These caramel hazelnut linzer cookies are sandwich cookie-style with pulsed hazelnuts in the dough and a homemade caramel filling. Take your time with this dough and make sure the caramel has thickened enough to make a sturdy filling. By following this recipe closely, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful crowd pleasing dessert that will delight any lucky taste-tester.
This recipe is part of my annual Christmas cookie countdown called Sally’s Cookie Palooza. Every year since 2013, I work on a handful of new Christmas cookie recipes and publish the 10 best ones for readers to enjoy! You can browse dozens of recipes on the Sally’s Cookie Palooza page.
Tell Me About These Caramel Hazelnut Linzer Cookies
- Flavor: Enjoy nutty cinnamon-spiced cookies with sweet and slightly salty caramel. The cookies themselves aren’t overly sugary, so there’s plenty of room for a spoonful of caramel. Interestingly, a few taste testers noted the flavor of butterscotch. With brown sugar, butter, vanilla, and caramel, it’s easy to understand why!
- Texture: Right out of the oven, these hazelnut cookies are soft with slightly crisp edges. After sandwiching with caramel, they soften even more. The magic happens on day 2 when the caramel settles into the cookies making the whole sandwich tender and deliciously crumbly. Without question– and this isn’t the case with most desserts– these cookies taste BEST when made ahead of time.
- Ease: This is an intermediate baking recipe because there are several steps and precise shaping involved. I recommend trying these caramel hazelnut linzer cookies if you’re looking for a fun baking project or an elevated addition to your lineup of Christmas cookies that goes beyond the traditional sugar cookie.
- Time: Like most shaped/cookie cutter recipes, this buttery cookie dough requires refrigeration. The dough is soft and sticky after it comes together, so divide it in half, wrap up tightly, and chill for at least 3 hours before you break out the rolling pin. If you want to save time, consider whipping up a batch of dough up to 4 days in advance or freezing the dough for up to 3 months.
4 Success Tips for These Linzer-Style Cookies
- Use a Food Processor: Use a food processor or blender to pulse the nuts with some of the brown sugar. For a nut-free version that skips the food processor, you may want to use my sugar cookies dough. Feel free to add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, the same amount you use in today’s dough.
- Replace Hazelnuts with Another Nut: Depending on your region and/or the time of year, hazelnuts can be difficult to find. You can replace with the same amount of almonds, pistachios, walnuts or pecans. I’ve tested this exact dough with each. You can use raw or dry-roasted and since you’re breaking them down in the food processor, it doesn’t matter if you start with whole or chopped nuts. Feel free to use salted or unsalted, depending if you want a slightly salty/sweet flavor. (I usually use unsalted in this recipe.)
- Handle the Dough with Care: Pulsed hazelnuts replace some of the flour in this recipe, so the dough is a little more fragile than regular sugar cookie dough. After chilling, the dough may be quite hard as a result of the butter solidifying, so let it soften before attempting to roll it out. Roll it out slowly, flouring and turning the dough as necessary to prevent sticking. After cutting the dough into shapes, pick them up slowly and carefully so they don’t tear.
- Make Sure the Caramel Has Thickened: The caramel filling is this homemade salted caramel recipe with half of the salt to make a sweeter caramel. Sandwiching the cookies with caramel is only possible if the caramel has thickened. After you cook it on the stove, let it cool completely. As the caramel cools, it thickens. I recommend making the caramel as the cookie dough chills so it’s ready by the time the cookies are done.
In Pictures: How to Make Caramel Hazelnut Linzer Cookies
- 1st bowl (your food processor) = ground hazelnuts & brown sugar
- 2nd bowl = dry ingredients including flour, baking powder, cinnamon, & salt
- 3rd bowl = wet ingredients including creamed butter and brown sugar, plus vanilla & egg
After the dough comes together, divide it in half so you have smaller portions of dough for the rolling-out step. (Tip: It’s easier to work with smaller portions.) Flatten into discs, wrap tightly, and chill in the refrigerator.
Once the dough has chilled and solidified, it’s time to roll it out and cut into shapes.
Cookie Cutters to Use
Today’s hazelnut cookies can be cut into any shape, such as a circle or scallop-edge square as pictured. I love seeing the caramel center peeking out the top of the cookie sandwich and if you do too, make sure you have a smaller cookie cutter to cut a hole in the top cookies. Use a 2 or 2.5 inch cutter for the cookies and a smaller 1-inch cutter for the hole. This circle set has those sizes. For the pictured cookies, I use the 2.5-inch fluted square from this set and the small star from this set. You could also manually cut a circle or other shape in the top cookies using a sharp knife– or just skip the top cookie having a hole.
All the cookies will be cut with the larger cookie cutter, but only HALF will be cut again with a hole in the center cookie.
Bake the cookies until lightly browned around the edges. The bake time is usually about 10-13 minutes, but that depends on the size of your cookies. Once cooled, dust the top cookies with confectioners’ sugar and sandwich with thickened caramel. The confectioners’ sugar is completely optional, but it does add a lovely finishing touch.
Right off the stove, your caramel filling is thin and liquid. As it cools, it thickens into the consistency you see pictured above. The salted caramel is a recipe that’s been on my website for years. In the printable cookie recipe below, you’ll see that I reduce the salt down to 1/2 teaspoon to make a sweeter caramel. Salty or sweet, the caramel is extremely versatile and you can make it again for apple pie bars, banana cupcakes, and butterscotch pudding. (By the way, here are 50+ ways to enjoy the salted caramel!)
- Instead of caramel, try dulce de leche, Nutella, or your favorite flavor jam.
What a cookie!!
Sally’s Cookie Palooza
This recipe is part of my annual Christmas cookie countdown called Sally’s Cookie Palooza. Every year since 2013, I publish 10 new cookie recipes in a row. It’s the biggest, most delicious event of the year! Browse dozens of Christmas cookie recipes over on the Sally’s Cookie Palooza page including:
- Maple Pecan Snickerdoodles
- Vanilla Bean Biscotti
- Soft Molasses Cookies
- Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
- Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies
- Spiced Eggnog Oatmeal Cream Pies
And here are 75+ Christmas cookies with all my best success guides & tips.
These caramel hazelnut linzer cookies are blissfully buttery with brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, hazelnut and caramel flavors. Take your time with these cookies, especially when handling the dough and making the caramel. To save time, make the caramel as the cookie dough chills.
- 2/3 cup (65g) hazelnuts (raw, roasted, chopped, or whole)*
- 2/3 cup (135g) packed light or dark brown sugar, divided
- 2 and 1/2 cups (313g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled), plus more for rolling
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks; 240g) unsalted butter, soften to room temperature
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- optional for dusting: 2 Tablespoons (16g) confectioners’ sugar
Caramel & Topping
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar (make sure it’s labeled “pure cane”)*
- 6 Tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, room temperature cut up into 6 pieces
- 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Make the cookies: Place the hazelnuts and 1/3 cup (67g) brown sugar in a food processor. Pulse into a very fine crumb. Set aside.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and remaining 1/3 cup (67g) brown sugar together on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine. Mixture may look separated or curdled– that’s ok.
- Add the flour mixture and ground hazelnut mixture to the wet ingredients and beat on low speed until combined. The dough will be crumbly at first and appear too dry, but it will finally come together after a couple minutes of beating. Yields about 2 lbs of dough.
- Divide the dough into 2 equal portions, flatten into 1-inch thick discs, and wrap each in parchment paper or plastic wrap. Chill the discs in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours and up to 4 days. If chilling for longer than 3 hours, allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before rolling because the dough will be too hard and crumble. (Time-saving tip: As the cookie dough chills, you can make the caramel filling in step 11. The caramel must cool and thicken before sandwiching.)
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.
- Remove 1 disc of chilled cookie dough from the refrigerator. Generously flour a work surface, as well as your hands and the rolling pin. The dough may become sticky as you work, so keep extra flour nearby to use as needed. Alternatively, the dough may crack when rolling out. Wait a few minutes for it to soften back up. The more you work with it, the softer it will become. Roll out the disc until 1/4 inch thick. Using a 2 or 2.5-inch cookie cutter, cut dough into shapes. Always be gentle with this fragile dough and work slowly. Reroll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used. Repeat with the second disc of dough. You should have about 50-64 cookies, depending on size.
- Optional hole in the top cookies: Using a 1-inch cookie cutter, cut a hole into the center of half of the cookies. Let’s call these cookies the “donut cookies” because of that center hole. These will be fragile, so handle with care.
- Arrange the whole cookies and the donut cookies 2 inches apart and on separate baking sheets (because the donut cookies may take less time to bake).
- Bake the whole cookies for about 11-13 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges, and bake the donut cookies for about 10-12 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets halfway through the bake time. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Dust the “donut cookies” with confectioners’ sugar, and then transfer all of the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before assembling.
- Make + Cool the Caramel: Heat granulated sugar in a medium heavy-duty saucepan (avoid using non-stick) over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high heat resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Once sugar is completely melted, immediately stir in the butter until melted and combined. Be careful in this step because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added. If you notice the butter separating or if the sugar clumps up, remove from heat and vigorously whisk to combine it again. (If you’re nervous for splatter, wear kitchen gloves. Keep whisking until it comes back together, even if it takes 3-4 minutes. It will eventually– just keep whisking. Return to heat when it’s combined again.) After the butter has melted and combined with the caramelized sugar, cook for 1 minute without stirring. Slowly stir in 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Since the heavy cream is colder than the hot caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble when added. After all the heavy cream has been added, stop stirring and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the salt. Cool caramel for at least 3 hours at room temperature. Caramel thickens as it cools.
- Spoon 2 heaping teaspoons of caramel onto bottom of whole cookies. Carefully top each with a donut cookie and gently press down to create a cookie sandwich.
- Cookies will stay fresh covered at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: You can chill the cookie dough in the refrigerator for up to 4 days (see step 5), but you can also freeze it for up to 3 months. If you freeze it, allow the dough to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature before rolling out in step 7. Cookie sandwiches freeze well for up to 3 months; thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving. For the caramel: You can make the caramel in advance. Make sure it is covered tightly and store it in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. This caramel is fine at room temperature for up to 2 days. You can freeze the salted caramel, too. Freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature, then briefly warm up in the microwave until it’s a good consistency to spoon or spread on the cookies. (You still want it to be slightly thick.)
- Nuts: For a nut-free version that skips the food processor, you can use my sugar cookies dough. Feel free to add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, the same amount you use in today’s dough. You can replace the hazelnuts with the same amount of almonds, pistachios, walnuts or pecans. You can use raw or dry-roasted nuts and since you’re breaking them down in the food processor, it doesn’t matter if you start with whole or chopped nuts. Feel free to use salted or unsalted, depending if you want a slightly salty/sweet flavor. I usually use unsalted in this recipe.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Mixer (Handheld or Stand Mixer), Food Processor, Rolling Pin, 2 or 2.5 inch Cookie Cutter + Small 1-inch Cookie Cutter (This circle set has those sizes. In the pictured cookies, I use the 2.5-inch fluted square from this set and the small star from this set), Parchment Paper or Silicone Baking Mats, Baking Sheet, Cooling Rack, Sieve/Sifter for dusting sugar
- Sugar in Caramel: Like the salted caramel version, this caramel recipe is most successful using granulated sugar that’s labeled “pure cane” on the packaging. I usually use and recommend Domino brand regular granulated sugar which says “pure cane granulated” on the packaging.
- Heavy Cream: Heavy cream (approximately 36% milk fat) may also be sold as whipping cream. Light whipping cream (30% milk fat) or double cream (48% milk fat) may be substituted. Do not use milk. Room temperature cream is best.
Keywords: caramel hazelnut sandwich cookies