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Make Your Own Cinnamon Star Cookies
"Zimtsterne" cookies are a very traditional part of the Christmas and Advent offerings to guests in Germany. Cinnamon and almonds taste great together. Many people buy them packaged, but they are easy to make and taste better than the store-bought.
"Zimtsterne" are almost always a 6-pointed star shape. Cinnamon was a very expensive and rare spice in Europe in the 1600s and almonds, which had to be imported, were a food for royalty. This explains why almonds and cinnamon are especially associated with once-a-year festivals such as Christmas.Continue to 2 of 10 below.
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To Make Zimtsterne You Will Need
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies
- 4 egg whites (pasteurized, if possible)
- 390 grams powdered sugar, about 3 1/2 cups
- 400 grams raw almond meal, about 4 cups
- 2-3 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 oz. Kirschwasser or other liqueur (optional)
Zimtsterne are not baked at a high temperature and therefore pasteurized egg whites reduce the possibility of food-borne bacteria contaminating the cookies. They can be found in well-stocked supermarkets near the regular eggs.
You can make almond meal yourself in a blender or buy it in the baking aisle of many grocery stores or natural food stores.Continue to 3 of 10 below.
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Start by Making a Meringue
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition. Continue beating for 5 minutes after the last addition. The mixture should be very stiff, like royal icing used to hold a gingerbread house together.Continue to 4 of 10 below.
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Remove a Half Cup Meringue
Remove 1/2 cup of meringue and set aside for icing.
This is simple, but if you forget to do it, you will be mad at yourself.
If you do forget this step, repeat meringue step after you make the cookies using 1 egg white and about 1 cup of powdered sugar.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Add Almond Meal and Cinnamon to Meringue
Measure and add the almond meal and cinnamon to the meringue. From this stage on, all mixing should be by hand.Continue to 6 of 10 below.
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Carefully fold in the Dry Ingredients
To the rest of the meringue, fold in the raw almond meal and the cinnamon. Add the Kirschwasser, if you are using it, and incorporate.
Here is where you find out if you made the meringue stiff enough. The resulting dough should hold its shape, not be runny. If you stir too vigorously, the egg whites will deflate and make the dough slack. I have had to start over with these cookies after doing that. But if you are careful with this step, you should have no further problems with these cookies. Remember to fold the ingredients in by hand, not machine.Continue to 7 of 10 below.
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Pat Out Dough on Sugared Surface
Chill the dough for about 1 hour.
Using ample powdered sugar on your baking board or clean counter top, pat the dough into a square and roll out to 1/2 inch thick (or 1 centimeter). Cut out stars with a cookie cutter. Powder the cookie cutter between each cut. Place stars on a non-stick cookie sheet or a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Cutting out the stars is a sticky process. Wash off the cookie cutter as often as necessary to achieve sharp star points.
Feel free to use non-traditional shapes, but keep them simple. Reuse the dough by patting the scraps back into a thick square and lightly rolling. Do not knead too much, just enough so that the dough sticks together.Continue to 8 of 10 below.
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Frost the Cinnamon Stars with Meringue
Brush or spread the icing on each star, working it out to all the points. You may use a pastry brush or a knife, whatever works for you.
Let the stars dry overnight (about 24 hours, if you can), the oven is a good place if you don't forget they are there and preheat for something else.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Bake the Cinnamon Star Cookies
The next day, heat the oven to 325°F. Bake each tray for 10-15 minutes. This is to dry out the cookies a little more and bake the egg whites. Try to remove the cookies before the icing turns brown, although a little brown tint can look nice.Continue to 10 of 10 below.
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Store the Cookies in a Dry Place
Store these cookies in a dry place at room temperature. They can last several weeks and stack nicely when the meringue is dry enough.
Usually, they are baked right before Advent begins and are used for visiting and entertaining throughout the holiday season.