In search of healthy and fun meals to feed my family, with an eye toward sustainable living.

Here you'll find recipes & ramblings about keeping my family fed with what's available in Alaska between local produce, a little bit of wild harvest, and the modern grocery store.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Baking European Christmas cookies

I did a bit of baking today, trying to catch up -- cookie tins are once again empty on account of maraundering teenagers...

I challenged myself to bake (which I love) a variety of cookies (a must at Christmas-time) without a whole lot of dish-washing (which I don't care for)... it's all in the name of efficiency, don't you know!

So, without washing any mixing bowls, spatulas, etc until the end of the exercise, here's what I figure can be made one after the other without looking at the sink until the very end:

Zimtsterne (Cinnamon stars, German)
Spritz (cookie press cookies, int'l) or Scottish shortbread cookies
Spekulatius (very thin spice cookies, German/Danish)
Rokkekager (literally translates to "Rock cookies", Scandinavian)

ZIMTSTERNE (Cinnamon stars) -this is completely wheat/gluten-free
3 egg whites
1/2 # granulated sugar
3 t cinnamon
2 c grated almonds (save approx 1/4 c for dusting pastry board) -- I grind my own, blanching them first
1/2 t almond extract

Beat eggwhites and as they start foaming, slowly add sugar. Set aside some of this for topping.
Transfer to another bowl where you carefully mix in the remaining ingredients. Keep adding nutflour until dough holds together enough to be rolled out on dusted pastry board. Cut star shapes, brush w/beaten eggwhites, and bake on greased cookie sheet at 300F for approx 30 min, until golden brown and slightly chewy.
PS: mine never turn out looking as nice as this picture I found on google...

SPRITZ (Cookie press)
there's lots of recipes. Basically calls for butter, sugar and flour, plus egg yolks, which is why I make them after Zimtsterne, where I have leftover egg yolks! Just use same mixing bowl that the eggwhites were beaten it -- (in case of nut allergies, be sure not to use any tools that touched nuts)...
Typically this dough needs to chill, so move on to the next recipe, without washing that bowl!

Here's my version (based on Joy of Cooking -adjusted to use up the 3 egg yolks)
1.5 c butter, softened
1 c sugar
3 egg yolks
1.5 t vanilla or almond extract
3 c to 3.5c flour
3/4 t salt
optional: add ground almonds as well -- adjust flour as needed

again, butter, sugar, flour, plus spices. Keep on using the same bowls to soften the butter, mix the dough, etc...

1/2 # butter, softened at room temp
1 # sugar
2 eggs
grated rind of 1 lemon
4.5 c flour
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground gloves
1/4 t ground cardamom
optional: slivered almonds
(some recipes call for ground almonds as well)

Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs, one at a time. Fold in all dry ingredients. Chill dough (instructions are for overnight), but my Alaskan trick is to stick them outside, already spread 1/8th inch thick on the greased cookie sheet (I cover w/ plastic wrap first).
Traditionally, Spekulatius are "relief-printed" cookies (often w/ windmills or other designs), but sure could bake them plain.
Sometimes they have a thin glaze of eggwhite wash, and perhaps sprinkled w/ a bit of sugar.
Bake at 350F (I've even seen lower temps, like 300) until lightly golden.
As soon as you remove them from oven, cut them apart into squares.

From The history of Springerle is quite interesting. It is said that a effigy of an animal was used in place of an actual animal sacrifice for those who could not afford the real thing. These imprints were used during pagan midwinter festivals at which people prayed for an early spring. They were commonly exchanged instead of Christmas cards and Biblical scenes on the cookies served to educate the illiterate in the middle ages. For more on the history, check out

ROKKEKAGER (Rock cookies)
1 c butter
1.5 c brown sugar
3 eggs
2.5-3 c flour
1/2 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t cloves
1 t vanilla
3 c mixed candied fruit and/or raisins
1 c each hazelnuts and pecans/walnuts

cream butter and sugar, add eggs. Add dry ingredients & fruit & nuts.
Drop by the spoonful onto baking sheets. Bake 8-10 min at 375F. These store well (but beware if you find them at Easter -- then they may resemble Hagrid's rock cakes!)

Phew, now better get to some dishes...

1 comment:

  1. I baked all weekend too, but with poor planning. Have dry hands now from all the dishwashing.