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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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