Inspiration Strikes...

Continuing in today's theme of cookies inspired by Christmas gifts this year, the final selection for the 2009 Cookie Bonanza was an experiment that I devised to utilize an adorable set of mini-cookie cutters that I received from Mom this year. I did not want to fuss with 1-inch cookies, but I did think they would make cute cut-outs for windows on Linzer-style cookies, a traditional holiday sandwich cookie consisting of almond-flecked shortbread cookies sandwiching a jam filling, with a hole in the top cookie to allow the filling to peek through. Since I don't care for jam or almonds, I had always avoided these cookies, but I was attracted to their appearance. Drawing further inspiration from Latin-American alfajores, a sandwich cookie with dulce de leche filling, I decided to engage in a little culinary fusion of my own and make a linzer-style cookie with cashews instead of almonds, and dulce de leche instead of jam.

The cookies were somewhat of a pain to assemble -- the mini-cookie cutters were cute indeed, but the holes they punched in the already crumbly dough caused many to break before I could get them on the cookie sheet. I remedied the problem by cutting the holes once the cookies were already on the sheet, but all the rolling and cutting was a hassle nevertheless. Dad was staying the night at the condo as I filled these this evening, and he commented on my very "methodical" (i.e. slow) process for sandwiching the filling for the final product. All things considered, these are most definitely special occasion cookies, and I'll be saving them for the holidays.

Which is to say that they were certainly tasty enough to make again. I had kept these a secret from everyone I discussed my cookie project with, because I was just going to pitch them if they didn't work out as I had hoped, but they were such a resounding success that I'm prepared to share my creation with the world. Just goes to show, you shouldn't be afraid to experiment with recipes, within reason.

Cashew Caramel Linzer-style Cookies
loosely adapted from The Field Guide to Cookies

1 1/4 c. lightly salted cashews
2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 c. dulce de leche, for filling

1. Using food processor, finely grind cashews with flour.
2. Combine the cashew mixture with cinnamon and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.
3. In stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Add egg and mix until combined. Add cashew mixture and beat on low speed until dough forms a ball.
5. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a 1-inch flat disk. Wrap, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
6. Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment.
7. Roll out dough to approximately 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out shapes with a 2 or 2 1/2 inch fluted round cutter. Use a small cutter to make cutouts in half of the cookies, so that when you make sandwiches, the filling will show through. Place cookies on a sheet one inch apart.
8. Chill sheets for 15 minutes before baking.
9. Bake cookies 12-14 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant. Cool cookies completely on wire racks.
10. When cookies are completely cool, spread a small amount of dulce de leche on the solid cookies, and top with cutout cookies. Let sit a couple hours to firm up before moving.

Once filled, cookies will only last approximately 24 hours before becoming soggy.

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