I love Christmas, but the last couple of years I haven’t been getting into the spirit enough. Two years ago we were hibernating with a newborn, so pretty much ignored it, and while I had all the best intentions last year, I kind of left it quite late, and it was a Luxembourg year so we were leaving early and there didn’t seem that much point in going all out with the decorations (though I did learn to crochet a star chain). But this year I am prepared and have started thinking about it now!
The thing that always puts me in the Christmassy mood most of all is baking, and there’s no better Christmas baking tradition than the German one. So today I thought I’d share with your two classic German Christmas biscuit recipes, that I plan on making soonest!
These are the ones that always get the best feedback when I make them for people! They are crumbly crescent shapes.
They rely heavily on vanilla sugar, which is a staple ingredient in German baking and you can buy all year round in little sachets. Recipes will say something like 2 packets of vanilla sugar, it’s not measured in spoons, which can make it a bit of a pain when you don’t have access to the packets. I think a packet is about a heaped teaspoon. Vanilla sugar isn’t very commonplace in the UK obviously, but a few years ago someone got me a big jar from the M&S Christmas section, not sure they still have it. I still have some German sachets, I complained about not being able to get it here, and asked me mum to send me some. She ended up sending me about 100 sachets, I’m not sure I’ll ever run out! Anyway, it’s easy to make fresh with vanilla pods and sugar, either by sticking some pods in a jar of sugar and letting it infuse for a while, or just scraping out the seeds and mixing them with sugar.
The other ingredient that’s common in German baking that’s difficult to find is ground hazelnuts. I’ve yet to find them anywhere. You could just substitute for almonds, or if you have a food processor you could grind then yourself (you can get whole ones from health food shops). That’s what I do because I love the flavour of hazelnuts!
Anyway, here’ a recipe (translated from here. It makes a big batch, half of everything would work too):
- 560g white flour
- 160g caster sugar
- 400g butter, cut into small squares
- 200g hazelnuts
- 100g sugar for turning in
- 4 packets/teaspoons vanilla sugar
Mix the flour, caster sugar, butter and nuts into a solid dough. Shape into a long roll, wrap in clingfilm and put it in the fridge to cool through (ideally an hour). Cut out small bits, shape into crescents. Bake at 175° on a lower shelf until slightly golden, about 15 Minutes. Mix the remaining sugar and vanilla sugar, and turn each Kipferl in it from all sides straight out of the oven. Leave to cool.
These are my favourites! They’re cinammony and citrusy and a bit chewey and basically amazing! No flour so presumably gluten free (I wouldn’t want to say for sure as there seems to be gluten in just about everything)? And they don’t need any ‘weird’ baking ingredients either.
Here’s a recipe (via here) Again, massive portion:
- 500g ground almonds
- 425g icing sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 3 egg whites
- 2 tablespoons amaretto (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
Mix the almonds, 300g icing sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest. Add 2 egg whites and amaretto. Mix and knead into a smooth dough. Roll out 1cm thick and punch out stars with a cookie cutter and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper (it will stick if you don’t use baking paper). Dunk the cookie cutter in icing sugar in between goes. Beat the remaining egg white until very solid, then add the remaining 125g icing sugar slowly. Brush the egg white mixture onto the stars. Bake 10-15 minutes at 150° on the lowest shelf. You are really drying these more than baking them.
photos are clicakble for source