Christmas cookies are quite possibly my favorite thing about Christmas. I love that certain foods are very specific to certain times of the year. On Christmas Eve most years, my family and I bake a batch of sugar cookies and spend the afternoon decorating them in the most perfect way.
My sister always has the most precise and beautiful intricate creations. My brother will normally spend the entire time decorating one prized cookie that usually looks too good to eat. My husband usually piles on as much icing as the cookie can handle because he likes the more icing to cookie ratio. For me, usually the first few start out quite well, then I start getting more and more fed up and aim for quantity not quality! It’s always a struggle for the perfectionist in me. However, this afternoon is definitely one of my favorite traditions and the results are usually too good to eat!
This year we’ve been trying lots of different German Christmas cookies. My favorite so far has been this Zimtsterne. These are traditional cookies that are found in bakeries, markets and supermarkets all over at this time of year. Translated directly as Cinnamon Stars, they are a meringue based cookie with ground almonds and flavored with cinnamon and lemon zest. It’s quite simple really and very delicious. They are however, a pain to make!
The meringue base makes things extra sticky. Usually only copious amounts of powdered sugar can help to solve this problem. Then once you have managed to cut out the stars, the meringue topping must be evenly spread on top of each one. Though for others this might not be a huge issue, for me it’s super time consuming. I like everything to be perfect and that can only be achieved with time! In the end, they didn’t turn out perfect, but they were very delicious! I like to think that the rough edges add to the charm!
Makes about 40 -50 stars
- 3 egg whites
- 250 g powdered sugar
- 360 g ground almonds
- 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- zest of 2 small lemons
- pinch of salt
In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat egg whites until foamy with the whisk attachment. Make sure your bowl is completely clean and free from any oils before you start. Begin adding the powdered sugar in small batches while the mixer is running. Beat until the meringue is very shiny, but before very stiff peaks form.
In a small bowl, remove 50 g of the meringue. Cover and refrigerate.
Next, fold in the ground almonds, cinnamon, zest and salt into the remaining meringue mixture. Fold until evenly distributed, but be careful not to over mix. Tip the contents out onto a large sheet of parchment paper sprinkled with powdered sugar. Sprinkle the top of the mixture with some more powdered sugar and top with another sheet of parchment paper. Roll out the dough till about 1cm thick. Place the whole thing in the refrigerator to cool for a 1/2 hour to an 1 hour. This step is not completely necessary, but things can get very sticky so it makes life a bit easier!
Once the dough is cooled, you can begin cutting. Remove the top sheet of parchment and sprinkle again with a bit of powdered sugar. Dipping your star cookie cutter into powdered sugar each time, cut out the stars and place onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Continue to collect the dough into a bowl and roll out until all is used up.
Preheat the oven to 150°C.Using a offset spatula or a knife, spread the remaining meringue mixture evenly across all stars making sure it doesn’t drip down the sides. Place into the oven and bake fore 10-12 minutes. Keep an eye on them towards the end of 1o minutes so the meringue doesn’t begin to brown.
Let cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. Enjoy when fully cooled and store in an airtight container for up to a few weeks.