“The Paying Guests” Linzer Tarts

by Cara Nicoletti on February 14, 2015


Despite what some of my exes say, I have always loved Valentine’s Day. My grandpa sends me a box of Russell Stover chocolates in the mail and everyone talks out-loud about their feelings, which is a good thing to do every day of the year but we sometimes don’t. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a romantic love in your life, you can celebrate any kind of love you want—the love you have for your car for example, which I just saw on My Strange Addiction (don’t watch it). Or you could celebrate the love you have for your friends, which in some ways is even more important than the love you have for your partner.

Right now I’m reading The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. I have a feeling that something spooky is going to happen (don’t tell me!), but at this point, it’s mostly about a budding friendship between two women—Frances and Lilian—in London 1922. The first time Frances and Lilian spend the day together, they pack a picnic and head to the park. What each of the women pack speaks volumes about how different their personalities are.


They found a bench and unpacked their bags. And at once, it became apparent that they had had rather different ideas about what should constitute the picnic. Mrs. Barber had made finger-rolls, pin-wheel sandwiches, miniature jam tarts: the sort of fiddly dainties written about in the women’s magazines that Frances now and then read over her shoulders on the bus. She herself had brought hard-boiled eggs, radishes from the garden, salt in a twist of paper, half a round of seed cake and a bottle of sugarless tea, swaddled in a dish-cloth to keep it hot. But once they had set out the food on a chequered cloth, the meal looked surprisingly complete. ‘A perfect feast,’ they agreed, as they touched their cups together.

It pained me to not make toast with radishes and boiled eggs, but alas, these mini jam tarts seemed more Valentine’s Day appropriate. I hope you’ll make them for someone–anyone (or thing) you love. And if you really, really hate Valentine’s Day, try to remember this: tomorrow all of the good chocolate is 90% off at the pharmacy, so just sit tight.


Linzer Tarts
Makes 24
2/3 cup raw, unsalted almonds
½ cup packed light brown sugar
2 ½ cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting your parchment
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
12 ounces seedless jam of your choice (raspberry is classic, I used cherry because I can’t be tamed)


First, toast your almonds. Set your oven to 350F and lay them out on a baking sheet. Toast them for 8-10 minutes, tossing them occasionally, until they are fragrant. Set them aside to cool.
Once the almonds have cooled, pulse them in a food processor with ¼ cup of the brown sugar, until the almonds are finely ground (some small chunks are good for texture)
Sift or whisk flour, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl and set aside.
In a separate bowl, add egg and vanilla together.
Add butter to the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat until smooth. Add remaining ¼ cup of brown sugar and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy—about 3 minutes.
With the mixer still running, add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture and the almond mixture, mixing until they are just combined (be careful not to overmix).


Split the dough into two even chunks and wrap them in plastic, flattening them into disks. Refrigerate 2-3 hours, or until they are firm.
After 2-3 hours, pre-heat your oven to 350F.
Remove one of the disks from the fridge and place it between two pieces of lightly floured parchment paper.
Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to 1/8” thickness.
Cut cookies using a 2” circle-cutter and punch out a center hole in half of them using a ¾ inch circle cutter. Reroll and cut whatever scraps you have left.
Place cookies on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper, spacing them about 1” apart and bake, rotating the sheet pan halfway through about 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden-brown.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Dust the top cookies (the ones with the holes in them) with confectioners’ sugar. Spread about 1 teaspoon of jam on the bottom cookies, and place the sugared cookies on top.


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Leave a Comment

Nicola Miller of The Millers Tale February 14, 2015 at 11:30 am

That’s some handsome almond cookie dough there!

I have a little pot of lightly set blood orange membrillo that was an accidental bi-product of a pound cake glaze that got a bit, um, intense. So I am going to stamp some rounds out and fill Linzers with it.

Happy Saturday Cara. x


Kristin @ Tasty Joy February 14, 2015 at 11:34 am

These are just lovely. And I really enjoyed the excerpt you posted!


Merril Smith February 14, 2015 at 1:33 pm

I’m reading this book now, and I will have to make these cookies soon! YUM!


Deb February 14, 2015 at 1:33 pm

I’m making these tonight in the blizzard.. I even have almonds and brown sugar which is a miracle since the only items I made sure to add to the pantry for the snow storm were 3 bottles of red wine and potato chips . You know these cookies are my all time favorites- and you made them so beautifully!!!


Seymour Salett February 14, 2015 at 3:31 pm

Cara, your Grandpa must love you very much . I can understand why he does . Maybe you should make some of those delicious Linzer tarts for him when you next see him.
I hope that you’re having a Happy Valentines Day .
Keep up the good work, we need all those great recipes.


Leslie Robertson February 15, 2015 at 10:30 am

I do so love your blog! Thanks for both the book rec and the recipe. I plan to try them both.


kristie {birch and wild} February 22, 2015 at 10:48 am

I have this book on my next to read list, and I have always wanted to make Linzer tarts, so this post was very informative for me!


Eboni February 25, 2015 at 7:15 pm

Cara, yesssss! I don’t know about this book and need something new to read! These frigging things sound amazing. Okay, I know what I’m putting on my birthday wish list…


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