Are you all on detox or a good, old-fashioned diet this January? I’m not. I believe in everything in moderation, and enjoy small sweets year round. If you are, no judgement here – just save this recipe for later, when you are ready to hop on the butter and sugar bandwagon again!
Here’s cake number two to mark Epiphany. I’m very sure this one will be universally liked – in my experience, all cakes with almonds are a hit!
First of all – Happy New Year! I hope you all had a nice Christmas break, we certainly had! It was incredibly quiet and relaxing, and now we’re ready for the new year with all it’s challenges and opportunities! Go 2017!
Merry Christmas Everyone!
So, Christmas Eve is finally (for some) and already (for others) here! The Advent period passed by so quickly, I didn’t find time to do everything I planned to or wanted to do 😔. Salted butter caramels, roasted almonds (I was so lucky to get some as a present though 😋) and gingerbread cookies were high on the to-do baking list. Oh well. I hope to be able to do some baking before the new year, not everything needs to be finished by Christmas Eve?
Today is Santa Lucia, which is traditionally celebrated in the Nordic countries. It has become a festival of light, and in most kinder gardens and schools, the day is marked by children wearing white dresses and a crown of lights processing while carrying Lucia buns (lussekatter), sweet rolls made with saffron.
Next up on my Christmas Cookies Baking List are these Cinnamon Stars. They are a true classic in large parts of Europe. If you have ever been to a Christmas Market in Germany, I’m sure you’ve seen them or have had them. With an almond/egg white base, they are naturally gluten free, a bonus these days when more and more people are allergic or intolerant to gluten. With just a hint of cinnamon, I’m sure they will be a hit with your friends and family, too!
When I lived in Switzerland, I used buy Swiss Christmas cookies at the local bakery, especially in the beginning of the season. I must say though, that these homemade ones are so much better than the bakery bought ones, not comparable at all! I was actually surprised by this, as I always thought the bakery ones were good quality!
As for the recipe, I had to try different methods for the icing. I can tell you, it was a sticky mess. Traditionally, the meringue icing is brushed on the rolled out dough, then the cookies are cut and placed on a baking sheet. This was far to messy to my liking. Also, the icing turned brown in the oven, which doesn’t affect the taste at all, but doesn’t look nice at all. You can brush/pipe on a simple royal icing on after the cookies are baked, but I found a method in between that I settled on. I added a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar to the meringue that was put aside for the frosting until the consistency was stiffer and good for piping, then filled it in a piping bag, and piped it on the cookies before baking them at low temperature in the lower half of the oven. Taste wise it won’t matter which method you use, they will all be delicious!
Recipe Cinnamon Stars
- 3 egg whites
- pinch of salt
- 250 g powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract of 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
- 1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I used 2)
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder (optional)
- 350 – 450 g ground almonds, depending on the size of the eggs.
- 2-4 tablespoons powdered sugar, for the icing
Powdered sugar for rolling, as needed
Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Slowly add the powdered sugar and continue to whisk until you have a glossy meringue. Set aside 50 g of the meringue for your icing.
Mix together the cocoa, cinnamon and vanilla sugar with approx. 350 g of the ground almonds and add this to the meringue. Mix well, I used the paddle attachment of my stand mixer for this. The dough should not be too sticky. Add more ground almonds as needed.
Turn the dough out on a piece of parchment paper and flatten it to a disk. Wrap it in the parchment, put it in a plastic bag and let it rest in the fridge for at least an hour.
Turn on your oven to 260° F – 280° F
Sprinkle a thin layer of powdered sugar onto your rolling surface and roll out the dough to about 1 cm (a little less than0.5 inch) thick. Prepare a small bowl of powdered sugar to dip your cookie cutter in between cutting out cookies – depending on your chosen method, it can get messy…. Here’s the different methods I tested on how to add the icing to the cookies.
- Brush on a thick layer of icing on the entire rolled out dough and cut cookies as closely as possible, lay the cookies onto your baking sheet and bake/dry on low (between 260 and 280° F) for about 20 minutes. Knead the scraps together and repeat with the remaining dough. This is the traditional way of baking these cookies, but for the record, I thought this was a sticky mess and discarded this method….
- Cut out cookies as you normally would and brush on the icing, then put your cookies on the baking sheet and bake as above.
- Cut out cookies as you normally would. Add a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar to the icing until the consistency is much thicker. Add the icing to a piping bag and pipe it onto the cookies. Bake the cookies as above. This was my preferred method, the one that I will use from now on.
In order for the icing to not turn brown during baking, it’s important to keep the temperature low and to bake the cookies on the lowest rack in your oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, let cool on a wire rack and keep them stored in an airtight container.
Ok, Christmas Cookies – let’s do this!
This year I thought I would bake traditional Swiss Christmas Cookies, to change things up a bit. If I have the time and the muse strikes me, I will also whip up some Pepperkaker, but the only ones I plan to make for Christmas this year are the Sarah Bernhardt Cakes and the Christmas Cupcakes.
Well, it’s already the 2nd Sunday of Advent! I’m going to spare you the *how did it happen so fast*-talk etc etc (although we all think it), and in stead say that I’m getting more and more into Christmas Spirit every day. Yesterday I went to the opening of the Christmas Marked in Ålesund, which is conveniently located in an old tunnel between two parts of town (writing it down it sounds dodgy, but it really isn’t) – and it was really nice!🎄. I bought a few things and a few things inspired me to try my own version (apple-gløgg!) so it was win-win!
Happy First Sunday of Advent!
In Norway, the four Sundays of Advent are marked, if not celebrated. Most homes has a wreath with four candles, or a modernised version of it, and often, a poem will accompany the lighting of the first candle. I tried to find a translation of the most popular one, by Norwegian poet Inger Hagerup, but I couldn’t find one, please let me know if you know of a source.
Finally I have come so far that I can relaunch my blog! I missed having a creative channel amidst the relocation from Switzerland and the adaptation to our new life, so I'm lookin forward to blogging again!. In addition, I am going to write in Norwegian too, which is a bit scary and more personal 😬. I'm in the process of translating my posts to English, so bare with me as I move forward, and send me a message if you need a quick translation! Wish me luck! G.