Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Cookies German Style

Cookies are as much a part of Christmas fare as candy canes, fruit cake and eggnog and no one seems to do it quite like the Germans. Thanks to the German Tourist Office and fellow traveler Kristi Casey Sanders, here are some traditional German cookie recipes.

N├╝rnberger Lebkuchen
4 eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups unpeeled almonds, coarsely grated
1/3 cup candied orange peel, finely chopped
1 lemon, grated for peel, juice reserved
1/4 whole nutmeg, grated
Confectioner's sugar
rose water if you can find it
edible baking paper

Beat eggs and sugar until they have the consistency of thick cream. To this gradually add almonds, candied orange peel, lemon peel and nutmeg. Place wafers on baking sheet and spoon dough onto paper. Dough should be about 1/2" high. Smooth dough with a knife dipped into rose water. Bake in a pre-heated 325-350° oven for 10-15 minutes or until bread-like. Remove cookies and let cool. Meanwhile, mix Confectioner's sugar with lemon juice to form a paste. Frost cookies.

Cinnamon Stars or Zimtsterne
2 1/4 cups whole almonds (a little over 1 lb.)
5 egg whites
2 cups Confectioner's sugar, sifted
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon Kirschwasser (cherry Schnapps)
star pattern cookie cutter

Scald almonds with boiling water, remove their skins and let cool. Grind finely. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in Confectioner's sugar and set aside 1 cup of the egg and sugar mixture. Fold in ground almonds, cinnamon and the Kirschwasser, then quickly form a dough. Let the dough rest covered for one hour in the refrigerator.

Cover a work surface with sugar and roll out the chilled dough to 1/2-inch thick. Cut out stars. Cover each star evenly with the reserved egg and sugar mixture, place on an ungreased cookie sheet and let the uncooked cookies dry overnight at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 425° F and bake for 5 minutes. Check the cookies often while baking so the top stays white and the insides remain soft.

Vanilla Crescents or Vanillekipferl
3 1/2 TBS. unpeeled almonds
3-1/2 TBS. hazelnuts
1-1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon sugar
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup, plus 6 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into small pieces
2 egg yolks
5 packets vanilla sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar.

Pour boiling water over the almonds, remove the skins and finely chop. Finely chop the hazelnuts. Sift the flour onto a large wooden board. Make a well in the flour and add the almonds, hazelnuts, sugar, salt, butter and egg yolks. Knead dough until it is smooth and pliable, but do not over knead.

Wrap the dough in aluminum foil and let rest for 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Divide the dough and form into several pencil-thick rolls. Cut the rolls into 2-inch lengths and bend into crescent shapes. Place on cookie sheets and bake on middle rack until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Stir the vanilla sugar and powdered sugar together in a shallow bowl. Carefully dip the still warm crescent cookies in the sugar.

Tip: to store the cookies so they won't break, stack them lengthwise between wax paper in a cookie tin.

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