Amazing Empire biscuits, aka German biscuits or Imperial cookies, filled with raspberry jam, iced and topped with cherries.
What are Empire biscuits?
Very popular shortbread biscuits sandwiched together with raspberry jam, iced with powdered sugar icing, and topped with a glace or candied cherry. They are so good, you won't be able to stop eating them. At least my son can't... I have to stop him myself every time, especially since these cookies are also a bit larger than the average ones.
They owe their origins in the city of Linz in Austria, that is why they are also called Linzer cookies sometimes. But unlike the original dough which also contains ground almonds, these biscuits are only made with flour. For a more likely Linzer recipe, have a look at these Spitzbuben.
These Empire biscuits have many names, the list of names is actually longer than the ingredient list. You can call them German biscuits, Imperial cookies, Scottish cookies, Empire cookies, Deutsch biscuits, double biscuits, Belgian biscuits, double shortbread, biscuit bun, Freedom or Linzer biscuits.
Why the many names?
Apparently, it has something to do with World War I. They were originally known under the name of German biscuits, but, understandably, this name became unpopular during the war.
So, they became known under the more patriotic name of Empire biscuits in England and Scotland, Belgian biscuits or biscuit buns in New Zealand, but continued to be called German biscuits in Northern Ireland.
What do you need for German biscuits?
- Cookie ingredients: flour, sugar, salt, unsalted butter, and egg.
- Jam: these double cookies are traditionally sandwiched together with raspberry jam. I recommend using that for a genuine flavor, but if you don't have it, any jam will taste great.
- Icing ingredients: icing sugar and a little lemon juice or water. I prefer the added freshness of lemon juice.
- Topping: glace, maraschino or candied cherries are all fine. Glace cherries are easy to buy just about anywhere and have a light red color. Candied cherries are darker and they are what I always use for this recipe. The main reason for it is that I make lots of little jars of candied cherries every summer.
How to make the shortbread dough?
- Make sure that the butter has room temperature.
- Place flour, sugar, a pinch of salt, cubed butter, and egg in a bowl and mix well with a mixer for 1-2 minutes. That's it! (1)
- Form a disc, wrap in cling film/plastic foil and refrigerate for at least half an hour. (2)
How to cut and bake?
- Divide the dough into two parts.
- Lightly flour the working surface and the rolling pin.
- Roll half of the dough about 5 mm/0.2 inches thick.
- Cut rounds using a cutter or a glass of appropriate size, about 6 cm/ 2.4 inches. (1)
- Place on baking trays lined with baking paper and bake in the preheated oven for about 7-8 or until only very lightly golden.
- Let rest on the trays for about 5 minutes, transfer carefully to wire racks to cool completely.
- While the first batch is baking, roll and form the second batch and so on.
- Knead the leftover dough, roll again and cut as many cookies as possible. I had 24, so 12 Empire biscuits in the end. (2)
How to assemble the biscuits?
- Place half of them on the working surface, bottom-side facing up.
- Stir the jam well.
- Top each biscuit with one teaspoon raspberry jam. (1)
- Make the icing by stirring together the icing sugar with a little lemon juice or water. You should have a rather thick paste that will not run down the sides of the cookies. Add a little more sugar or lemon juice to achieve the desired consistency.
- Ice the second half of the cookies. (2)
- Press the iced pieces on top of those with jam.
- If you use candied cherries in syrup, drain a little so that they are not dripping with syrup. Halve them if they are very large.
- Place one cherry (or one cherry half) on top of each Empire biscuit. (3)
- Allow to set.
- Use a digital kitchen scale to measure the ingredients, cup measuring is very inaccurate. (Amazon affiliate link)
- Make sure that the butter is unsalted and very cold.
- Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes.
- You can make the dough in advance and refrigerate it for longer, overnight, or for a couple of days.
- Make sure you cut an equal amount of cookies so that you can form the double biscuits.
- Once they are baked, leave them on the baking tray for 5-10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack. They need that time to set slightly, otherwise, they will break when you try to move them.
- Let cool completely before icing and filling with jam.
How to store?
Keep in airtight containers, preferably in a single layer. If not, place a small piece of parchment paper between the layers so that the cherries don't stick to the other biscuits.
They will keep for about a week. But you will probably eat them faster than that.
The unbaked dough can be made up to 2-3 days in advance. Keep refrigerated. The unbaked dough can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
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Empire Biscuits Recipe
- Shortbread dough:
- 250 g all-purpose flour 8.8 oz/ 2 cups
- 125 g granulated sugar 4.4 oz/ ⅔ cup
- 150 g unsalted butter 5.3 oz/ ⅔ cup, room temperature
- 1 egg
- pinch of salt
- Filling and topping:
- 12 teaspoons raspberry jam
- 150 g icing sugar 5.3 oz/ 1 ½ cups
- about 2 tablespoons lemon juice or water
- 6 or 12 candied cherries depending on size (Note 2)
- Dough: Place flour, sugar, a pinch of salt, soft cubed butter, and egg in a bowl and mix well for 1-2 minutes. Form a disc, wrap in cling film/plastic foil and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius/ 400 degrees Fahrenheit (180 C/ 350 F fan oven).
- Cut cookies: Divide the dough into two parts. Roll one half on a lightly floured surface about ½ cm/0.2 inch thick. Cut the cookies with a round cutter (or a glass) of about 6 cm/ 2.4 inches diameter. Place on the prepared baking trays.
- Bake for about 7-8 minutes until very lightly golden. Let rest on the trays for 5 minutes, transfer carefully to wire racks to cool completely.
- Repeat: While the first batch of cookies is baking, roll and form the second batch, and so on. Knead the leftover dough shortly, roll again, and cut as many cookies as possible; an even number of cookies would be best.
- Fill: Place half of the cookies, bottom-side up, on the working surface. Spread 1 teaspoon jam on each of them.
- Ice biscuits: Mix the icing sugar with enough lemon juice to form a thick paste that will not run down the cookies' sides. Spread some icing on each of the remaining biscuits (those without jam).
- Assemble: Press the iced cookies on top of those with jam.
- Decorate: Drain the cherries if they have a lot of syrup on them. Cut in half if they are large. Decorate each biscuit with a cherry or halved cherry.
- Allow the icing to set before serving.
- Tip: Use a digital kitchen scale to measure the ingredients when baking, it guarantees for best results.
- Large cherries should be halved. Glace or maraschino cherries can be used instead.
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