Poppy Seed Window Cookies are a buttery delight with the zing of blood orange marmalade. Some people think that Christmas marks the beginning of an end to cookie season. But Christmas has always been a non-event for me. I am happily and proudly Jewish and have never felt a longing for a Christmas tree or waited for Santa to come down the chimney. So I think any season is cookie season!
This type of cookie has many different names. Sometimes called “lunette” cookies by the French because they resemble eyeglasses or Occhio di Bue Biscotti in Italian which means bulls’ eye. Also similar to a linzer cookie. What they all have in common is a buttery, eggy rich cookie dough with some kind of filling. They are a wonderful cookie to gift because they hold up beautifully. Fillings are only limited by your imagination, but blood orange marmalade, which was used here, is a wonderful foil for the rich dough. I had never seen these made with poppy seed before reading a piece on cookies by Susan Spungen in the New York Times.
After reading comments and making a couple of batches, I have made a few small changes to the directions. Normally, I tend to like things well-done. I always buy the darkest, crustiest bread I can find! But despite the instructions, I found that I liked these best when they were fully baked but not yet golden. I think that it preserved the clean buttery taste and prevents them from drying out too quickly. The only change to the ingredients that I made was to add 3/4 teaspoon of pure almond extract to the dough in addition to the vanilla. Almonds, poppy seed and orange are simply a match made in heaven.
A nice thing about these cookies is that you can make the different parts over a couple of days. The dough, itself will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator if tightly wrapped. And straining the marmalade isn’t difficult, but it is slightly tedious. That can also be done separately.
Chilling the raw cookies before baking is really important. It helps keep the cookies from puffing up and spreading during baking. Since I certainly don’t have room in my fridge or freezer for a half-sheet cookie sheet, I improvised. While it is still unseasonably warm for a Chicago winter, it is cold enough on my terrace to place my cookie trays outside covered in the step before baking. Worked like a charm.
Ovens vary tremendously as will the size and thickness of your cookie. I am giving a suggested size for the cookies as well as a thickness, but you can make these with any set or shape of cookie cutters that you wish.
When making a recipe with multiple parts, I find it easiest to read it through first several times. Then I carefully measure and prep each section so that when I am ready to bake or assemble, I am not suddenly scrambling or forgetting something. Sometimes it means washing one or two extra bowls, but in the long-run it makes things much simpler to accomplish the desired results.
While the blood orange marmalade is a wonderful filling, I did play around with some extra dough that I had. Skipped the window and used Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread) as the filling. Then dipped the cookies in a chocolate glaze flavored with a bit of Cointreau. AMAZING! I do need to work on my glaze a bit for it to be perfectly glossy, and my dipping technique, but it was definitely a winner. So have fun making these. And if blood orange isn’t your jam, raspberry jam would be equally delish.
Purim begins at sundown on March 16. Normally I make my delicious Queen Esther poppy seed cookies along with hamantaschen, but I think this year I might just make these instead.
Yield: About 2 dozen sandwich cookies depending on size
2 ½ cups/320 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 ½ tablespoons poppy seeds, plus more for sprinkling
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
⅔ cup/135 grams granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature (The whites can be saved and used in an omelet or another cookie.)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 tablespoons buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons milk
mixed with 1 teaspoon lemon juice or 2 T kefir)
1 cup blood orange marmalade, with the solids strained out
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
In a medium bowl, sift your flour and baking soda. Add the poppy seeds and salt and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes – until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, vanilla and almond extracts and beat well on medium speed, scraping the bowl down as needed.
With the beater on low speed, add half of the flour mixture and just mix until barely combined. Add all of the buttermilk and the remaining flour. Beat on low speed just until combined. Then turn the speed up to medium and beat until the dough begins to clump, scraping down the sides a couple of times.
Divide the dough into 2 balls that have been flattened into disks. Wrap them in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least one hour or up until 5 days.
At any point before assembling the cookies, you can prepare the marmalade. Place spoonfuls of a good quality blood orange or other marmalade in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Push the clear liquid part through the strainer. The solids are still edible and can be reserved or you can discard them. Cover the strained jam and set it aside until you are ready to use it.
When you are ready to bake the cookies, remove one of the disks from the fridge. It will need to warm up for about 15 minutes before you can roll it out. Flour a sheet of parchment that fits a half-sheet baking pan or a silicone mat. Roll the slightly softened dough out, adding flour as necessary until it is between 1/8 and 1/4 inches thick. If your kitchen is very warm and the dough starts to get sticky, you can always pop it in the fridge for a few minutes. Using a cookie cutter or glass that is about 2 to 2.75 inches in diameter cut out the shapes. Take half of the cut-out dough and using a cutter that is about 1.5 to 1.75 inches, cut out the centers. The cut-outs can be re-rolled along with any excess dough to make more cookies. Keep doing this until you use up the dough. The cookies will not spread much. I was able to easily get 12 cookies on a half sheet pan. When the pan is filled, lightly cover it with a towel and chill for about 15 minutes.
While the cookies are chilling, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. with the rack in the middle. Bake the chilled cookies for 12 to 16 minutes or until they look done but are not yet golden. If the bottom or edges just are starting to get a bit golden, they are done! Remove the pan to a wire rack and after 2 minutes, carefully take the cookies off of the pan and place them directly on the rack to cool completely.
Continue this process until all of the dough is used or do some now and some another day. When the cookie parts are baked and fully cooled, separate your top sections (the ones with the cut-out) onto a single cooling rack or piece of parchment. Generously rain powdered (confectioner’s or icing sugar) down over them through a strainer.
Spread a generous teaspoonful of jam over the bottoms. Carefully lay a top cookie over the jam. If desired, you can sprinkle some poppy seeds over part of the visible jam in the window.