On the Third Day of Christmas, The Country Kitchen baked for me… Austrian Zimtsterne Cookies
Oh. My. Gosh. it’s Christmas Day! A very merry Christmas to you all, how has your day been so far? Today is a day where we can all enjoy the things that we usually wouldn’t, as well as spending time with loved ones who maybe we don’t get to see as often as we would like. Today should not be about the amount of gifts we receive (as so many judge people the success of Christmas Day on), but more about helping those who otherwise would not have a very merry Christmas.
But nowadays so much focus is spent on finding the most impressive presents for our friends and family, that often we overlook the need to support the local people and businesses in our communities. I always think the best gifts are those that are hand-made, or purchased from somewhere more unique than your average Marks and Spencer or Topshop.
I recently read an article stating that this year has been the most popular for Christmas Markets with a Germanic theme, and to be honest I am really not surprised.
I can remember a school trip to Germany that I went on when I was still at school. We went over the Christmas holidays just before Christmas Day itself, and I got to experience for the first time what a real Christmas Market was all about. The roads were lined with little stalls and shacks selling nougat, chocolates, gold ornaments, Christmas tree decorations, giant pretzels and doughnuts, gingerbread houses and biscuits, an array of beautifully hand carved wooden toys I had ever seen. Everything from the streets to the dustbins was covered in fairy lights and lanterns, which made the surrounding snow glisten in the darkness. It was truly magical and something I have never forgotten.
For me, a big part of that trip was the mass of intriguing biscuits and treats on offer, the textures, decorations and flavours of which I had never come across before. I have been dreaming of recreating those recipes for years, but never really known where to start.
Then finally, a few weekends back, I was staying at a good friends of mine whose Mother just so happens to be Austrian. Plus not to mention a fabulous baker of those delicious Christmas biscuits and treats, the likes of which you only find at the Christmas Markets in Germany and Austria. She was busy making the famous Austrian Christmas biscuits which she always has out on her table to offer visitors over Christmas, and I couldn’t help but want to get in on the excitement of discovering new recipes. I have always been intrigued by these uniquely different food types and, having spend various wonderful holidays in Austria, this was finally my opportunity to learn how to make even just a small selection of these delightful bites of European culture.
So, on to our third recipe of the Twelve Bakes of Christmas. The recipe I am going to share with you are for our own version of Zimtsterne, or ‘cinnamon stars’ in English, which are a traditional Austrian biscuit made from ground almonds and egg white which is then rolled out like a dough and cut into stars, and topped with a shiny egg white icing. We made ours slightly differently, by making them into bite-sized meringue cookies topped with whole almonds and pure, white meringue. They were scrumptious!
Baking is all about experimenting. Sometimes these experiments work, and sometimes they don’t. These Austrian Zimtsterne Cookies were definitely an experiment that did! Yes, they may not look like the traditional Zimtsterne you find at the markets in Austria, but they tasted just as good and, if I do say so myself, look just as appetising.
We ended up making them into these miniature meringues instead of the usual stars because our mixture was far too sticky to handle, and just stuck to the baking sheets when we tried to roll it! Oh well, nothing like a bit of bakery mishaps to bring a bunch of laughter to the kitchen! We also decided to use the plain meringue mix set aside to make the royal icing as a replacement to the traditional topping, and added a whole blanched almond for decoration, something I think really makes a difference to the finished appearance of these delightful cookies.
So here we are, a very unique version of delicious Austrian Zimtsterne – a new recipe I shall be including in my Christmas baking every year from now on!
Austrian Zimtsterne Cookies
- x3 Eggs, whites only
- 200g Icing Sugar
- 50g Caster Sugar
- 250g Ground Almonds
- x2 Tbsp. Ground Cinnamon
- Blanched Almonds to decorate
- 1.Preheat your oven to 180°C/160°F and line two baking trays with baking paper.
- Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl (not plastic!) and discard the egg yolks, or keep for another recipe, such as this one.
- Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form and the meringue is shiny and smooth.
- Measure out the sugars and gradually add to the egg whites, about 2 tablespoons at a time. Whisk well for at least five minutes, making sure all the sugar from the sides has been absorbed. The meringue should be shiny and stiff; you can always test to see if it is ready by holding the bowl upside down over your head! Go on I dare you…
- Take out a quarter of the meringue and place in a separate bowl. You will need this as part of the topping, so place somewhere safe and cool.
- Fold in the ground almonds and cinnamon with a spatula or metal spoon, making sure to use gentle, slow movements so you keep the air inside the meringue.
- Using a teaspoon, drop small balls of the meringue onto the prepared baking sheets and shape into a rough circle. Leave about 2 inches between each one so they have room to cook properly in the oven (meringues like their space, you could say they are a little claustrophobic).
- Top each one with some of the plain meringue and place a blanched almond in the centre.
- Bake for 22 minutes until they are a pale golden around the edges and sound hollow when tapped underneath. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, and offer to every guest that crosses your threshold – you will be the most popular neighbour on your lane!
So why not add a little Austrian culture to your Christmas baking this year, and offer these around to whoever knocks at your door? Or simply place them in a biscuit dome on your table and watch them disappear (you won’t be watching for long!).
And with that I wish a Merry Christmas to one and all, and hope you have had a fabulous day and keep the festive cheer going now that the Twelve Days of Christmas have officially started. Don’t forget to let me know whenever you try one of these recipes, I can’t wait to see how your Austrian Zimtsterne Cookies turn out.
Happy Baking and Merry Christmas from The Country Kitchen x