November 19, 2017

Zimsterne (Cinnamon-Almond Meringue Stars)

It's Christmas cookie season, and I couldn't be more excited.  I love Christmas -- it's such a happy time of the year!

Today's recipe is for a classic German cookie, zimsterne.  They are cinnamon almond star cookies painted with meringue.  The cookies are chewy with a crunchy meringue topping.  They aren't super sweet, so these are a good cookie for your cookie trays as they will balance the other sweet Christmas cookies out there.

These cookies have simple ingredients, with the primary ingredients being just ground almonds and cinnamon.  There is no butter in these cookies!

These cookies are often found at German Christmas markets and appear at specialty stores during the Christmas season.  Back in the 1700s, cinnamon was an expensive and rare spice in Europe, and almonds were considered a food for royalty since they had to be imported.  So, these cookies typically only made an appearance at Christmas.

The dough is very sticky.  If you have a hard time with the cookie cutters, just use a spoon instead and make little moons. ;-)  Your efforts will be rewarded with one yummy Christmas cookie!

Zimsterne (Cinnamon-Almond Meringue Stars)
Yields 40 cookies

3 egg whites
1/8 tsp. salt
200 grams (1 1/2 cups and 2 tbsp.) confectioners' sugar
300 grams (3 cups) finely ground raw almonds
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites and salt.  Turn the mixer onto medium-high speed and gradually add the confectioners' sugar.  Continue mixing for 7-10 minutes or until the mixture is glossy and stiff.

Measure out 3/4 cup of the glossy meringue into a small bowl to reserve for later; you will use it for frosting the cookies.  Back in the bowl of the stand mixer, begin to gradually fold the ground almonds and the cinnamon into the egg whites.  Fold until the mixture becomes firm and slightly sticky.

Remove the dough from the bowl and wrap it in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

When ready to make the cookies, line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.  Unwrap the dough, and leave the plastic wrap underneath it.  Place a second piece of plastic wrap on top of the tough and row it out to 1/4 inch thickness.  Discard the top piece of plastic wrap.  Using a small star cookie cutter (about 1 1/2 inch in diameter), cut out the cookies.  Dip the cutter in cold water every 2-3 cookies to keep the dough from sticking.  Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets.

Using a pastry push or a knife, spread the reserved meringue evenly over each star.  Allow the cookies to sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours.  This allows the meringue to dry.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Position the baking rack at the bottom of the oven.  Bake the cookie sheets individually for 3-4 minutes, or until the meringue is set but snowy white.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheet.  Store in an airtight container.

Source: Classic German Baking

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