Sunday, December 10, 2017

Swiss Christmas cookies: Zimtstärnli & Brunsli

Having shared my all-time favourite groovy Christmas albums with you, I would like to let you in on my absolute favourite Christmas biscuits of all times.

Switzerland has a very strong tradition of making Christmas biscuits and there is a vast varitey of them. Today’s Christmas cookies can trace their history to recipes from Medieval Europe biscuits, which when many modern ingredients such as cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, almonds and dried fruit were introduced into the west. By the 16th century Christmas biscuits had become popular across Europe.

It is a treat and a great deal of fun to prepare these every year with my children. Of course, they think the best part is licking the kitchen utensils and bowls once the biscuits are in the oven. Ideally you would invite a friend and her kids to bake along with you....the more, the merrier!!!!

Zimtstärnli/ Cinnamon stars
3 egg whites
1 pinch of salt
250gr powder sugar
1,5 tbsp cinnamon
350 gr ground almonds
0.5 tbsp Kirsch (Swiss cherry schnapps)

1.) Beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff.
2.) Mix in the powder sugar.
3.) Put aside and cover about 1dl of the above mixture for icing later.
4.) Mix cinnamon and ground almonds, add Kirsch and combine with the remaining egg whites/sugar mixture until you obtain a dough-like texture.
5.) Roll out the dough on a plastic bag or on a sugar-covered base. The thickness of the dough should be about 1cm.
6. ) Cut out the stars carefully with a cookie cutter which you dip into sugar before every use.
7. ) Lay out the cookies on an oven tray covered with baking paper.
8.) Glazing / drying:  Dip a little glaze onto the middle of each star, pull the icing towards the star tips with a wooden toothpick.
9.) Let the cookies dry at room temperature for about 6 hours or overnight.
10) Bake approx. 5 min. in the middle of a preheated oven at 250°C. Take out and let cool on a cookie rack.

Brunsli/Christmas brownies
150 g sugar
1 pinch of salt
250 g ground almonds
¼ tea spoon cinnamon
1 pinch of clove powder
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of flour
2 fresh egg whites 
100 g bitter chocolate
2 tea spoons of kirsch

1.) Mix sugar, salt, almonds, cinnamon, clove powder, cocoa powder and flour in a bowl.
2.) Add egg whites and stir until ingredients are evenly distributed.
3.) Cut chocolate in real small pieces, pour hot water over the chocolate, let rest for about 5 minutes, then pour off all water except about half a tablespoon, stir until even. Now immediately proceed with the next step.
4.) Add melted chocolate from the previous step and the kirsch, knead to a soft dough.
5.) Roll out dough on a flat surface (sprickle surface slightly with sugar so the dough does not stick to it), approximately 10 mm thick. Cut out different shapes with cookie cutter and put them on a baking sheet covered with baking paper.
6.) Let them rest for about 5 to 6 hours or over night in a dry place.
7.) Bake for about 4 to 6 minutes in the center of the pre-heated oven at 250 °C. Let cool completely before serving.

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