Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Zimtsterne - German Christmas biscuits

Christmas is not Christmas without baking, and I love adopting recipes from other cultures into my culinary repertoire. Having started learning German this year, I thought it only fitting that I should try some of their traditional festive fare, and Zimtsterne (or "cinnamon stars") seemed like the perfect place to start. They are made traditionally for Christmas, as well as for the breaking of the fast for Yom Kippur where they are called Erstesternen, meaning "first stars".


They are deliciously sweet and spicy, and quite easy and quick to whip up. They are gluten free, although obviously not suitable for those with nut allergies given the almonds. They're also rather pretty in a pared-down sort of way.

The recipe produces quite a few more biscuits than those shown, however my boyfriend ate about half between my making them and the photo being taken. That, I believe, is reason enough for you to trust that they are delicious and to give them a try.

My recipe comes from The Essential Christmas Cookbook from Murdoch books, our infallible festive baking companion of the past ten years or so, in which they are simply referred to as "cinnamon stars". No mince pie has been crafted or Christmas pudding assembled without resort to this fantastic volume, although, sadly, I'm not sure if it is still widely available.

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 280 g icing sugar
  • 145 g ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 tbsps ground cinnamon
Method: 
  • Beat the egg whites lightly with a spoon in a large bowl. Sift the icing sugar and gradually add it in. It should form a white paste. Remove 1/3 cup of the mixture (I put this in bold as I tried the recipe twice and forgot/read over this each time, so I hope you do not do the same) and cover.
  • Add the almonds and cinnamon, bring the mixture together in your hands. The recipes says add some water if the mixture is too dry, but I certainly didn't need it, and it should soften with your hands anyway.
  • Dust your bench and rolling pin with flour, and roll mixture out to 3mm thick. Use a brush to coat the mixture with the icing you've set aside. Leave, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes (I waited just under 30 on a warm day and it was perfect). Preheat the over to 150°c.
  • Use a star cutter dipped to cut out shapes. Dip it in flour to stop it sticking to the mixture. I recommend you be strategic in how you go about cutting out the shapes as because of the icing, once you can't reroll the remaining mixture like most biscuit recipes. If you can figure out some  fancy tessellation, that'd be ideal.*
  • Place on a baking tray and cook for 10 minutes. Turn the tray around after 5 minutes (I again bring this to your attention as I forgot to do this, leaving half the biscuits less cooked than the other, more golden stars). 
*I ended up baking the remaining mixture anyway, broken up into higgeldy-piggeldy pieces. Obviously they didn't look as beautiful as the stars, but they were just as delicious.

If you're looking for some last-minute festive baking decoration, I hope this will do the job for you. They would also make wonderful little gifts. This will be my final blogpost before Christmas, so I wish you all a very merry Christmas - or perhaps more appropriately, frohe Weihnachten!
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