Tag: christmas cookies

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

There is a very popular Christmas cookie in Germany called Zimtstern, meaning cinnamon star. They are a tiny bit chewy inside, soft and juicy. The dough is made without flour and butter but with lots of ground almonds or hazelnuts and egg whites which gives it its typical texture. This sweet is a classic which you can find on every German Christmas cookie platter and I have faithfully baked them for years. It has always been one of the recipes that I look forward to with excitement, these cookies bring out the best of my beloved cinnamon!

As so often when I follow a tradition with such consistency, at one point I need a little change or at least a variation, which is the substitution of spices in this case. I took out the cinnamon and replaced it with lots of freshly grated ginger, orange zest and cloves. The result is an extremely aromatic cookie with the same texture as the Zimtstern, they are equally soft and chewy inside. I covered them in a thin layer of orange glaze to give them a glowing festive look. As I had already broken with the tradition I thought I might as well give them different shapes. When I took out my cookie cutters I went straight for the sausage dog, reindeer and squirrel apart from the classic trees and stars!

I wish you a happy Advent!

Meike xx

If you’re looking for some more baking inspiration for the next days, here are my Espresso Meringue Cookies with Cardamom Ganache, a Chocolate and Orange PanettoneVanilla KipferlChocolate and Apricot Jam Sandwich CookiesBittersweet Spice CookiesMaltese Lemon CookiesGerman Spitzbuben Cookies and Elisenlebkuchen with Bittersweet Chocolate.

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

 

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

For about 60 cookies you need

ground hazelnuts and/ or almonds 320g / 11.5 ounces
(I used 100g / 3.5 ounces hazelnuts and 220g / 8 ounces almonds)
organic egg whites 2
a pinch of salt
sieved icing sugar 250g / 9 ounces plus 100g / 3.5 ounces for the glaze
freshly grated ginger 20g / 3/4 ounce (about 3 teaspoons)
grated zest of 1 orange (about 2 tablespoons)
cloves, crushed in a mortar, 20 (about 1 teaspoon)
freshly squeezed orange juice, about 6 teaspoons, for the glaze
granulated sugar, to roll out the dough

Set the oven to 160°C / 320°F (fan-assisted oven) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the ground nuts with the ginger, zest and cloves. Spread and rub the ginger with your fingers into the nuts until well combined.

Whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff and mix in the icing sugar (gradually). Mix in the nuts and spice mixture with a wooden spoon until well combined. Scrape the dough onto cling film, form a ball and keep in the fridge for about 2 hours.

Roll out the dough between sugared cling film, it should be about 1/2cm / 1/4″ thick. Dip the cookie cutters in sugar and cut out cookies, spread them on a baking sheet with a little space in between them and bake for 11-12 minutes or until golden. They should still feel a bit soft. Let them cool for a few minutes before you put them on a wire rack.

For the glaze, mix 100g / 3.5 ounces of icing sugar with 5 teaspoons of orange juice, the mixture should be very thick and slightly runny. Add a few more drops of the juice if necessary, mix until smooth and brush the cookies with the glaze.

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

 

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

 

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

 

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

 

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

 

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

 

Ginger Orange Christmas Cookies

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

The peace and silence of a Sunday morning is just perfect for an Advent baking session. I take my time to choose a recipe that fits my mood, lay out the ingredients and I’m filled with a kind of excitement that isn’t too far away of what I felt as a child when I used to prepare this same ritual with my mother. Years have past and now it’s my own kitchen filled with the most beautiful smell of cookies and Christmas cakes but the magic of this moment touches me just as much.

Although my oven doesn’t see meringue too often, I have to make my luscious meringue sandwich beauties at least once during the Christmas season. Two delicate drops of espresso meringue cookies stuck together with the most aromatic bittersweet chocolate ganache refined with cardamom and cinnamon are such a sumptuous treat! The whipped egg whites turn into crisp bites which are a perfect contrast to the creamy lusciousness of the dense filling.

This is an adult cookie, it needs a bit of care and gentle handling but it’s worth it. There are so many festive treats which don’t ask for much, a quick short crust dough, some fancy or nostalgic cookie cutters and the kitchen turns into a christmassy bakery. My meringue cookie is a little diva, it demands special treatment, care and attention, but the result is so amazing that the attitude is forgiven. The great thing about the Advent season is that there are four weeks of festive baking, four weekends to choose from traditional family recipes, experimental new discoveries and delicious finds from various culture’s culinary cookie collections. Every week, there are new spices to use, new pastries to work with to bring the sweet classics from our childhoods back to the table. Nuts and seeds, flour, chocolate, spices and icing sugar spread all over the kitchen tops, this is a picture full of memories which makes this time of the year so special to me.

I had an unexpected little visitor this weekend who joined my baking. Our godchild visited me to take a look at our Christmas tree and also helped me prepare a batch of Gianduja cookies. The two of us listened to some music, rolled out the dark Kipferl between our hands and had a chat. Now I’m the one who can pass on my cookie knowledge to the next generation and maybe he will remember this moment when he’s in his own kitchen one day, as a man, rolling Kipferl. We were both really sad when his father came to pick him up but we already have a date for another baking session!

Have a wonderful 2nd Advent!

And here’s some inspiration for more christmassy cookie recipes: buttery Vanilla Kipferl, Chocolate and Apricot Jam Sandwich Cookies, Bittersweet Spice Cookies, Maltese Lemon Cookies, German Spitzbuben Cookies, Elisenlebkuchen

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

 

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

The ganache has to cool in the fridge for a few hours or in the freezer, or you can let it harden overnight, like I did.

For about 20 sandwich cookies you need

For the ganache

good quality bittersweet chocolate 150g / 5.5 ounces
heavy cream 150 ml / 5 ounces
instant espresso powder 1/2 teaspoon
ground cardamom 1/8 teaspoon
ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon

In a sauce pan, heat the cream and add the chocolate, espresso and spices. When the chocolate is melted whisk the mixture until well combined, let it cool and keep in the fridge for a few hours until stiff.

 

For the meringue cookies

organic egg whites 4
sugar 180g / 6.5 ounces
a pinch of salt
white wine vinegar 1/2 teaspoon
instant espresso powder 2 teaspoon

Set the oven to 140°C / 275 °F (top / bottom heat) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff. Slowly add the sugar and vinegar and continue mixing until stiff and glossy. Mix in the espresso powder and fill the meringue mixture in a piping bag (with a wide opening). Pipe walnut sized mounds on the lined baking sheet, leaving some space in between them. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until they are golden and firm on top, place a wooden spoon in the door to keep it open a bit while the meringues are baking. They should easily peel off the parchment paper when they are done. Let them cool completely on a wire rack before you stick them together with the ganache.

 

Assembling the cookies

Whisk the hard ganache until light and creamy (like a frosting). Spread the ganache on one cookie and gently (!) stick another one on top.

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

 

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

 

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

 

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

 

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

 

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

 

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

Elisenlebkuchen – Juicy Spice Cookies with Bittersweet Chocolate

Lebkuchen

Elisenlebkuchen are essential German Christmas treats! A bite of these juicy spice and chocolate cookies, a sip of my mulled wine and some John Fahey tunes in the background and I’m right in the mood for the 1st Advent!

These dark sweets are a special kind of Lebkuchen, made without any flour or butter but lots of ground hazelnuts, almonds, spices and citrus fruits. They are often compared to gingerbread (which I find difficult as there’s no ginger involved in the recipe), with a similar aromatic juiciness which is no surprise as they combine all the wonderful flavours associated with festive baking, like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, all spice and citrus. A simple Lebkuchen officially becomes the queen of all  Lebkuchen, the fine Elisenlebkuchen, when the dough contains more than 25% of nuts and less than 10% flour. It’s kind of a royal upgrade to keep the quality and protect its tradition. Originally from Nuremberg (Nürnberg in German), the city gained fame all over the world for this sweet delicacy. I remember emptying one package of them after the other as a child at Christmas, preferably the ones covered in bittersweet chocolate. The Nuremberg Lebkuchen are either ‘naked’ or glazed with sugar or chocolate, which were the most popular ones in my family so I had to eat them quick.

After years of stuffing my belly with them under the Christmas tree, the time has come to start the Lebkuchen production at my home. Elisenlebkuchen are often quite big but I wanted a smaller size, just a small bite to enjoy them more often. The preparation is surprisingly easy. The dough can be used as soon as it’s mixed although some bakers recommend keeping it in the fridge overnight. It’s a bit sticky but manageable. You just have to drop a dollop of it on a thin edible wafer paper for cookies (also known as oblate) and put them in the oven until they are golden but still soft inside. The result is almost spongy and so fragrant that it wasn’t easy for me to watch them cool before I could brush them with bittersweet chocolate. When you have a treat like this in front of you, the last thing you want to do is wait!

In the past, certain bakeries were specialised in the production of Lebkuchen all over the country to create their own christmassy signature sweet for their region. The textures and shapes vary, some are cut into squares like in Aachen in the west of Germany, or baked in the shape of hearts like in Bavaria. Elisenlebkuchen are still my favourite, with chocolate of course and preferably in large amounts!

Have a jolly 1st Advent!

Lebkuchen

 

Lebkuchen

 Elisenlebkuchen

For 40 cookies you need

organic eggs (at room temperature) 3
sugar 210g / 7.5 ounces
hazelnuts, roughly chopped, 40g / 1.5 ounces
ground hazelnuts 200g / 7 ounces
ground almonds 80g / 3 ounces
candied lemon peel 50g / 2 ounces
candied orange peel 50g / 2 ounces
lemon zest 2 teaspoons
orange zest 2 teaspoons
ground cinnamon 1 1/2 teaspoons
ground cardamom 1/4 teaspoon
ground cloves 1/2 teaspoon
ground coriander 1/2 teaspoon
ground allspice 1/4 teaspoon
ground mace 1/4 teaspoon
a pinch of salt
edible round wafer papers for cookies (50mm / 1/4″ diameter), 40
(if you use a bigger size, add a little more dough on each of them and bake the cookies a bit longer)
bittersweet chocolate 300g / 10.5 ounces, for the topping
butter 1 1/2 tablespoons, for the topping
almonds 40, for the topping

Set the oven to 180°C / 355°F and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a sauce pan, melt the chocolate and butter for the topping.

Mix the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer for about 7 minutes until light and creamy, there shouldn’t be any sugar crystals left.

Combine the ground nuts, almonds, candied peel, zest, spices and salt and gently stir into the egg sugar mixture with a wooden spoon until combined. Stir in the chopped nuts and put a heaped teaspoon of the dough on each round wafer paper. Put the cookies on the baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 13 minutes or until golden, they should stay soft inside.

Let them cool on a rack before you brush them with the melted chocolate and garnish each of them with an almond.

Lebkuchen

 

Lebkuchen

 

Lebkuchen

 

Lebkuchen

 

Lebkuchen

 

Lebkuchen

 

lebkuchen20