These crisp and buttery Linzer cookies are flavored with pumpkin spice and filled with homemade dulce de leche. They are easy to make and the sweet, warm and comforting flavors make them the perfect fall or holiday season treat.
What is dulce de leche?
Dulce de leche (which translates to “candy made from milk”) is a thick, sweet, caramel-like sauce that originated in Latin America and was apparently invented as a way to preserve milk.
In its simplest form, dulce de leche consists of just milk and sugar, cooked until all the water in the milk has evaporated and the sugar has caramelized.
How to make the filling:
Dulce de leche can be made in several different ways and for the recipe here I opted to bake the contents of a can of sweetened condensed milk in the oven until they turned light brown.
The process takes about an hour and a half and is very simple and almost entirely hands-off: You simply pour the sweetened condensed milk into a deep dish pie pan, then cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, set it in a water bath and bake in a 425-degree oven.
The resulting thick sauce looks like a light caramel but has a much more complex flavor and a sweetness that’s much less harsh than that of caramel.
How to make the cookies:
These dulce de leche cookies are made with a simple shortbread cookie dough that is flavored with pumpkin spice.
Step 1. In a bowl, whisk together:
- 1 1/2 cups and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
- a pinch of salt
Step 2. Add 12 tablespoons unsalted, softened butter and 1/2 cup granulated sugar to a mixing bowl.
Step 3. Whip the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Step 4. Whip in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, then whip in the dry ingredients. Keep whipping until the dough starts to become clumpy.
Step 5. Transfer the dough into a large bowl.
Step 6. Bring the dough together by hand and form into a ball.
Step 7. Cut the dough ball into two halves.
Step 8. Form each half into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
RECIPE NOTE: You can make the dough up to a week ahead and keep it in the fridge. When you’re ready to use it, let it warm up on the kitchen counter until it’s pliable enough to be rolled out (30 to 40 minutes).
Step 9. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F., take both disks out of the fridge and roll each of them out between two sheets of plastic wrap. (Using plastic wrap allows you to roll out the dough without having to add any additional flour, which would make the dough brittle).
Step 10. Remove the plastic wrap and transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Cut out the cookies.
Step 11. Transfer the cookies onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets and bake until they are starting to brown (12 to 15 minutes).
Step 12. Let the cookies cool completely.
Step 13. Sift powdered sugar onto the top cookies, spread dulce de leche onto the bottom cookies (about 1 teaspoon for each), then top them with the top cookies.
How to use a Linzer cookie cutter:
Linzer cookie cutters usually come as a set with one round cookie cutter and several different center cut-outs that can be attached to it. The set I use has five attachments: a circle a star, a diamond, a flower and a heart.
To make Linzer cookies, first cut out the base cookies without any of the attachments.
Then use any of the center cut-outs to make the top cookies. Set the attachment into the cookie cutter…
…and then turn it so that its metal edges slide under the hooks of the cutter.
Now the attachment is secured and you can cut out the remaining cookies.
How to store/freeze the cookies:
You can let the finished (dusted and filled) cookies sit out for several hours. If you want to store them longer, transfer the cookies into a freezer bag and freeze them. To thaw, let them sit out on the kitchen counter for about 15 minutes.
What to do with leftover dulce de leche:
You will likely have a little bit of dulce de leche leftover. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge and stir it into espresso drinks, drizzle it over ice cream or on cheesecake or indeed eat it with a spoon.
More delicious fall cookies:
- Crispy Vanilla Bean Shortbread Cookies
- Linzer Cookies with Ginger Cardamom Raspberry Jam
- Pumpkin Spice Hazelnut Cookies
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Spiced Linzer Cookies with Dulce de Leche
For the dulce de leche (makes 1 scant cup):
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)
For the cookies:
- 1 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- powdered sugar
For the dulce de leche:
- Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a 9-inch ceramic pie plate.
- Cover tightly with aluminum foil and set into a roasting pan.
- Bring a kettle of water to boil and pour the water into the roasting pan so that it comes halfway up the pie plate.
- Bake until the milk has turned brown, 1 1/2 to 2 hours (check the water level after about 45 minutes and refill the hot water if necessary).
- Let cool, then strain into a glass bowl.
- While the dulce de leche is in the oven, make the cookies.
For the cookies:
- Whisk flour, salt and spice together in a bowl. Set aside.
- Whip butter and sugar until well combined and creamy.
- Whip in the vanilla extract.
- Whip in the dry ingredients, keep whipping until the dough starts to come together.
- Bring the dough together into a ball by hand, cut the ball in half and form each half into a disk.
- Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Take the disks out of the fridge, roll them out between two sheets of plastic wrap, then cut out the cookies.
- Bake the cookies on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper until they are lightly browned (12 – 15 minutes).
- Let the cookies cool completely.
- Sift powdered sugar onto the top cookies.
- Spoon a dollop of dulce de leche onto the bottom cookies (about 1 teaspoon per cookie) and top with a cut-out center cookie.