bien cuit

Bredele biscuits – traditional Christmas cookies

cookies, French | December 4, 2017 | By

Last year, just before Christmas, the lovely Cécile from the wonderful website Because Gus, asked me if I’d like to collaborate with a producer of GF flour here in France, to produce a recipe for gluten free bredele. These are the classic small cut-out biscuits that you traditionally see in the east of France, in the Alsace region, during Advent. There are hundreds of varieties and the Christmas markets are full of beautiful tiny cutters for them.

I am fortunate to have a wonderfully kind French friend, Catherine, who is an expert in bredele, making hundreds of them every year in every shape imaginable – from snowflakes to reindeer! She immediately helped me find a basic recipe which I then converted to gluten free. Then the nerve-wracking experience of transporting 400 fragile cookies to Paris on the metro! But it was all worth it – the recipe went down a storm with all the participants of the Because Gus Christmas party. One gentleman went so far as to say it was the best GF biscuit he had ever eaten!

The main thing with this recipe is to keep the dough cold. Roll it out between cling film to avoid adding flour to stop the rolling pin stick. Extra flour will dry your biscuits out – just what you need to avoid with GF baking!

Keep the mixture cold all the time – if necessary pop the rolled out dough, still between its clingfilm back into the fridge on a tray and let it firm up before cutting the shapes out. And to help them keep their beautiful shapes, remember to put the tray back into the fridge so the biscuits are cold right before you bake them.

And one last thing – if you are using your own blend of flour, or a ready made mix, then check whether it contains xanthan gum – if so, you can omit the half teaspoon I include in the ingredients.

Gluten free bredele – cut out Christmas cookies

250g my flour blend
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
125g icing sugar
1/2 tsp GF baking powder
150g unsalted butter, softened at room temp
1 small egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt

optional: beaten egg to glaze before baking

  1. Sieve the flour, icing sugar and baking powder together into a bowl
  2. Add the softened butter and rub it into the flour with your finger tips until it looks sandy.
  3. In a small bowl mix together the egg, vanilla and salt.
  4. Add the liquid mixture to bowl with the flour and mix well together – the mixture will be quite soft.
  5. Form into a ball, flatten it then wrap in cling film and refrigerate for an hour.
  6. Roll the dough out between 2 sheets of cling film to about 4mm thickness. If the dough becomes too so then place it (rolled out) back into the fridge on a tray to firm up.
  7. Cut out the biscuits using shaped cookie cutters, and place on a baking sheet covered with baking parchment.
  8. Put back in the fridge for 30 mins while preheating the oven to 180C (160C Fan). Brush with beaten egg if desired and then bake for 10-15 mins until golden (timing will depend on your oven and the thickness of the cookies, so keep an eye on them!).
  9. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for a minute or two before placing them on a cooling rack. They can be quite fragile so handle them carefully.

New class dates for Nov 2017 – Jan 2018

classes | October 26, 2017 | By

After a fantastic October in California and a summer spent working on lots of yummy recipes for next year (some of them photographed above!) it’s time to get back to teaching!

I’m so happy to schedule the next round of GF baking classes at my home in Le Mesnil le Roi, just to the west of Paris. I’ve kept to the same themes and recipes this time around, so if you’ve taken a class with me before, you won’t be repeating any recipes if you sign up for a different class in this series. 

What will you learn at one of my classes?

  • how to blend your own blend of GF flours, without all the others you’ve bought going to waste
  • how to convert regular recipes to gluten free
  • how to substitute natural fibres and ground seeds for gums in most of (but not all) the recipes
  • how to make delicious baked goods that ALL the family will be happy to eat
  • to troubleshoot problems you’ve had GF baking to date
  • lots of little tips and tricks to make GF baking easier
  • and know that you’ll have me on hand via email to answer any post-class questions

PLUS you get to meet a great group of like-minded people, eat a delicious lunch and to take some goodies home for the rest of the family to try!

Group class runs 09h30-14h approx. and include lunch. Please see here for full details of how to book classes and to be added to the mailing list for future classes. The fee is €75 – a deposit of €25 is required to book your place and the balance of €50 is payable on the day.

Bread & crackers

Baguettes
Artisan loaf
Seeded crackers
Naan bread and potato paratha

Tuesday Nov 7th 2017, 09h30 – 14h (approx) includes lunch

 

Festive GF Bakes for Thanksgiving and Christmas 

Stollen bites
Cranberry & orange muffins
Mini pecan pies
Speculoos – spiced biscuits

Wednesday November 8th 2017 09h30-approx 14h includes lunch

 

French bakes

Palets bretons
Financiers aux framboises
Lemon madeleines
Mi-cuit au chocolat

Thursday 30th November 2017, 09h30-approx 14h, includes lunch

 

GF, DF & EF bakes 

Besan cheela – chickpea and courgette galettes
Pissaladière – Provençal onion tart
Brown rice and quinoa crackers
Granola bars (includes GF oats)

 

 

Friday 1st December 2017, 09h30-approx 14h, includes lunch

 

British teatime (photos coming soon!)

English (bread) muffins – perfect for eggs benedict too!
Bakewell tarts (including shortcrust pastry)
Shortbread
Gingercake

Wednesday 6th December 2017, 09h30-approx14h, includes lunch

 

Pastry and pizza

Quiche maraichère (including shortcrust pastry)
Lemon tartlets (including sweet tart pastry)
Vanilla custard and chocolate chip danish pastry bar (soft yeasted pastry)
Pizza (yeasted base)

 

Date to be announced late Dec

 

Savoury bakes

Cake salé – savoury quick bread with cheese, olives and pesto
Pumpkin and feta scones
Bagels
Flammeküche

Date to be announced late Dec 

What would you like to learn at a gluten free class? Would a seasonal lunch menu interest you rather than all baking? Would you like to learn GF baking using a Thermomix? Get in touch via lisa@biencuitglutenfree.com and I’ll see what I can do!

 

PRIVATE CLASSES are available on request with dates, timings and menus to suit your requirements. Please contact me via the form below.

Use the form below if you would like to be on the mailing list for upcoming classes :

Rillettes of fresh mackerel

Uncategorized | May 24, 2017 | By

 
 

I’m always looking out for new, interesting and easy ways to incorporate more oily fish into our diet. And as much as I like an occasional piece of salmon, I do find it a very rich fish. I’m also aware how important it is to use more sustainable oily fish like mackerel, sardine and herring, rather than farmed fish. 

The inspiration came from a shopping trip with a friend in Paris – Shirley was looking for nautical charts and I spotted a shelf of cookbooks for galley cooks. I read a recipe similar to this and thought it sounded simple, fresh and delicious – just my style!
 
This was served as the starter at a charity event held at my home earlier this spring (you might already have seen the recipe for the dessert course, the rhubarb, almond and polenta cake here). This mackerel recipe was declared ‘affa fine’ by my lovely Scottish friend Issi who took the first two beautiful photos seen above. High praise indeed.
 
I find the sight of sparklingly fresh mackerel at the local market rather hard to resist these days, now that I have a great recipe to use them in. But on holiday on the Ile de Ré this week I opted for a simpler version* using canned mackerel in brine and I have to say I think it was ‘affa fine’ too.. and  ‘affa easy’ to boot!
 
Use whatever dairy you have to hand – Greek yogurt, whole milk yogurt, crème fraiche or even regular cream and a little extra lemon juice. I was lucky enough to forage some wild fennel this week on the Ile de Ré, so used that instead of dill, and if you don’t like dill, leave it out.

 

Fresh mackerel rillettes

(serves 6)

3 medium fresh mackerel
a splash of white wine or vermouth (optional)
2 tbsp dijon/wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp Greek yogurt or crème fraîche
2 spring onions, finely chopped
4 cornichons, very finely chopped (optional)
1 tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped (optional)
fresh dill, finely chopped, to taste (optional)

  1. Fillet the mackerel or ask the fishmonger to do it for you.
  2. Place the fillets in a pan, add just enough water to cover and add a little white wine or vermouth, if desired.
  3. Bring up to a simmer then turn OFF the heat, cover with a lid and leave for 20 mins.
  4. Drain the fish, and remove the skin and any remaining bones. Set aside to cool completely.
  5. In a medium bowl combine the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  6. Add the flaked mackerel and mix well. Taste, add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust seasoning, adding more lemon or olive oil if needed.
  7. Chill until serving with a little dressed watercress salad, or cucumber sticks and GF crackers if desired.

*Easy (holiday) version – use 2 cans of mackerel in brine instead of the fresh mackerel and start the recipe from step 4.

Teaching in Singapore!

classes | May 12, 2017 | By

I’m thrilled to announce that I’m going to be teaching a few gluten free baking classes for friends old and new in Singapore  next month. There are still a few spaces left for some of the classes, so if you know anyone in that part of the world who might be interested then please let them know!

The classes I’m running are:

  1. Gluten free, dairy free, egg free on June 13
  2. Lisa’s favourites on June 14
  3. French Bakes on June 15

You can find booking details on the One Degree Gluten Free website here.

 

Fruit and nut breakfast loaf

breads, breakfast | May 10, 2017 | By

Here’s a lovely loaf to serve for breakfast, toasted or plain, or later in the day with cheese. I made it as mid-morning taster for my students today. It got a thumbs up all round – chewy, crusty…just like REAL bread!

It is based on the seeded wholegrain loaf found here. Measure the grains out and soak them during the day, finish it off in the evening, bake and there you are – a delicious breakfast to wake up to! Make it in a shallow square tin and cut it horizontally into two layers to maximise the crust.

As always use my suggestions for the fruit and nuts as just that, a suggestion only. I happen to love figs with their gritty chewiness, but I know they are not everyone’s cup of tea. Another time I make it I might use apricots and almonds, or cranberries, pistachios and pumpkin seeds (a combination that for me always screams Christmas!). One thing’s for sure – there will be a next time!

Did I mention it makes fabulous crusty, chewy toast?!

This loaf keeps well and lasts about 4-5 days at room temp. Do please leave me a comment if you make it.

 

Fruit and nut breakfast loaf

90g (1/2 cup) raw buckwheat groats
100g (1/2 cup) uncooked brown rice
90g (1/2 cup) uncooked millet
water + 1tbsp cider vinegar for soaking
20g psyllium husk
250ml water
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp sea salt
40g whole hazelnuts
40g dried figs, chopped
20g raisins or sultanas

for tin:
knob of butter

1. Place all the wholegrains in a large bowl, cover with water, add 1 tbsp cider vinegar, stir and leave overnight 12-24 hours to soak.
2. The next day drain and rinse the grains thoroughly, then drain well again and place in a food processor or Thermomix.
3. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan). Grease a 20cm square tin with butter.
4. Measure the water in a small bowl, add the psyllium, stir and set aside for 5 mins to gel.
5. Place the 2 tbsp vinegar, bicarb, salt and gelled psyllium in with the grains and process until fairly smooth, scraping down the sides occasionally.
6. Add the nuts and fruit and mix to combine.
7. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a wet spatula. Score with a blade.
9. Bake for 60 mins then remove from the oven, remove from the tin and return to the oven shelf (without a tin) for a final 20 mins to brown the bottom crust.
11. Remove and cool on a cooling rack until completely cold before slicing. Slice horizontally to make larger slices.

Rhubarb and orange polenta cake

cakes, desserts | May 2, 2017 | By

Rhubarb is a quintessential taste of spring. The first pink stalks are eagerly awaited in the markets in France from late April onwards. Bizarrely the French seem to prefer mammoth-sized stalks, so a friendly chat with the stallholder in my local market usually results in him agreeing to pick me out all the tender thin stalks that his compatriots aren’t so keen on. The French also recommend peeling their rhubarb – something that has never made sense to me, as along with the skin you remove most of that gorgeous colour.

If you want to make even more of that amazing colour when you’re poaching rhubarb then you have a few options – you can add a shot of cassis to the poaching syrup or alternatively another trick I read about on the lovely Mad about Macarons blog recently is to add some dried hibiscus flowers to the pan. 

This recipe came about as I wracked by brains trying to think of a suitable dessert for a Spring-themed charity lunch I held at home recently. I love flat Italian style polenta cakes – they are so delicious warm from the oven, but are also very easy to dress up for dessert with a little crème fraîche, crème anglaise or ice cream.

It was a recipe certainly worth working on, as everyone absolutely loved it at the lunch. I plan to make it again later in the year when the apricots are in the market, although I might swap the orange and cardamom flavourings for lemon zest and a little amaretto. If you make it, do leave a comment!

By the way, I have made this using the ‘instant’ type polenta that is finely ground and also the coarser maize grits, and both worked well.

 

Rhubarb, almond and polenta cake (serves 8+)

300g young thin stalks of fresh rhubarb, washed and cut into 2cm pieces
2 tbsp demerara sugar

175g unsalted butter, softened
150g golden caster sugar
200g ground almonds
4 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange (untreated), finely grated
juice of half an orange
75g polenta, fine or coarse 
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
seeds from 10 cardamom pods, ground in a pestle and mortar
2 tbsp flaked almonds

  1. Mix together the rhubarb and demerara sugar and set aside for an hour.
  2. Grease the sides and base of a 9” 22cm spring from cake tin. Line the base with a circle of baking parchment.
  3. After the rhubarb has macerated, drain it in a sieve over a bowl and then preheat the oven to 160C (140C fan).
  4. Beat together the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Beat in the ground almonds, and then the eggs, one at a time.
  6. Fold in the vanilla, orange zest and juice.
  7. In a small bowl combine the polenta, baking powder, salt and ground cardamom.
    Fold this dry mixture into the wet one.
  8. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface. Arrange the drained rhubarb evenly over the surface and then scatter the flaked almonds over.
  9. Bake for about 75 mins until the centre springs back when touched and the mixture is dry to the point of a knife or skewer. Cover the top loosely with foil if it is browning too much for the last 15 mins.
    Best served warm.

Eating gluten free in Paris!

Paris | April 24, 2017 | By

Thankfully eating ‘sans gluten’ in the City of Light has never been easier. Visitors (and lucky folk like me who live there) can now track down gluten free goodies pretty much all across the city. What started as a small enclave of gluten free restaurants in the 10th arrondissement has spread out far and wide – from GF eclairs at Mon Eclair near the Arc de Triomphe, to GF waffles at Yummy and Guilt Free near the Hotel de Ville and even a tartine à l’avocat (avocado toast) to be found at Café Mareva near the Canal St Martin. 

The coffee scene is improving here too with many independent coffee shops now being supplied by the  Atelier des Lilas who produce excellent GF baked goods like madeleines, brownies, quiches and bread for them as well as for restaurants and the Grande Epicerie food store.

If after a busy day sightseeing you prefer to eat at home in your AirBnB accommodation, there are plenty of options too. You can find GF groceries – breads, pasta, cookies etc in most supermarkets now. Brands such as Schär, Carrefour and Genius are stocked in mainstream supermarkets but there are some more interesting and, it has to be said, better quality products from smaller producers in the organic ‘bio’ stores like ‘Bio Co-op’ ‘Bio C Bon’ and ‘Naturalia’ across the city.

It’s worth knowing that apart from less expensive brasseries and chain restaurants, many small restaurants will only offer lunch between about 12h and 14h and dinner between 19h and 22h and be closed at other times. Outside of Paris there isn’t the all-day eating culture to be found in many large cities of the world like London and Singapore.

If you eat in small independent restaurants then look out for the fait maison symbol. It means the restaurant makes things from scratch, meaning they are likely to be far more knowledgeable about what is actually going into your food.

Consider trying a ‘steak frites’ here – the national dish! The French do not have the habit of deep frying very much apart from ‘frites’ so chips/French fries can be a safe option (but, as always, eater beware!). Choose a small restaurant where there is nothing vaguely like fast food on the menu and, as always, speak to your waiter about your requirements when you order.

Most brasseries will offer an omelette with ham or cheese (or mixte, with both) which will be made with unadulterated eggs and butter. Galettes, or savoury pancakes, are usually made with buckwheat sarrasin flour but cross contamination can be an issue – fortunately there are a few GF friendly creperies across the city, like Biosphère.

Another option for eating out is a wine bar where they will often offer a planche de fromage, a wooden board of assorted cheeses. Perfect if you pitch up with your own GF bread or crackers in your handbag like I do all the time! Of course in the summer months, a stroll around a local market buying a piece of cheese here and some saucisson (dried salami-type sausage) there, along with some ripe red tomatoes and a juicy peach can make for a lovely picnic.

And as for dessert there are some fabulous GF bakeries and patisseries – the renowned NoGlu, my favourite – Chambelland, Helmut Newcake, and the new kid on the block for stunning classic French patisserie, Sitron. Grom ice creams even offer the holy grail of gelato – a GF cone. Sadly one thing I have no great news on is GF croissants – no one is yet selling fresh ones – so watch this space!

Things to remember:

Always say ‘bonjour’ to your waiter – they are a proud bunch and don’t like to feel they are being unappreciated.
If you can’t speak French then carry a Coeliac travel card explaining your dietary requirements and politely ask the waiter to read it – s’il vous plaît!

There are some great websites that will keep you up to date with the GF scene here:

www.bacididamaglutenfree.com is the website of Chiara, an effervescent Italian lady living in Paris who eats her way through the city and blogs about it in English and French. She also has reviews of great finds in other European cities and conducts food tours in Paris and Italy.

www.becausegus.com is a French site but worth a look for their up to date reviews on restaurants and GF products available in France.

www.glutenfreeinParis.com often features great reviews of raw, vegetarian and vegan restaurants but is only in French.

And remember, while you’re here you might like to take a GF cookery class with me to learn how to make baguettes, buttery Breton cookies or maybe a traditional tarte flambée!

Happy travels!

Gluten free baker’s walking tour in Paris

tours | February 12, 2017 | By

 

Are some of your most treasured travel memories food-related?

Do you often search out something unusual and edible to bring home in your suitcase?

Are you looking for a ‘banneton‘ or a ‘bassine de confiture en cuivre’? Or want to know what they are?

Do you have half a day spare to discover some great addresses in Paris?

If you answer yes, then this morning tour might be right up your gluten free street.
After giving gluten free baking lessons in my kitchen just outside Paris and encouraging students to visit my favourite baking shops, bakeries and coffee shops in Paris, I have decided to offer a guided tour of some of the parts of the city most interesting for a keen gluten free baker (and eater!).

On this morning walk we will visit:

a typical outdoor market selling fresh produce
a shop where you can buy specialist baking ingredients
a bookshop specialising in cookery books (with an impressive English section too!)
a kitchenware store dating from 1820 where Julia Child used to shop
at least one gluten free boulangerie and a gluten free patisserie
an Italian gelato shop serving GF gelato in GF cones

While we will time to have a quick look around the shops (with time to make a few purchases for a post-walk pique-nique perhaps?) and a coffee stop will be scheduled into the morning, any serious browsing and shopping (and eating!) will have to be done after the walk or we just won’t make it to all the great places I have planned for you!

Here’s what some happy walkers have said:

“I was lucky enough to have Lisa take my sister and I on a gluten free walking tour on our first full day in Paris. Having it on day 1 of our holiday gave me the confidence to eat out safely and I enjoyed spending the next few days hunting out different tasty gluten free morsels all over Paris. As always Lisa had plenty of insider tips while walking around and the conversations and laughter flowed. To top it off my children were all very excited to be presented with a gluten free eclair on my return to London. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Lisa’s walk to anyone else gluten free when visiting Paris.” Emily from London

“I can thoroughly recommend this guided walk, whether you live in the Paris area, or are passing through. If you want to search out equipment or ingredients, Lisa knows exactly where you should go. Or if you simply wish to find some bakeries, cafés or restaurants where you can eat, safe in the knowledge that the staff know exactly what they are doing, Lisa will show you those too. I had the best gluten-free pizza I have ever had the day I did the tour.” S.M. Feb 2017

This tour does not provide tastings or include refreshments in the price – I’d prefer you to be able to choose and enjoy your gluten free goodies at your leisure after the tour. There will however be a coffee stop midway through the walk. A map featuring all the places we visit will be provided for you to keep. It does involve 1 hour total walking time – approx 5km distance – so please wear comfortable shoes and bring an umbrella/raincoat if necessary. The walk is never cancelled due to rain!

Fee for this tour 09h30 – 12h30 is €100 for a group of up to 5 people. To arrange dates to suit you please email me: lisa(AT)biencuitglutenfree.com

Subscribe to my mailing list to stay informed of upcoming GF cookery classes here:

Wholegrain seeded loaf (gum free, yeast free, egg free, dairy free)

breads | February 9, 2017 | By

A visit to Chambelland bakery last week and a piece of their ‘5 grains’ gluten free bread had me craving a seedy loaf this weekend. I don’t eat much bread these days. If I do I invariably make it myself unless I’m at a renowned GF boulangerie and want to sample their wares – purely in the interests of research you understand. It’s strange how quickly one loses the habit of eating bread. Eating a sandwich for lunch is now almost a novelty, which hopefully explains my almost childlike enthusiasm for a ready made Marks and Spencer gluten free sandwich while on the road in UK recently. 

So back to this loaf. During my internet trawls I knew that somewhere I had read a recipe written for the thermomix using wholegrains ground up, rather than flour. I also knew about the benefits of soaking nuts and wholegrains before cooking, to reduce the phytate content (see below!).  So the planets aligned when an instagram post by the talented IzaKitchen led me to her recipe for a ‘magic loaf’, which then led me here, to here, to here and here. Baking a loaf of gluten free bread sometimes seems awfully like an exercise in investigative journalism.

I think this is a really interesting loaf for lots of reasons. Firstly it works. Secondly you can use up all those little ends of packets and jars of lentils, rice etc to make it. I used brown/green lentil, some brown rice and millet but you can also use quinoa, buckwheat groats, any rice, and red lentils. The colour of the resulting loaf will change each time – you might notice this loaf in the photos is slightly purple in colour. I suspect that is because I made it with a mixture of grains including green lentils.

This bread doesn’t need yeast which is useful for people who can’t tolerate yeast and for those who are put off by the prospect of using it. It’s actually a kind of soda bread or what used to be called a ‘quick bread’. Now doesn’t that sound reassuringly simple to make?

It is also dairy free, egg free and added sugar free. A small miracle for a gluten free loaf.

And it’s completely do-able for the non GF person who wants to make something for a GF friend or family member. The purchase of psyllium husk is required, not something most regular bakers have in their kitchen cabinet, unless you make one of the other versions linked in the text above, using ground chia seed instead of psyllium. Just make sure you line your baking tin well with baking parchment if it’s been used for gluten bread before – those pesky crumbs can hide in the corners and might make your GF chum sick.

This loaf keeps well in a cupboard for about 4-5 days, is delicious both fresh and toasted and freezes well too. What more can you ask? I’ll post some more photos when I next make it with other grains. As always, make the loaf your own by varying the grains and seeds used.

I’m keen to try the same idea of soaked ground wholegrain with a sourdough to rise rather than the bicarbonate of soda. A first  trial is promising – so watch this space!

Note: If you’re interested in reading more about soaking grains then I’d point you in the direction of this post on the blog of Naomi Devlin, whose book ‘Food for a Happy Gut’ is released later this year.

 

Seeded wholegrain loaf

based on this recipe here

your choice of a mix of wholegrains (see above) – lentils, rice, quinoa, buckwheat groats, millet, measured up to a total volume of 375ml in a measuring jug
water + 1tbsp cider vinegar for soaking
20g psyllium husk
250ml water
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp sea salt
25g sunflower seeds
25g flax seeds

for tin:
knob of butter
handful of sunflower seeds
poppy seeds
1. Place the wholegrains in a large bowl, cover with water, add 1 tbsp cider vinegar, stir and leave overnight 12-24 hours to soak.
2. The next day drain and rinse the grains, then drain well and place in a food processor or Thermomix.
3. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan). Grease a 1kg (2lb) loaf tin with butter and coat with the handful of sunflower seeds.
4. Measure the water in a small bowl, add the psyllium, stir and set aside for 5 mins to gel.
5. Place the 2 tbsp vinegar, bicarb, salt and gelled psyllium in with the grains and process until smooth, scraping down the sides occasionally.
6. Add the seeds and mix to combine.
7. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a wet spatula.
8. Sprinkle the top with poppy seeds.
9. Bake for 40 mins then remove from the oven, make a shallow cut down the centre of the crust of the loaf (to allow it to expand evenly) and return to the oven for a further 40 mins bake time.
10. Remove from the tin and return to the oven shelf (without a tin) for a final 10 mins to brown the crust.
11. Remove and cool on a cooling rack until completely cold before slicing.

Zimtsterne – Christmas star cookies

cookies | December 17, 2016 | By

I have taught quite a few baking classes these past few weeks – with students from Greece, Sweden and the USA as well as more locally from France and UK. It’s part of my work that I love, this connecting with people (mostly women it has to be said) from all parts of the world. During class my kitchen comes alive with English and French, spoken with different accents, but always with the desire to learn and to share.

These German cinnamon cookies are an easy way to fill a pretty tin at this time of year when none of us have quite enough time. I had requests for the recipe after serving them as a welcoming treat at a class this week. It strikes me that if you have children then the painting of the stars with the meringue mixture might make quite a therapeutic (if potentially sticky) activity for a wintery afternoon. Damp cloths for sticky fingers at the ready maybe?!

The flavourings used in these cookies seems to vary from family to family. I particularly enjoy the flavour of orange with anything involving almonds, so have used orange zest. Some families use lemon and others accent the almond taste with almond extract. Go with your own preference. Read the instructions carefully – you’ll need to remove some of the meringue mixture for the painting. If you leave it in you’ll end up with an unholy sticky mess. And no cookies. You have been warned!

I have it on good authority from a German friend that the way to keep these cookies slightly soft is to keep a slice of fresh apple in the tin with them. If you try it then let me know if it works! 

Zimtsterne
Print
Ingredients
  1. 2 medium egg whites
  2. 1 tsp lemon juice
  3. 250g ground almonds
  4. 200g icing sugar
  5. grated zest 1 orange
  6. 2 tsp ground Sri Lankan cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 150C/130C Fan and line 2 baking trays with baking parchment.
  2. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk until foamy. Add the lemon juice and whisk again until they hold soft peaks.
  3. Slowly mix in the icing sugar and continue whisking until the mixture is stiff. Remove about a quarter of the meringue mixture and set aside to use for the topping. Better to remove too much than too little - you can always add some back in if the dough mixture later becomes too stiff.
  4. Put the almonds, orange zest, cinnamon, ginger in the bowl with the bulk of the meringue and mix to form a stiff dough. Add a little of the meringue back in if the mixture is really too stiff to combine.
  5. Place the dough on a piece of clingfilm and cover with a second sheet. Roll out to about 4mm thick. Remove the top layer of clingfilm and use a small star-shaped cutter to cut out the cookies. Push the cookies up from beneath the bottom layer of clingfilm to make them easier to pick up and place them on the prepared baking tray.
  6. Re-roll the dough as many times as needed to cut out as many cookies as possible.
  7. Using the reserved to paint the tips of the cookies using a small pastry brush or new paintbrush. If it’s too thick to spread then add a tsp of warm water to the meringue.
  8. Bake in the oven for 9-12 mins until meringue is set but not browned. You’ll need to watch them carefully!
  9. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. They will still be slightly soft underneath. Once cool, store in an airtight tin.
Notes
  1. I used half ground almonds (aka almond flour from blanched almonds) and half I ground myself from whole almonds with their brown skins. I'm sure you could use all of either type in this recipe.
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