The Advent- and Christmastime is unimaginable without this iconic cookie. Almost always a 6-point star shape, Zimtsterne – with literally means cinnamon stars – consist mainly of cinnamon and almonds. Many people buy them packaged as soon as temperatures begin to drop at the grocery store, but they are easy to make and taste way better than the store-bought ones.
An invention of the southwest of Germany, the Christmas pastry is known for its fluffy consistency thanks to whipped egg whites and the careful folding-in of its ingredients. Believed to originate sometime around the 1600s, Zimtsterne were a food for royalty since cinnamon was a very expensive and rare spice in Europe that time and had to be imported. This explains why almonds and cinnamon are especially associated with once-a-year festivals such as Christmas.
Zimtsterne are not baked at a high temperature, on the contrary the oven only gets set at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore it is important to use pasteurized eggs, since once the dough is formed and cut out with cookie cutters, the cookie gets coated with a egg white icing and just ‘simmers’ in the oven. Using pasteurized egg whites reduces the possibility of food-borne bacteria contaminating the cookies. The eggs and eggs whites can be found in well-stocked supermarkets near the regular eggs.
- 250 grams or 2 cups of powdered sugar
- three egg whites
- a pinch of salt
- 2 level Teeloeffel or 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
- 350 grams or 3 1/2 cups of almond meal (which are ground up almonds which skin)
- a little bit of flour for rolling the dough
- Sift the powdered sugar.
- Place the egg whites and the pinch of salt into a mixing bowl and mix until white and fluffy.
- Adding the sifted powdered sugar one spoon at a time, continue to mix until combined.
- Transfer 6 to 8 spoon full of whipped egg whites to a small bowl and set aside. (You will need that later for the topping.)
- Add the almond meal and cinnamon and carefully lift them under the whipped egg whites.
- Place the dough into the refrigerator for a few minutes to make it easier to work with the dough (I usually take this time to clean up the kitchen a little).
- Preheat oven to 125 degree celsius or 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cover your table top or work area with powdered sugar (I like to use parchment paper since it makes the clean-up process much easier).
- Using a rolling pin which has also been coated with some powdered sugar, roll out the dough to about 1/2 centimeter or one tenth of an inch.
- Using a star-shaped cookie cutter, begin cutting out stars and transfer cookie to a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
- Continue to cut out stars. (You should have about 50 cookies by the time you are done. Tip: To keep cookie cutter from sticking to the dough, dip the cookie cutter in some flour.)
- Using a brush, coat the cookies one at a time with the whipped egg white mixture that was set aside.
- Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes.
- Place on a cooling rack.
- Store in tin with a slice of apple (that way cookies will last about 2 to 3 weeks).