Sunday, December 11, 2011


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(30-34 small cookies)

December is almost always a hectic month for me and I often end up buying a lot of my baked goods. Zimtsterne are among the items I look for when I head to the German deli. I didn't see any this year, and decided to take the plunge and make them myself. I will admit not only did they turn into a bit of a challenge, they didn't even look like the ones I was used to, but I loved the taste and texture of these cookies. They were so much better than any of the store bought versions I have purchased over the years!

These wonderful star-shaped, chewy cookies are gluten free, and "iced" with meringue. They contain ground almonds and cinnamon; Zimt = cinnamon, Sterne = stars.

This recipe is adapted from an old out-of-print German cookbook my mum gave me; Das neue große Kochbuch by Roland Gööck ©1963

10-12 oz whole almonds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
lemon zest from a small lemon, finely minced
3 egg whites
2 cups icing sugar 
up to 1 tbsp rum
additional icing sugar for rolling out

Grind the almonds in a food processor until they are very fine. Add the cinnamon and pulse until it's evenly distributed. Empty the almonds into a bowl. You will have about 2 1/4 - 2 1/2 cups of ground almonds.

Remove the zest from a small lemon. I used a microplaner. It's a great tool for this because it just removes the very top portion of the lemon's surface without getting any of the bitter white pith. Stir the zest into the almond and cinnamon mixture.

Beat the egg whites. When they begin to get frothy, add the icing sugar, one tablespoon at a time and continue beating until the egg whites are very stiff. You can see from the photo above that my egg whites never became super stiff. I have no idea at all why that was the case. I beat those whites for close to 15 minutes. It's rained a lot this week in Dallas and it might have been the humidity, but I wasn't sure.

Remove about 4-5 tablespoons of the meringue and set aside.

Gradually stir the remaining meringue into the almond mixture, about 2 large spoonfuls at a time (you might not have to use all of the meringue depending on the humidity; I had about 4 tablespoons left over) until you have a semi-stiff dough. It will be quite tacky/sticky.

Sprinkle some icing sugar evenly over a piece of parchment and place the dough over that. Sprinkle the top of the dough with more icing sugar. Place another piece of parchment paper over that and roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick. The original recipe doesn't call for parchment paper, but when I saw how sticky the dough was, I decided to use it.

Peel back the top layer of parchment paper. This was where things became a bit tricky for me. I wasn't able to peel back the parchment paper because the dough was sticking to it. I placed the entire 2 sheets of parchment paper with the rolled out dough sandwiched between them into the freezer for about 15 minutes. This worked really well. When I removed the dough from the freezer, I was able to peel off the top piece of parchment paper.

Cut out as many stars as you are able to. Gather up the remaining pieces of dough and roll those out again to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut out more stars. I was able to do this two more times without having to return the dough to the freezer.

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Get the 4-5 tablespoons of meringue you set aside earlier. Stir in enough rum until the meringue is thin enough for glazing the tops of the cookies. I used just under 1 tablespoon of rum.

Place a small amount into the center of a cookie and using the back of the spoon, drag the glaze towards each corner of the star shaped cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are glazed.

Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes, depending on how chewy you like them. The longer you bake them, the dryer they become; they are fine either way.

Allow the cookies to cool on the sheets before removing them. They should keep for about 2 weeks.


Sue/the view from great island said...

I don't know why I've never heard of these cookies, I grew up with German grandparents. These look great.

Gerlinde in Washington said...

Thanks! These turned out much lighter than the ones I have bought in the past.. they don't look as elegant, but they are delicious. :)

Stef said...

Hi Gerlinde,
I really do love it, that you are making Zimtsterne over in US. I thought about whyyours have turned out not the way they are supposed to be. Your recipe is pretty much the same as mine, so I can only guess, whyt the reason is. There are a few differences, I don't use icing sugar to sprinkle parchment and dough - rather more ground almonds. Then, I don't think it is good to put the dough in the freezer, it is meant to be sticky and you pat it down rather than rolling it out. I add the meringue mixture (I also never heard of adding Rum) before I cut out the stars. It's a bit of a mess, but it works out well, since all the stars are covered evenly. And I think, here comes the major difference. I let mine dry either over night or at 50 °C for 1/2- 1 h in the oven, then bake no longer than 7 or 8 mins at 160 °C. They are supposed to be a bit gooey :-) Maybe that helps a bit, but I am sure yours are just as delicious, they sure look like it! Love your blog, have a fantastic weekend, Stef xx

Gerlinde in Washington said...

Stef, thanks for all of your tips.. that helps me a lot!

I will definitely try drying them out overnight the next time I make them, if anything that might prevent the glaze from expanding so much. My cookies looked very dry.. but they were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside which I liked.

T and Tea Cake said...

Hi Gerlinde!

They may not look like the store-bought kind but I find the airy meringue frosting quite intriguing! I can imagine it being a nice contrast to the gooey texture of the cookies.

And yes, making Zimtsterne is quite a sticky business. Yet, I don't see how putting the dough in the freezer could affect the outcome, really. I have no clue how the frosting got to rise that much, especially because the preparation is pretty close to the way I did it except that I don't beat the eggwhites frothy at all but add the icing sugar right away. Maybe that is worth giving a try? :)

Cheers und Beste Grüße,


Gerlinde in Washington said...

Tobias, thanks very much for your advice. I know I will be making these cookies again and I will definitely try adding the sugar right away!

Placing the dough into the freezer seemed to make it less sticky. I was able to roll it out and cut out the stars with no issues.

Marilyn Basel, Cookbooks & Poetry said...

I used the egg white frosting over shortbread cookie press Christmas trees to look like snow on the trees, and added sprinkles red and green before baking. On some I left the sprinkles off and drizzled them with zigzags close together made of some green food coloring in a simple confectioner's sugar glaze, after they were baked and chilled. The were more chewy under the meringue and gave the shortbread an interesting softness. I love using the meringue frosting and will try it on any of my cut-out cookies this year, though I will use less confectioner's sugar and more flavoring, I am thinking lemon or maybe coconut rum on dark chocolate shortbreads.

Gerlinde in Washington said...

Marilyn, I have never thought to try this kind of frosting on a regular type of cookie. You've inspired me to give that a try! Thanks!

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