Today I'd like to share a love story with you.
During the darkest days of World War II, a young and beautiful woman from Vienna took refuge in the mountains of Western Austria, and found work in a small radio station. There she met the love of her life, a young and dashing American military officer, who had parachuted into France during D-Day, and made his way to her corner of the world. He was on a secret mission to use the radio station to turn out anti-Nazi, pro-Allied programming. During their time together at the station, the two had a whirlwind courtship, but soon the war was over and his orders took him back to the States. Although there was no U.S. mail service to Austria and they were unable to communicate for almost three years, their love endured. In 1948, they were reunited and were married at her husband’s home in Connecticut. It reads like a screenplay, doesn't it?
During 66 years of marriage, they served in diplomatic roles in Berlin (where their children were born), Athens, Moscow, Rome, Paris… and, yes, Vienna. I can only imagine the adventures they must have had. Someone could write a book, I'm sure…
I met this couple for the first time when they were well into their 80s… charming members of our nation's greatest generation, who clearly still adored each other. I particularly enjoyed chatting with her at receptions, where she could often be found nearest the dessert table, glass of champagne in hand, sampling the offerings and chatting animatedly with the other guests.
This week we said good-bye to this charming, vibrant lady. As the notes to the Viennese Waltz filled the church on Tuesday, my mind wandered all over the place (as it often does) — from her full life, to the heartbroken husband she left behind…and to her love of sweet things. With these thoughts swirling, I came home and made linzer cookies – a tiny gesture to honor her adventures. Somehow, it just seemed like the right thing to do.
My version included walnuts, a touch of nutmeg, and a splash of rum. I also decided cherry jam seemed appropriately Austrian. They were absolutely perfect…
I enjoyed my cookies with a cup of strong coffee (not quite Viennese, but it would have to do), and contemplated a romance that lasted 66 years.
On Valentine's Day weekend, I thought to myself: We should all be so blessed.
Cherry Walnut Linzer Cookies
Serves: About 36 cookies
- ⅔ cup walnuts
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- ¼ cup confectioners sugar
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon rum
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- One 12-ounce jar cherry jam
- In a food processor, process the walnuts and ¼ cup of the brown sugar until the walnuts are finely ground. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, the remaining ¼ cup brown sugar and ¼ cup confectioners sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and the rum. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the walnut mixture, then the flour mixture, mixing until just combined (be sure not to overmix).
- Divide the dough in half, shape into two disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.
- Heat oven to 350° F. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out each piece of dough to a 1/4 inch thickness. Using a 2- to 2 ½-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out the dough and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Using a ¾- to 1-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out the centers from half of the cookies. Reroll and cut the scraps as necessary.
- Bake until the edges of the cookies are golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
- Move all the cookies with the holes to one wire rack, and dust with powdered sugar. Spread 1 teaspoon jam on the remaining cookies and top with the sugared cookies. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.