In Germany the Christmas season starts on December, 1st, - even though you can already buy Christmas cookies in September, because people want to make money. The time from December, 1st, to Christmas Eve is called "Adventszeit", time of Advent, and it's very important in Germany. The most visible signs are the colourful fairy lights in the windows. Also kids get an "Adventskalendar" which means they can unwrap a small gift each day until Christmas Eve. You can buy such an Adventskalendar and then the gift will be a piece of chocolate. But in many families these advent calendars are homemade and contain small figurines or hair slides or other small things.
Another important tradition of the German Adventszeit is to bake your own cookies. Families will come together and bake and decorate cookies after recipes which are handed down through the generations. It's great fun and homemade cookies always taste better than the ones you can buy.
In the following entry you can find a few recipes for such Christmas cookies. All of them are tested and approved off by family and friends. You may miss a few classics, however, only the recipes that have been personally tested by the researcher of this entry have been included.
Short Pastry Cookies
The most common Christmas cookies in Germany are the so called "Mürbeteigplätzchen" - or short pastry cookies. There are pretty easy to make. Just remember to use very cold butter and try to work quickly since once the pastry gets too warm it gets sticky, too.
For a simple short pastry for about 80 cookies you need:
200g butter, cold butter
1 egg or two egg yolks
a pinch of salt
If you use 300g butter instead of "just" 200g, you can do without the egg. Your short pastry will be especially short and crumbly. On the other side you can also use only 150g butter and one egg plus a yolk. But hey, it's Christmas, right? What's a little butter?:)First, cut the butter into little bits and put it back into the fridge. The colder it is later when added to the dough, the better.Then sift the flour onto your kitchen plate and make a little hollow in the middle of it.Into that hollow you put the sugar, the salt and the egg.Stir the sugar into the egg.Now get the butter out of the fridge and put the butter slices onto the outer edge of flour. It helps if you push it into the flour a little bit but be careful not to break the flour "bowl" and let the liquid escape.Take a big knife and chop the dough through with it. This way the ingredients get mixed without getting into contact with warm hands too soon.When the dough consists of many tiny lumps of butter and flour and the rest of it, use your hands and knead all the ingredients into a smooth dough without any visible lumps of egg or butter or flour. And try to work as quick as you can since the dough tends to get awfully sticky when warm.flatten the dough, wrap it in cling film and put it into the fridge for about an hour. You can also put the dough between two deep plates.Get it out of the fridge again, knead it again shortly and roll it out onto a bit of flour until the dough is about 3mm thick. You can also put the dough between two sheets of cling film (the ones you wrapped it into, e.x.). That way you don't need to use any more flour.Use different pastry cutters (stars, angels, moons, Santa Claus...) to cut out the cookies.Put the cookies onto a baking tray with baking paper.Bake the cookies for about 10-12 minutes in the pre-heated oven by 175 Centigrade or gas mark 2 if you have a gas oven.Let the cookies cool down and enjoy them!
But now - how to make the cookies:
Variations of Short Pastry Cookies
the ingredients for 1 recipe of short pastry cookies but replace 100g of the flour with
100g ground almonds
1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of milk or cream
100g sliced almondsPrepare the short pastry as described above mixing the ground almonds with the sifted flour.Mix the egg yolk with the milk or cream and use a baking brush to spread a little bit on each cut out cookiePut a few sliced almonds on each cookie. The egg yolk-milk-mix will stick the almonds to the dough.Bake as described above.Enjoy!
the ingredients for 1 recipe of short pastry cookies
2-3 tablespoons of cacao powder (and not Caba Fit or something like that but dark cacao powder
200g white chocolatePrepare the short pastry as described above and add the cacao powder to the sifted flour.Use pastry cutters in the form of stars to cut out the cookies and bake them as described above.Let the cookies cool down while melting the white chocolate in a double boiler.Put a drop of liquid chocolate into the middle of a cookie star and use a tooth pick to pull a bit of the chocolate onto each corner of the star so that the chocolate on top of the cookie forms a star, too.Put the cookies into the fridge and let the chocolate harden.
This is actually a recipe of my own. Originally these were Mokka cookies but back then I hated coffee with a passion so I used cacao instead. Then I lost the recipe and so I improvised - and so the Chocolate stars were born. I hope you like them. :)
For about 70 cookies you need:
150g ground walnuts
125g soft butter
100g brown sugar
1 package of good vanilla sugar
a pinch of salt
2 egg yolks or an egg
50g brown sugar for the coatingPut the butter, sugar and the vanilla sugar in a bowl and use the whisks to beat it creamy.Add the ground walnuts, the wholemeal, the salt and the egg yolks and stir the whole thing.Use your hands to roll the dough into cherry sized balls and coat them with the sugar.Put the balls onto baking tray with that baking paper and press one walnut onto each ball.Bake in the pre-heated oven at 175 Centigrade or gas mark 2 for about 12 minutes.Let the cookies cool down and enjoy!
And please feel free to share your own recipes for Christmas cookies with us.