Planes, Trains, and Cookies

Andy and I have spent the last week touring in Poland and the Czech Republic with 20 high school students from our school. What? No, it wasn't at all like circling Dante's 7th ring of Hell...they were great kids, really great kids.

I hope that I don't change my mind on how amazing these young men and women are once all the Facebook postings get out.

The occasion of our trip was Interim Semester. The students at our high school leave for about a week every February on approximately 60 different trips all around the world. Some trips are for sightseeing, some are service trips, and some are adventure trips such as hiking, racing, biking. Our trip took in the charm of Krakow and the undeniable beauty of Prague.

Krakow is a city steeped in legend and history. It boasts the largest town square in Europe, a University founded in the 1300's, and a people who have thrown off the mantle of occupation and communism and have forged a new identity for themselves in Central Europe. On our last day in Poland we took a short bus ride out to Oswiecim to the sight of the infamous Nazi Death Camps Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II, Birkenau. An estimated 1.5 million people were murdered and thousands more suffered here during WWII. Words and pictures fail to capture what is to be found there. In essence I was struck by two things. The darkness of man's heart and the determination of man's will to survive.

We then took an overnight train and arrived in Prague in the early morning hours. Prague is indeed as beautiful as everyone says. It has a "pinch me" quality about it, and at times it's beauty seems manufactured, almost as though it was built as a movie set or theme park. The Velvet Revolution of 1989, has brought about rapid transition from communism to capitalism in the Czech Republic. Some of the highlights of our tour? Petrin Hill and St. Vitus Cathedral, the sheer enormity of the cathedral makes it nearly impossible to photograph. The Jewish Quarter, especially the Pinkas Synagogue should be high on your list of must sees. This synagogue is a memorial to the Jews who died during WWII, on the walls are the handwritten names of those who perished at the hand of the Nazi's. An art gallery occupies the top floor showcasing "art in extreme conditions". It consists of childrens drawings found from the work camp in Terezin. The Old Town Square, and of course the Charles Bridge are also not to be missed.

Then of course, there are the doors. I know, doors? Really? Really. There are fabulous doors to be found in both cities. I snapped quite a few photos before the kids on our trip started mocking me. I don't know what it is about them, I suppose they hold the same intrigue for me as Monday mornings do. I love Monday mornings, they are my favorite. You never know what the week ahead will hold, it could be the best week of your life. And I guess the doors are my architectural equivalent. What is behind those doors, maybe the best treasure, or secret to be found ....

But mostly during our trip I longed to spend time with an old friend who had relocated with her sweet husband and gorgeous baby to Prague. We spent a few stolen moments together while sightseeing, and at dinner. Not nearly enough time, enough to fill my heart, but not enough to take away the ache that her moving has left. I loved getting her take on life in Prague, the triumphs (making friends, and tackling motherhood) and the things that make one cry (apparently cashiers at the grocery store on high on the list). And she did mention that she has a new love in her life. Linzer cookies. We saw them everywhere, they must be the national cookie of the Czech Republic. I liken them to the Pink Cookie that is the staple of every coffee shop in the Pacific Northwest. So Becky, these cookies are for you, until we meet again!

I'm now off to check Facebook to see what the kids on my trip were really up to.....

Linzer Cookies
From Epicurious

3 oz ground almonds
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 12-oz jar seedless raspberry jam
Icing sugar
Special equipment: a 2- to 2 1/4-inch fluted round cookie cutter or heart shaped cookie cutter and smaller ½ inch to 1 inch cookies cutters to cut out center of cookies.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl.
Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a stand mixer (preferably fitted with paddle) or 6 minutes with a handheld. Add nut mixture and beat until combined well, about 1 minute. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined.
With floured hands, form dough into 4 balls and flatten each into a disk. Chill disks, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 2 hours.
Roll out 1 disk of dough 1/8 inch thick between 2 sheets of wax paper (keep remaining dough chilled). If dough becomes too soft to roll out, rewrap in plastic and chill until firm. Cut out as many cookies as possible from dough with larger cookie cutter and transfer to parchment lined baking sheets, arranging about 1 inch apart. Using smaller cutters, cut out centers from half of the cookies, reserving centers and rerolling along with scraps (reroll only once). Bake cookies, 10 to 15 minutes total, then transfer with a metal spatula to racks to cool completely. Make more cookies from remaining disks.
Spread about 1 teaspoon jam on flat side of 1 solid cookie and sandwich jam with flat side of 1 windowed cookie. Sandwich remaining cookies in same manner. Dust with icing sugar.
Cooks' note: Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, chilled in an airtight container 2 weeks.


  1. I'm rewriting my comment because it didn't come through. I'm hoping it's not posted twice, again. Anyway, I loved this piece. A lot of longing came through in a few ways. It stayed with me all day.

  2. I wish I'd known this recipe before my failed Martha attempt ( I will try your recipe, think on the beloved D's, and tour all the places you know far better than I do (in my own hometown). So grateful for a few delicious moments with you. Planning for lakehouse time...