A Soft Spot for Pastry: Raspberry Linzer Bars

A couple of months ago when Tom and I were in New York City, we made a wonderful find while wandering on 1st Avenue: the Dual Specialty Store. We went in the shop on a whim and came away with a sizable haul of spices and ethnic foods, all at very reasonable prices. I was particularly excited to get some blanched hazelnuts, given how much I detest the messy and time-consuming chore of removing hazelnut skins.

With blanched hazelnuts in hand, I turned a recipe that's been on my to-bake list for a while: John Barricelli's "Raspberry Linzer Bars" from The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook. These bars have a base and top crust of hazelnut pastry, sandwiched around a layer raspberry preserves.

You need to make the Linzer pastry a few hours in advance so that it can be sufficiently chilled before making the bars. You cream ground hazelnuts, room temperature butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy, add in eggs and vanilla, and then incorporate the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg) until absorbed. You divide the dough into two parts and chill them until firm. (Oddly enough, the recipe headnote mentions that at SoNo Baking Company, they save the sliced tops from chocolate cakes and incorporate them into the Linzer dough to add flavor and color. Who knew?)

Even though I chilled my dough for longer than the two hours specified in the recipe, it was still very sticky and difficult to handle. You are supposed to roll out one of the portions of dough between two pieces of parchment and then fit it into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch by 13-inch pan. But I had so much difficulty trying to transfer the dough that I simply rolled it out directly on a piece of parchment that I had cut and folded to fit, and I transferred the dough and paper together into the pan.

I spread raspberry preserves into the bottom crust and then set about rolling and cutting lattice strips to lay across the top. Again, the stickiness of the dough presented some difficulty. I ended up rolling the dough between two sheets of parchment and putting the rolled dough in the freezer for a few minutes before cutting it with a pastry wheel and arranging the strips on top of the jam. Finally, I brushed the pastry with beaten egg white and sprinkled on some coarse sugar before baking.

I was surprised at how much the dough expanded during baking. I had laid out the top strips of pastry with quite a bit of open space between them, but the dough spread to leave relatively little exposed jam. Also, I had crudely pinched together the ends of the lattice strips with the crust on the side of the bars, but the top and sides grew together into a pristine seamless whole.

The smooth flavor of the hazelnuts with the raspberry was quite delicious, but I was not happy with the texture of these bars. While the top crust was perfect, the bottom crust was soft. Not undercooked, but still soggy enough to make handling them a bit difficult. I tried putting the bars in the fridge to see if chilling would firm up the bottom, but it only helped a little. I think the bottom layer of a bar like this should be sturdy and firm, like pie crust. Despite the fact that these bars had great flavor, the soft crust and the hassle of struggling with the sticky Linzer dough are enough to dissuade me from ever making these again.

Recipe: "Raspberry Linzer Bars" from The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook, by John Barricelli.


Louise said…
I think the bottom crust should be prebaked before the raspberry and topping are added. I also think the topping could be crumbled, like streusel, over the raspberry. Do you have a pastry roller? Mine's about 4" wide and very handy for making uniform crusts of crumbly dough directly in the pan.