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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
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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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Garibaldi biscuits

cookies | March 31, 2016 | By

Garibaldi biscuits seem to have gone out of fashion, which is a shame. They were a regular feature in the biscuit tin of my youth, much favoured by visiting aunts and friends of my mum, rather than being the first to be chosen by my older sister and I (that would have been a bourbon or later, a ginger cream).

Most families seem to call these ‘squashed fly biscuits or ‘fly cemeteries’ which of course might have something to do with why the children weren’t quite so keen on them. I don’t remember this putting me off, even if the mere name of a blood orange meant I wouldn’t remotely go near one.

Garibaldis have quite a bit in common with Eccles cakes and Chorley cakes, those other traditional cakes/pies/biscuits (let’s get the lid back on THAT can of worms quickly…) all something I have long since given up dreaming of eating gluten free. The older I get, the more I find a garibaldi appealing – hence the desire to figure out a GF version. They are reassuringly unsweet and plain. And they hold up to dunking in a mug of tea (yes, even the homemade ones!).

In researching for this post (I’ll spare you the origin of the name and the visit to Britain of an Italian military dignatory) I discovered that at one time it was possible to buy a chocolate-covered garibaldi. I know those never made their way into our house, otherwise I guarantee they would have been held in considerably higher esteem!

Garibaldi biscuits
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Ingredients
  1. 120g my four flour blend (see flour blend page)
  2. 2 tablespoons ground flax
  3. 1/8 tsp sea salt
  4. 25g sugar
  5. 25g unsalted butter
  6. 3-4 tbsp milk
  7. 50g currants
  8. 1 egg white
  9. extra teaspoon sugar to sprinkle
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan).
  2. Combine the flour, flax, salt and sugar in a bowl.
  3. Rub in the butter until it is well combined, like sand.
  4. Add enough milk to bind to a soft dough.
  5. Place on a sheet of baking parchment and cover with a piece of clingfilm.
  6. Roll out to approx 25 x 15cm.
  7. Remove the cling film, scatter half the piece with the currants, then fold the other side over, using your hand under the baking parchment to help you (like turning the page of a book) and press down.
  8. Replace the cling film and roll out again until approx 25 x 15 cm or 2mm thick. Try not to let the currants break through the surface too much as they tend to burn otherwise.
  9. Cut into biscuits 3 rows of 6 biscuits, but leave them all joined together.
  10. Brush with lightly beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar.
  11. Carefully transfer the biscuits, one at a time, to a baking parchment covered baking sheet.
  12. Bake for 15-20 mins until golden brown. Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container.
Adapted from Delia Smith's garibaldi biscuits
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