In my teens, I spent several Christmas seasons trying to figure out how to make “Zimtsterne,” the ultimate German Christmas cookies. I tried numerous recipes and experimented with the notoriously sticky dough and the often soggy glaze. One memorable batch turned out rock hard and needed to be gnawed on like dog biscuits to avoid dental work. Since there were no internet reviews then it was quite a process… Fortunately my four brothers still gobbled them up.
By now I’ve figured it out and it is quite easy if you follow two simple rules:
1) DO NOT under any circumstances use any wheat flour! If the dough is too sticky, add more ground nuts.
2) After applying the meringue glaze, DO NOT bake right away. Allow the stars to dry first.
3 egg whites
300g (2 cups) powdered sugar
350g (2 cups) ground almonds or hazelnuts
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
zest of 1 orange (optional)
Beat the egg whites and powdered sugar for 10-15 minutes until very stiff and creamy. This will seem like an eternity, but the end product is worth it. Scoop half of the mixture into a cup or bowl, cover and set aside.
Add cinnamon and nuts (and zest if using) to the rest of the egg white mixture and combine well. Chill the covered dough for 30 minutes for easier handling.
Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/2 centimeter or about 1/4 inch. If the dough is a little sticky, roll out between two layers of Reusable Cookie Sheet liner. Use a cookie cutter to cut out stars (or trees, hearts, etc.) and place them on a lined cookie sheet. Brush on the reserved egg white and sugar glaze.
WAIT. Allow the glazed cookies to dry for 2 hours. (Note: These cookies can actually be eaten without baking, though I would wait at least a day before eating or else dehydrate in a food dehydrator for a bit to ensure they are sufficiently crisp)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake cookies for 7-10 minutes until they have just a hint of color. Enjoy!
A note on the nuts: I like to save money by running whole nuts through the food processor. The resulting ground nuts are more coarse than regular flour, but they work great for these cookies. If you don’t have a food processor or would like a finer texture, you can also use commercial almond flour.