An introduction to german christmas baking

It´s that time of the year again. Christmas is coming. And if you are now wondering: Huh? Christmas? We still got 4 weeks until Christmas Eve…Well, welcome to Germany. Where the Christmas season starts at the first Sunday of December. I love it! This post is a little bit about some of the typical ways to celebrate Christmas in Germany and about my grandmas cookies. You see…one of the things we do in December is bake cookies. There are tons of different Christmas cookies to make and it is just a big part of the season. It´s great for kids but not just for them. Of course they love it but there has not been one year since I moved out that I haven´t met with friends and made a huge let´s-bake-cookies-and-drink-hot-chocolate-session. And my grandma makes the best cookies! Every year we get a package filled with different types of cookies and everyone tries to get the most of their favourite type. So without further ado, let me tell you all about the wonderful thing we call Adventszeit.

The four Sundays in december are called Advent. So obviously, there are four Advents and on each Advent, one candle is lit at the Advent wreath. And on these sundays, people usually get together, eat typical christmas food (Plätzchen, Stollen, Glühwein…) drink hot chocolate and just do whatever they wish to do. Another great thing about the Adventszeit are the Christmas markets you can find in pretty much every city. If you have ever been to Germany during December, you know what I am talking about. This is not an exclusively german tradition, I know that other countries have christmas markets as well but in Germany they are huge. There is a great variety of foods, crafts and other things to buy, of course varying from city to city. And let´s don´t forget the reason why most of the adults go there: Glühwein. Hot red wine with oranges, cinnamon and all types of other spices. Keeps you warm during cold cold winter days.

Every heard of an Adventskalender? It is a calender that counts down the days until Christmas Eve. I am sure they exist in other countries as well, typically they are filled with sweets but they can be filled with pretty much anything you want. Great for kids and kind of a must have even though you moved out three years ago and consider yourself a grown up – kind of.

Well, these are just a few things that are typical in Germany, to do during Christmas season. Now to the most important part, and the reason why I am just so excited that it is finally December: Christmas cookies. This year, I tried one of my grandma´s recipes for the first time. The cookies are called Zimtsterne, which literally translates to cinnamon stars. They are absolutely delicious but kind of hard to make. My grandma has 60 years of experience, so of course they are going to turn out great. I have tried my best. Let´s just make them step by step.

You´ll need:

400 g finely grounded almonds

100 g finely grounded hazelnuts

500 g confectioners´ sugar

6 egg whites (160 g)

The peel of a lemon and 4 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

10 tbsp. cinnamon

A little bit of clove powder

1) Beat the egg whites untill stiff. Add confectioners´sugar and keep beating for a minute. Take off about 10 big spoons of the mass and store in the fridge. You will need it again for the decoration.

2) The rest of the beaten egg whites is used to make the dough. Add the peel of the lemon and lemon juice. Then, add grounded almonds, hazelnuts and cinnamon as well as clove powder. The important thing now is, that the dough needs to chill for a couple of hours in the fridge. The best thing is to let the dough chill overnight, that way it is easier to roll out and cut the cookies.

3) After the dough has spent its time in the fridge, roll it out between to sheets of parchment paper. You can also spread flour on top of the dough, that way it is easier to roll out. Use a cookie cutter to cut little stars and spread the rest of the eggwhite-confectioners´-sugar-mass on top of it. Bake the cookies at 150° for about 10-15 minutes. Take them out of the oven after those 15 minutes, even though they might seem too soft to you. Leave them on the baking tray for a couple of hours and let them dry, that will make them harder. If you leave them in the oven too long they will turn out really hard.

These cookies can be a pain to make. The dough is very sticky so it is not very easy to roll out. And the icing tends to crumble when it is baked. But if everything goes well, these cookies are by far my favourites. If however these cookies turn out to be a desaster…don´t worry. I´ve to a plan B. Hazelnutrolls. Another family recipe, this time from my mother and fairly easier.

You´ll need:

200 g grounded hazelnuts

300 g flour

200 g sugar

1 tbsp. vanilla flavoured sugar

1 egg

200 g butter

Whole hazelnuts

1) Mix hazelnuts, flour, sugar and vanilla-sugar. Add the egg and the melted butter and knead well. Now form little balls out of the dough and place one hazelnut on the top. Do the same with the rest of the dough and bake the cookies at 175° C for about 10 – 15 minutes until they are golden brown. Easier right?

Enjoy with hot chocolate!

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