15 minutes, not including prep time
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10.125 ounces)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup (5 ounces) almonds and/or hazelnuts
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3.5 ounces)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated orange zest or 1/4 teaspoon orange extract
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Strained or pureed fruit preserves or fruit spread of good quality
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Combine the flour, nuts, granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon, and cloves in a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground.
Add the butter (cut into several pieces if firm). Pulse until the mixture looks damp and crumbly.
Add the almond extract and the lemon and orange zests or extracts and pulse until the mixture begins to clump up around the blade.
Remove the dough, press it into a ball, and knead it a few times to be sure all of the dry ingredients are blended into the dough.
Form the dough into 2 flat patties. Wrap and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours; preferably overnight or but no longer than 3 days. Frozen dough, however, will keep for up to 3 months.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
Remove 1 patty from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature until supple enough to roll but still quite firm. It will continue to soften as you work.
Roll the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch between sheets of wax paper or between heavy plastic sheets cut from a plastic bag.
Turn the dough over once or twice while you are rolling it out to check for deep wrinkles; if necessary, peel off and smooth the paper or plastic over the dough before continuing to roll it.
When the dough is thin enough, peel off the top sheet of paper or plastic and keep it in front of you. Invert the dough onto that sheet and peel off the second sheet.
Cut as many large shapes as possible. Dip the edges of the cookie cutters in flour as necessary to prevent sticking.
Cut a smaller shape from the center of half of the large shapes.
Use the point of a paring knife to lift and remove scraps as you transfer the cookies to the lined or ungreased pans. Place large cookies at least 1 1/2 inches apart on the cookie sheets.
If the dough gets too soft at any time—while rolling, cutting, removing scraps between cookies, or transferring cookies—slide a cookie sheet underneath the paper or plastic and refrigerate the dough for a few minutes, until firm.
Repeat with the second piece of dough. Gently press all of the dough scraps together -- don’t overwork them with too much kneading -- and re-roll.
Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies are just beginning to colour at the edges.
Rotate the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.
The small shapes may be baked for 8 to 10 minutes on a separate cookie sheet to make miniature cookies, or the dough may be combined with other dough scraps to be rerolled and cut.
Let the cookies firm up on the pan for 1 to 2 minutes. For lined pans, set the pans or just the liners on racks to cool; for unlined pans, use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to racks.
Cool the cookies completely before stacking or storing. The cookies are delicious fresh but even better the next day. May be kept in an airtight container for a month or more.
To assemble, shortly before serving, spread each solid cookie with a thin layer of preserves. Sift powdered sugar over the cookies with cutouts. Place a sugared cutout cookie on top of each preserve-covered cookie.
Assembled leftover cookies can likewise be stored in an airtight container, but remember that the moisture from the preserves will soften them.