I have seen several explanations of Zimsterne (German cinnamon star cookies), the most common being that almonds and cinnamon were very dear in seventeenth century Germany, so these cookies were served only at Christmas as a special treat.
My favorite story is that these cookies are hung on Christmas trees to distract children who cannot keep their hands off of the ornaments.
I wish I could tell you a story about my family's ties to these holiday cookies from the old country, but the only memory I have of Christmas cookies is eating the heads, arms, and legs off of gingerbread men. That's tradition!
Now that I think of it, there was the one year where my grandmother gave me an elaborate gingerbread house, and a neighbor boy snuck into our house and ate most of it. Very traumatic.
Back to the Zimsterne......
The traditional Zimsterne is made of sugar, ground almonds, and egg whites. and tastes like a cross between a meringue and a French macaron, but with a much more dense texture.
This recipe contains flour, whole eggs, and baking powder in addition to the ground almonds and cinnamon, making it immensely easier to roll out and cut. The cookies still puff up like macarons, and are crispy-chewy, like meringue cookies. The kids totally loved the cinnamon almond flavor.
These are perfect with coffee or tea. Plus, they are so cute!!
The Creative Cookie Exchange group is making international holiday cookies! Check out all of our members' links to international cookies after the recipe.
Zimsterne Cookie Recipe
Makes about 60 cookies
4 T (2 ounces) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 C (4 ounces) powdered sugar
1/2 C (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 1/4 C (9 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 C (3 1/4 ounces) almond meal
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg white
Pinch of salt
Granulated or sanding sugar
- In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and the sugars until smooth.
- Mix in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.
- Mix in the extracts.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, almond meal, and salt together. Add it to the butter mixture and mix until combined.
- Form the dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Whisk the egg white with the pinch of salt
- Roll the dough out between two sheets of wax or parchment paper to 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick.
- Cut the dough with a 2 inch star shaped cookie cutter and place the cut dough onto the baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.
- Brush the tops of the stars with the egg wash, and sprinkle lightly with sugar.
- Bake, one sheet at a time, for 12 minutes.
- To make ornaments, immediately poke a hole in the cookie with a skewer. Cool on a wire rack.
Recipe adapted from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion
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