it always with extra love…
In reality (now sweating): Hi – I’m moving, and I love these cookies, and I packed up what you had out in the jar but was wondering if you had any others in the kitchen.
The pastry chef looked at me up & down…the clogs dusty with flour, the chef wear pants, a shirt streaked with chocolate, baseball hat. ‘Are you a chef?’
In my head: well, not really but yes, kinda sorta. not the school-trained kind of chef, but the kind that learns by burning your arms (and once my neck) kind of chef. sooooo…yes. no. sort-of.
In reality: I work down the road from here. At a bakery. I make pastries. I’m moving, (did I mention that already?) and I love these cookies, and (now on my knees…literally) I would do anything for this recipe. Would you ever sell it to me? I’m opening a bakery in Massachusetts and I would just be thrilled to be able to make this incredible cookie.
What happened next was truly incredible: she said yes.
I was stunned into silence (rarely happens). I sat open-mouthed (not pretty) as she grabbed a scrap of paper and wrote down the recipe and the instructions. I kept shaking my head in utter disbelief. I finally couldn’t help myself, and my voice returned.
In reality: I cannot believe you are giving me this recipe. I just cannot believe it…Are you sure? Can I pay you for it?
She looked up from writing and simply said – it’s not a problem…I was given this recipe by a guy I used to work with. He was more than happy to share it with me, and I am more than happy to share it with you. My friend would love the fact that you are so dedicated to his linzer heart.
And that was that. No profound hugs, no exchange of addresses, nothing like that. I paid for the cookies & left the store for the last time, one hand holding the cookies, the other clutching the recipe.
Nothing has changed with the recipe except for the size of the heart cookie cutter: At Nashoba, I used a larger heart. When I started babycakes, I made the cookies smaller & a bit more dainty. Besides that one minor adjustment, everything is done according to the directions on that scrap piece of paper.
The linzer hearts are one of our top selling cookies, rivaling the lemon shortbread & the chocolate chunks. They are our most time consuming cookie to make. Almost everyone at the bakery has been known to groan when linzer heart production is scheduled…everyone, except for me. I still am drawn into the process of making these little hearts, and am more than happy to spend a day cutting out hearts, piping the almond border, and then piping the raspberry jam. To me, that is heaven.