My childhood memory of Christmas always revolves around cookies. All throughout December, the house would be filled with the smells of vanilla and cinnamon, as my mum and I would bake up a storm, making a variety of traditional German Christmas cookies, such as these cinnamon stars (Zimtsterne).
We managed to sneakily steal a cookie here and there before Christmas, but they were really meant to be for Christmas eve, when mum would put together large platters of mixed cookies that would sit on the table among the presents. Needless to say, they would disappear very quickly!
The most classic cookie of all times
If you’ve ever been to Germany (or even just to Aldi in December in whatever country you’re in), you will have to have come across ‘Zimtsterne’ a.k.a. cinnamon stars. The ingredients are a little bit like a macaron, with nuts, sugar and egg white, but these little delicacies are more nutty, and yes, more cinnamony (is that a word??)
Either way, they are delicious!
Unfortunately I won’t be able to tell you they are easy to make. They’re a bit of a sticky mess. Hahaaa. But quite fun, so don’t diss it until you’ve tried!
You will need these ingredients
- Vanilla extract
- Lemon extract
- Lemon juice
- Icing sugar
Tips of the trade
Always use the freshest nuts you can find. That bag of ground almonds from last year that you found in the pantry? Forget it. Nuts go stale so quickly, and your cookies will taste rancid. I like to buy fresh nuts and grind them in a food processor.
So for this recipe, grind your nuts, mix them with the flour and cinnamon. Set aside.
Make a French meringue (sometimes called simple meringue) by starting to whip your egg whites until they’re foamy. Very slowly drizzle in the sugar in a steady stream while continuing to beat the eggs. Whip until you get stiff peaks. The vanilla and lemon extract can be added at the very beginning, or half way through.
Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. You don’t have to be super gentle here, it should form a dough that you can roll out, not a cake batter consistency.
Generously flour your work bench before rolling the dough out to about 8mm thickness.
For the glaze there is no magic either. Just mix the egg white with icing sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Thinly spread the glaze over the dough. Cover the leftover glaze with cling wrap to prevent it from drying out.
Now here is the tricky bit. The glaze will want to stick to your cookie cutter.
For each cookie, make sure your cookie cutter is clean and wet.
Cut out the stars and place them onto a lined baking tray. The remaining dough can be mixed together and rolled out again, although check it’s consistency. If too wet, add more flour/nuts. Then re-glaze for round two of cookie cutting.
Let the glaze dry for 30 minutes before baking the cooking in a moderate oven, around 150C.
Chewy cinnamon stars (Zimtsterne)
- 100 g walnuts
- 100 g hazelnuts
- 100 g almonds
- 100 g plain flour
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 3 egg whites
- 250 g castor sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 1/2 tsp lemon essence optional
- 150 g icing sugar
- 1 egg white
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- If using whole nuts, grind them all in a blender until fine, but not to a paste. You can use store bought ground nuts instead too, but make sure they're fresh.
- Add cinnamon and flour to the nuts and mix well. The dough should come together into a lump, but feel very soft. Set aside.
- Start whisking the 3 egg whites together with vanilla and lemon essence. When they are foamy with very tiny bubbles, then very slowly rain in the sugar while continuing to whisk. Keep beating the mix until you get soft peaks.
- Fold in the dry ingredients until well mixed and you have a coherent dough that you can roll out. It will be very soft, probably softer than you may know from making other cookies, but not so wet that you can't cut out stars with a cookie cutter. If too wet, add a little bit more flour or nuts.
- Generously flour a silicone mat or your work bench. Roll out the dough to 8mm thickness.
- Use a whisk to mix together all the glaze ingredients until very smooth. The consistency should be like runny honey. If too thin, add more icing sugar.
- Thinly spread the glaze over the rolled-out dough, all the way to the edge.
- Cover the bowl with the remaining glaze with cling wrap to prevent it from drying out.
Making the cookies
- Use a wet (!) and clean (!) cookie cutter for every cookie you cut out. Place the cookies onto a lined baking tray and let them rest for 30 minutes until the glaze is dry. If you don't want to use a cookie cutter but just cut little squares with a knife (which is much less time consuming and so much easier), hey, who am I to judge 🙂
- The remaining dough can be mixed together again, rolled out, and re-glazed for another round of cookies. Repeat the process until all dough is used up. If it gets too wet, add more flour or nuts.
- Pre-heat the oven to 150C. When the cookies are dry, bake them on a medium-low rack for about 20min. Don't let the glaze turn brown.