There’s nothing like looking for a new recipe, something unique and different for this time of year, finding one, becoming delighted and excited at the prospect and that same thing setting you back a few paces neatly into place. Did you get all that?
The short of it – this recipe almost kicked our food blogging ass.
But then we said uh uuuhhh, recipe. No way. We are making you and you are going to taste good (we hope) and you will be authentic (we hope so, cuz this is a German recipe on an American site after all) and…and…yeah! The amazing thing is that this strategy worked. We’re going to go ahead and start organizing a nationwide tour speaking on how you, too, can persevere with the Power of Uh Uuuuh!
We know what you’re thinking – this is all that’s in this recipe? And it makes delicious, tender cookies of the German persuasion? YES box checked.
Guess what? They’re gluten-free, too!
We don’t have the dietary need here to make gluten-free food, and I admit I’ve shied away from trying some gluten-free recipes the sis blogging partner has suggested in the past. They usually require the purchasing of specialty ingredients that I’m not going to use much of again, and we don’t have any local gluten-free friends to pass that stuff on to. As it turns out, this recipe enables you to make your own almond flour of sorts. It’s just powdered sugar and sliced almonds ground finely with the use of a mini food prep machine or food processor. Very easy!
If you don’t have a mini food prep or food processor, see if a friend or family member will lend you one. It takes seconds to make the almond “flour”.
The next thing you need to do is pull out your stand mixer or hand mixer and whip up some egg whites and powdered sugar to make meringue, that fluffy white stuff that resembles marshmallows. Fortunately sis blogging partner has been around the block with this stuff and knew the recipes directions of one to two minutes whipping time wasn’t going to cut it. We didn’t time how long ours took to form stiff enough texture to stand on it’s own, but it was about 5-8 minutes. No joke. The ‘ole Kitchen Aid mixer could’ve almost flown right off the counter, it was whipping that hard.
See how there’s that bridge of meringue between the whip attachment and the rest in the bowl. We didn’t fake that, it’s how the meringue should be when it’s ready.
So after you’ve set aside some of the meringue for the cookie topping, the rest is folded in with the almond mixture. This is where the recipe tried to kick our collective asses. Ours was way, way too wet. There was no way it would ever hold shape when cut. It was a gooey mess. It became obvious that we had way too much meringue in our mixture, even though we’d set aside the right amount for the topping. We almost scrapped it, cuz, yo, we were tired kitchen bunnies. But we added almost a cup more ground almonds and the dough finally came to the right texture, much more stiff. It got a lot harder to incorporate that last cup or so of ground almonds. The end result is a lot more like a scone dough, a little shaggy and easier to pat down with your hands.
Just as the recipe says, lay the dough down on one sheet of powdered-sugar-dusted parchment paper and pat it down with your hands. Dust the top with more powdered sugar – I know, it seems like a lot of powdered sugar, but trust us in that these cookies are NOT as sweet as it seems. Lay another sheet of parchment over that and roll it to about 1/4 inch in thickness (I think ours may have been a little thicker, honestly – OH WELL more munchtasticness) and roll, baby, roll.
You’ll have to flip the dough over for the next step. Yes, powdered sugar will turn the immediate area around you to a winter wonderland that later translates to a sticky counter and floor. It’s OK. You’ll get it clean again, promise. Just blame your high-maintenance need for authentic German cookies and move on. We did!
After you cut out the stars (it was admittedly a little hard to do this part, but I think that’s just cuz our cutter was a little larger than called for. A smaller cutter would be much easier. Ours was more like 4 inches or so wide. 3 would be better), it’s pretty smooth sailing from there. Apply the yummy meringue to the top, using a butter knife or small offset spatula to smooth it into the shape of the star. This might take a little practice at first, but even the less pretty ones will be tasty. Just have fun with it and don’t forget the slivered almond design on top of the meringue. This makes for a pretty cute, festive cookie.
I work with a couple of German-descended people and they felt like, after a taste-test, that this recipe was a truly authentic zimtsterne cookie. The sis blogging partner and I are actually German-descended as well, but neither of us ever lived there long enough to become acquainted with the real deal in German cookies, though our parents still get great German-branded cookies this time of year due to having access to a military base. This variety was totally new to us, though.
Right out of the oven and for pretty much the whole first day, these cookies are soft and even the meringue was pillowy and more like marshmallows. The next day the cookies themselves are still soft and chewy, but the meringue got more of that crisp outer skin it’s known for, but the inside was still nice and soft. They are also, as stated before, not a sweet-tasting cookie. Not overly so. At all. We swear! Everyone that tried them loved them, and after figuring out what to do should things go a little haywire, I’m definitely up for making this traditional German cookie again.
Cinnamon Stars (Zimtsterne)
adapted slightly from Food Network
Prep Time: 30 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Level: Intermediate Makes: about 24 cookies
- 2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus more for rolling
- 15 ounces sliced almonds, with skin (about 4 1/2 cups)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
Sift the confectioners’ sugar. (If you don’t have a sifter, just whisk the powdered sugar well.)
Put 1/2 cup of the sifted confectioners’ sugar, 10 ounces (3 heaping cups) of the almonds and all the cinnamon in a food processor. Process until the nuts are finely ground, with just a few larger pieces.
Whip the egg whites in a large, clean bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until they hold soft peaks, about 1 minute. Gradually add the remaining confectioners’ sugar while whipping, until the whites are thick, creamy and somewhat stiff, about 2 minutes more (see Notes below). Set aside 2/3 cup of this meringue for topping the cookies.
Fold the ground almond mixture and the lemon zest into the remaining meringue to make a stiff dough.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Lay a sheet of parchment or waxed paper on the work surface and lightly dust with confectioners’ sugar. Turn the dough out onto the dusted paper, flatten and dust with more sugar as needed, and then lay another sheet of parchment or waxed paper on top. Roll the dough between the papers until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Flip the dough over and gently peel off a sheet of the paper. For ease when cutting, lay the paper back on the dough, flip again and gently pull off the other side of the paper so that the dough is fully released from it.
Cut cookies with a 3-inch star cutter and place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. (Excess dough can be rerolled.) Use a small spoon, brush or offset spatula to spread the reserved meringue over the top of each cookie, taking care not to let the meringue drip over the sides. Press or sprinkle remaining sliced almonds in a decorative pattern into the meringue.
Bake cookies until bottoms are light golden brown and meringue is set and crisp, about 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the oven door to release heat and dry cookies out in the oven for 10 more minutes.
Busy baker’s tips: The dough can be frozen between the sheets of paper for up to 2 weeks. Store baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 10 days.
It’s worth it to have extra almonds on hand because we ended up adding almost an entire cup more ground almonds than called for, due to our dough being too wet after incorporating the almond/sugar mixture with the divided meringue. If you do have to add more, just grind up a little at a time and add till the dough becomes pretty darn hard to stir.
There is a pretty good video coinciding with this recipe on Food Network. Follow the link above (under our title for the recipe, just above the ingredients list) and you’ll see a link there for the video. The only thing is the video says to whip the eggs whites to soft peaks, add sugar, whip more for two minutes, but you actually may need to whip them longer to form those stiff peaks. Ours took about 5-8 minutes at about speed 6 on a Kitchen Aid mixer.
Keep in mind also that some of the measurements in the video are not correct. Follow the ingredient amounts and directions as laid down in the written recipe above. The video is still good for getting a visual of the techniques used.
Before I turned off the oven to “dry out” the cookies with the door open for 10 minutes, the meringue was nice and smooth. After the drying time, most of them had cracked meringue. I might not do the drying out part next time. They did, after all, stay pretty chewy and almost a little moist anyway.
These don’t puff up a whole lot in the oven. Two inches apart on the cookie sheet isn’t really necessary. One would be fine.