German Christmas Biscuits
There are hundreds and hundreds of types of German Christmas biscuits. Anyone who fancies themselves as a cook has their own recipe and makes tins full of little goodies throughout Advent. Chocolate kisses, gingernut snaps, vanilla crescents, macaroons of all types, peanut cups, everything you can imagine. You can’t go for a cup of coffee at a friend’s house without having to try at least four types, and that’s before you go down to the Christmas market for a mug of gluhwein and a sausage in a roll, or a sweet dumpling with custard all over it or some squishy little noodles fried up with onion and sauerkraut. The Germans take Christmas seriously, and it can seem mainly about food. Having a German husband it is therefore inevitable that I bring out the cookie cutters and get passionate about icing at this time of year. I’m afraid I’m not as energetic as some, and I usually only make one or two types at once. This week I made a huge baking of basic cookies in different shapes and iced differently and a baking of macaroons, which I parcelled up for my Seniors Lunch Club along with a gluhwein-spiced sponge cake as a little extra.
This week’s theme at the Lunch Club was Christmas Carols – about which the Germans also know a thing or two. Our favourite was “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” which the 98 year old in our group insisted on warbling out in Latin – of which she remembered at least two full verses. Don’t let anyone tell you that memory loss is inevitable! “Hark the Herald” came a close second – we are obviously a traditional group. We then had a debate if “The Twelve Days of Christmas” actually qualifies as a carol and decided that in contrast to “Frosty the Snowman”, it probably does.
Here are my two types of baking, which fit well together as they use the yolks and the whites of the eggs in the two recipes.
Jammy Little Iced Biscuits
Makes about 60 little biscuits, depending on your cutters etc – I found it made 4 baking sheet-fulls.
Timing – about an hour preparation, 10 minutes baking. Time to cool down and then however long it takes you to ice them, depending how complicated you want to make your life.
Put the flour and butter in the mixer with the pastry paddle and combine to a texture like soft breadcrumbs, or rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips. Mix in the icing sugar and then the egg yolk. You might need a little bit of water in addition to make the dough come together. Knead it for only a few seconds just to smooth out the texture, then wrap up the ball in cling film or beeswax wrap and put in the fridge for half an hour.
Pre heat the oven to 180°C. Roll out about ¼ of the mixture on floured surface until about 2-3mm thick. Use your Christmas Cookie cutters to cut shapes – I did a mixture of stars, trees and round shapes with the centres cut out. Each biscuit will have a top and a lower part, so if you are doing cut outs, of course you have to do a whole round for the bottom part and the cut out part for the top biscuit.
Place the biscuit shapes on greaseproof paper on baking trays and put into the oven. Keep an eye on them and change over the upper and lower trays as needed. You hardly want them browned at all, and they will go from blond to burned in a very short time, so really watch them – they take about 8-10 minutes but that can vary according to position in the oven. As one tray comes out, put the next one in. Slide the paper off the trays onto a cooling rack and the biscuits will come off easily, hardening up as they cool. Leave them all to cool fully.
While you are waiting for these biscuits to cool, make the macaroons – see below.
Once the little biscuit shapes are cool, you can sandwich them up and ice them. I used heated up redcurrant jelly for the sandwich jam – you just need a little drip of liquid jelly on the lower biscuit to stick the top one on. Let the jelly set before icing. If making cut-out biscuits, get the top and the bottom stuck together with just a little jelly and then drip some more warm jelly into the cut-out shape to get that lovely glossy deep colour.
I iced using a straightforward water ice with food colouring – just add drips of water to icing sugar and mix to form a stiff paste. Make a small batch at a time and use a different colour for each batch, to given a nice variety for the biscuits. You can use a small brush to paste the icing onto the top surface of the biscuit to give a nice finish. Add sprinkles, edible glitter, whatever you like as you finish each batch of three or four, any longer and the decoration won’t stick.
Leave to set and keep in a sealed tin. The biscuits are not very crisp, because of the jam, but they do keep about a week. You can change up the flavouring of these, adding grated lemon zest, or some Christmas cinnamon spice to the dough if you want.
In the bowl of your mixer, whip the egg whites until stiff. Add half the sugar and continue to beat. Add the other half of the sugar. Mix in the ground almonds. That’s it.
Put the mixture into a piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe squidges of macaroon onto greaseproof paper on a baking tray. They don’t rise, so you can space them closely. I like smaller rather than huge ones, but choose for yourself.
Put them in the oven for about 30 minutes, check to see how cooked through they are underneath and give them a bit longer if needed to crisp right through. You can even turn them over to let the undersides get crisp. Cool on a wire rack and keep in an airtight tin. They keep about a week.
A Hug from the Kitchen
Healthy, hearty, happy food, for good times and bad. Cheer yourself up, or spread the cheer around your family and friends.