Traditional German Christmas Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Star Cookies)

Crunchy, gluten-free, traditional German Cinnamon Star cookies (Zimtsterne) help the holiday season seem even more festive!

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Cookies, Cinnamon Stars (German Zimtsterne)
Traditional German Zimtsterne cookies for Christmas. Family recipe given to me by Bärbel Dittmann.
Course Dessert
Cuisine German
Servings
Ingredients
Meringue
Cookies:
Course Dessert
Cuisine German
Servings
Ingredients
Meringue
Cookies:
Instructions
Meringue:
  1. Sift powdered sugar. Set aside.
  2. Beat egg whites until foamy. Continue beating and add sifted powdered sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until sugar is completely incorporated. Continue beating for about 10 minutes until the mixture becomes very stiff. Consistency will be somewhat like marshmallow fluff.
  3. Beat in vanilla extract.
  4. Set aside ½ cup of the meringue to use for icing later. Cover it to prevent it from drying out.
Cookies:
  1. Preheat oven to 250 F (120 C).
  2. Set aside ½ cup of the ground nuts or nut flour.
  3. Mix almond extract, cinnamon, lemon juice, optional cardamom, and the remaining 3 ½ cups of the ground nuts or nut flour into the egg white mixture with a wooden spoon or your hands. Consistency should be like a moist cookie dough. If it’s too sticky, add more ground nuts or nut flour, a teaspoon at a time, until proper consistency is reached.
  4. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and let rest in refrigerator for one hour.
  5. Line your work surface with a sheet of parchment paper.
  6. Sprinkle the reserved ½ cup of ground nuts or nut flour on the parchment.
  7. Place the rested dough on top of the nuts. Place a sheet of waxed paper over the dough. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin on top of the waxed paper to ¼ inch thick (½ cm). Remove waxed paper.
  8. Cut out cookies with a star-shaped cutter, leaving about 1 inch between each cookie.
  9. Remove dough between cookies, leaving cutouts on the parchment paper.
  10. Carefully transfer the parchment paper with the cutouts to a baking sheet. The cookies will be very soft, so leaving them on the parchment is an easy way to keep them from becoming deformed while transferring them to the baking sheet.
  11. Re-roll dough as many times as necessary to use it all for cookies. Because there is no flour, the dough will maintain its consistency.
  12. Using a pastry brush or a clean artist paintbrush, ice each cookie with reserved meringue.
  13. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Meringue will be set, and cookie edges will be just turning a light gold.
  14. Let cool completely on baking sheet.
Recipe Notes

Using a stand mixer is helpful because of the lengthy beating time.

Cookies are super crunchy!

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Czech Apple Strudel (Jablečný Štrudl) Recipe

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Delicious apple strudel (Jablečný Štrudl) recipe from my Czech friend in Liberec. She is from a town whose name translates (very) loosely to "Apple-ville", so this is appropriate!

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Apple Strudel Recipe
Course Dessert
Cuisine Czech
Servings
Ingredients
Course Dessert
Cuisine Czech
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Peel and core the apples. Grate on a box grater into a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift flour and baking powder together. Cut in chilled margarine.
  4. Beat one of the eggs together with the vinegar and water. Add to the flour mixture and knead the dough for about five minutes. It should be elastic and pull away from the bowl.
  5. Separate the dough into halves. On a floured board, roll out half the dough to about 1⁄4 inch thick and the diameter of a pie dish.
  6. Sprinkle with 1⁄2 cup breadcrumbs.
  7. Spread half the grated apples evenly on top.
  8. Sprinkle 1⁄2 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1⁄2 cup raisins on top.
  9. Starting with a long edge, roll the dough into a long tube. Seal the edges well and pinch the ends. Repeat with other half of dough.
  10. Place on a baking sheet seam side down. Pierce in several places with a fork.
  11. Beat the second egg and brush over the top. Bake for 30-45 minutes until golden. Serve hot or cold.
Recipe Notes

The dough or rolled strudel keeps in the refrigerator overnight for baking the next day.

Vanilla ice cream is an excellent pairing with this dessert.

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Flan, Crème Caramel, Crema Caramella or Crème Renversée Recipe

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Whether you call it flan, crème caramel, crema caramella or crème renversée, this creamy, custard dessert is a treat for family and guests.

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Flan Flan, Crème Caramel, Crema Caramella or Crème Renversée Recipe
Course Dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Course Dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a medium pan, bring sugar, water, corn syrup and lemon juice to a simmer, without stirring, over medium-high heat. Wipe any sugar crystals off the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush because they can cause the syrup to be grainy. Continue to cook until the syrup turns from clear to golden, swirling the pan continuously for even browning until large, slow bubbles on the surface turn honey-caramel in color.
  2. Remove the pan immediately from the heat, and working quickly (and carefully - it's very hot!), pour a portion of the caramel into each of 8 ungreased 6-ounce ramekins. Allow the caramel to cool and harden, about 15 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (make sure rack is in the middle).
  4. Heat milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until steam appears - usually 6-8 minutes- remove from heat.
  5. Meanwhile, gently whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar in a large bowl until just combined.
  6. Off the heat, gently whisk the warm milk mixture into the egg mixture, adding vanilla and salt.
  7. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh cloth into a large measuring cup or a bowl with a pouring spout. Set aside.
  8. Place the ramekins in a large baking dish or roasting pan and divide and pour the custard mixture evenly into them.
  9. Fill the pan with about two cups of boiling water so that it reaches about half way up the sides of the ramekins. At this point you can cover the pans loosely with aluminum foil, allowing the steam to escape.
  10. Bake until a paring knife inserted halfway between the center and edge of the custards comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes.
  11. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature.
  12. To unmold, slide a paring knife around the perimeter of each ramekin. Holding a serving plate over the top of the ramekin, invert and set on the work surface. Gently shake the ramekin to release the custard.
Recipe Notes

The room-temp, finished, baked flan can be chilled in the fridge (loosely covered with plastic wrap) for up to 2 days.

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Faschingskrapfen, German Filled Donut Recipe

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The traditional pastry for Germanys Mardi Gras, called Karneval or Fasching, is krapfen, or donuts. Made of yeast dough, they are fried and filled with apricot or rose hip jam. You can make them yourself with this recipe!

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Donuts, German Filled (Faschingskrapfen) for Karneval
Cuisine German
Servings
Ingredients
Cuisine German
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Proof the yeast by combining it with the lukewarm milk and about 2 tablespoons of sugar. Mix well and place in a warm spot for 20 minutes. The yeast should become active and foam up, becoming what is called a sponge.
  2. While the yeast is doing its thing, combine the rest of the ingredients and whip til fluffy. Combine the yeast sponge with the flour and mix up a little. Add the egg mixture and mix well. Knead by hand for about 10 minutes or use a mixer with dough hooks for 5 minutes.
  3. Form a ball with the dough and leave it in the bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and put in a warm place (about 85 degrees F) to rise for 20 minutes. If your kitchen is cold, warm the oven to 85 degrees F (30 C) and place the dough in there.
  4. Punch the dough down and knead by hand on floured board for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with more flour and work it in by increments if dough sticks to your hand. Add milk by tablespoons if the dough is too dry and hard to knead.
  5. Form a ball and return the dough to the bowl. Cover with the towel and return to the warm spot for 60 minutes to rise a second time.
  6. Turn the dough onto a floured board and punch down again.
  7. Now there are two ways to proceed: One is to form balls with the dough that are about 2 inches in diameter. Roll the balls between your palms to eliminate any seams or folds. Seams and folds "bloom" in the oil and result in a misshapen Krapfen. Two is to press the dough into a flat sheet about 1/2 inch thick. Let it rest for about 10 minutes then use a cookie cutter or rim of a drinking glass to cut 4-inch disks. Reform leftover dough into a flat sheet and cut more disks until most of the dough is used up.
  8. Whether you form ball or disks, place the dough shapes on greased and floured sheets. Cover the dough with the kitchen towel and return to the warm place for another 30 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile bring a pot with 2-3 inches of oil, shortening or lard (old school, German style) to 338 degrees F (170 C). Carefully remove a ball or disk, whatever you decided, turn it over and place gently into the oil, bottom up.
  10. Fry 1-2 minutes then turn the donuts over and fry an equal amount of time on the other side. Properly risen dough should be so light that the donuts float, resulting in a white band around the middle. No white band means dense, overcooked donuts.
  11. Remove from oil to a plate lined with paper towels.
  12. There are two ways to glaze the Krapfen: One, roll the still-warm Krapfen in a plate of sugar. Two, sprinkle with powdered sugar, BUT WAIT UNTIL AFTER YOU FILL THEM.
  13. To fill: Load a baking syringe with jam and inject each donut with about 2 teaspoons of the sweet stuff. Then sprinkle with powdered sugar on both sides if you waited for that.
  14. Serve warm. Strong coffee goes well!
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Italian Rainbow Cookies Recipe

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Traditional Italian rainbow cookies; my New Jersey/Italian friends make these every year and this is their recipe. LOVE these almond-flavored goodies - so addictive. In addition to the wonderful flavor, they look marvelous, and you can make them any color combination you choose.

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Cookies, Italian Rainbow, Recipe
These instructions are for traditionally-colored Italian rainbow cookies. The photos are of my green ombré type. You can choose whatever colors you like for the layers; see the Recipe Notes at the bottom.
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Line three 9×13 cake or sheet pans with wax paper or parchment paper and grease with butter or spray with cooking spray.
  3. Break up almond paste in a large bowl, add butter, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. Beat in flour and salt. Set aside.
  4. In separate bowl, beat egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold into almond mixture.
  5. Separate batter into equal parts (about 1 1/2 cups each) in three different bowls. Add green color to one bowl and mix well. Add red color to another bowl and mix well. Leave third bowl plain.
  6. Spread batter into separate pans.
  7. Bake each pan for 8 minutes then turn and bake 7 minutes more, for a total of 15 minutes. Place pans on racks until completely cool.
  8. Invert green layer onto a large tray. Spread with half the raspberry preserves.
  9. Invert the plain layer on top and spread with other half of preserves. Invert red layer on top.
  10. Wrap in plastic wrap, place a heavy book or pan on top and refrigerate overnight.
  11. Combine chocolate chips, 4 tablespoons butter and light corn syrup over low heat and stir until melted.
  12. Cover the top of the cake with chocolate glaze and refrigerate until glaze sets. Turn over and cover the other side with glaze and let cool until that side sets.
  13. With serrated knife, trim edges of layers so they are squared.
  14. Cut the cake crosswise into eight sections about 1 1/2 inches wide. Then cut it lengthwise into twelve 3/4-inch sections to make about 96 small, layered cookies.
Recipe Notes

Make the cookies ombré by adding 5 drops of any color to one third of the batter, 10 drops of the same color to another third of the batter, and 15 drops to the final third. Eyeball it to see if you like the color gradation; remember that it's easy to add color, impossible to subtract it. Combine with darkest layer on plate, lighter layer in the middle and plain layer on top. Use seedless jam or preserves that match the color you choose or use a neutral-colored jam like apricot so the lines aren't distinct.

 

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Blue Cheese Sablés (French Butter Cookies) Recipe

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A tangy variation on the plain sablés, or French butter cookies. Adding blue cheese enhances the melt-in-your-mouth quality of these delicate little cookies. They are great for the holidays, they go wonderfully with tea and coffee, and you can keep some dough in the freezer ready to bake for last-minute sweets.

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Cookies, Blue Cheese Sablés (French Butter Cookies) Recipe
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine French
Servings
Ingredients
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine French
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat butter and cheese until completely blended, about 1 minute.
  2. Add sugar and salt and beat just until they are well mixed and creamy, about one minute longer. Do not overbeat.
  3. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating each just until completely mixed in. Stop beating once you have a cohesive batter.
  4. Stir in flour with a rubber spatula, stirring just until there is no dry flour left. The dough should be sandy but form a ball when pressed.
  5. Roll into a 2-inch thick log, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerator for 4 hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the log into 1/2-inch slices. Place slices 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.
  8. Bake until the edges are light brown, about 18 minutes.
Recipe Notes

I recommend St. Agur or any double-cream blue cheese.

Do not overwork this dough. The less handling, the better.

This dough MUST rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before baking. Because there is no leavening, the butter is the rising agent. Therefore, the butter must be very chilled before they go into the oven.

Keep some of this dough in the freezer for last-minute gifts or unexpected guests.

It's traditional to stamp each dough slice before baking with a cookie stamp. This step is optional, but it's very charming in the end result.

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Sablés de Paris (French Butter Cookies) Recipe

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Light, delicate French butter cookies. Very easy to make and quick to bake. They almost melt in your mouth. Perfect for tea and coffee or holiday cookie plates.

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Cookies, Sablés de Paris (French Butter Cookies) Recipe
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine French
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 8-10 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
dozen cookies
Ingredients
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine French
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 8-10 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
dozen cookies
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sift together sugar, salt and flour.
  3. Mix in butter and rub butter with fingers into flour until mixture is crumbly.
  4. Stir in the egg yolk(s) and vanilla.
  5. Form dough into two logs about 2 inches in diameter. If dough does not come together, add water one tablespoon at a time until it just forms a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.
  6. Cut the logs into slices about 1/4-inch thick. Optionally, stamp each slice with a cookie stamp.
  7. Place slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until very lightly browned around the edges, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and allow cookies to cool for about 5 minutes.
  8. Remove to wire rack and cool completely.
Recipe Notes

Roll the logs in sugar before slicing to get a crispy, sweet outer rim.

There are many variations of this recipe, including blue cheese and ginger/cardamom flavors. Check my blog post to see how to do them.

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Käsekuchen (German Cheesecake) Recipe

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This authentic German family recipe for cheesecake uses the European Quark instead of cream cheese for a moist, delicious dessert that is much lighter than American cheesecakes.

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Cheesecake (German Käsekuchen) Recipe
Course Brunch, Dessert
Cuisine German
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 60-70 minutes
Servings
cheesecake
Ingredients
Filling
Course Brunch, Dessert
Cuisine German
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 60-70 minutes
Servings
cheesecake
Ingredients
Filling
Instructions
Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Grease a 10-inch (25 cm) springform pan with butter and coat with breadcrumbs.
  2. Slightly beat the egg. Cut it into ½ cup (113 g) butter and 2/3 cup (130g) sugar in a bowl.
  3. Put the flour in a separate bowl and pour the wet mixture over it. Combine well with your hands. Dough should be rather dry and form a ball.
  4. Press dough evenly into pan on bottom and around sides to ¼ inch (0.5 cm) thick.
Filling and Baking
  1. Beat all filling ingredients together until smooth.
  2. Pour filling into prepared crust. It’s fine if the batter rises above the crust on the sides of the pan.
  3. Bake 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle.
  4. Let cool and release from pan. Serve warm or chilled.
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Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins Recipe

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Light and sweet with the tang of lemon, these muffins make a great breakfast, brunch or dessert treat. Use Greek yogurt or buttermilk to enhance the flavor. No need to frost.

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Muffins, Lemon-Poppy Seed, Recipe
Cuisine American
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 20-25 minutes
Passive Time 20-25 minutes
Servings
muffins
Ingredients
Cuisine American
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 20-25 minutes
Passive Time 20-25 minutes
Servings
muffins
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175 C). Coat muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or use paper cupcake cups.
  2. Add lemon zest to sugar and rub the zest into the sugar with your fingers. Set aside about 1 tablespoon (9-19 g) of this mixture for later.
  3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with a hand mixer until fluffy.
  4. Add the egg yolks, one at a time. Beat well after each.
  5. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, including poppy seeds.
  6. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating two times with the yogurt or buttermilk, then lemon juice, and then vanilla. Beat just until smooth.
  7. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold them into the muffin batter until blended.
  8. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, 3/4-full. Sprinkle the top with reserved sugar and lemon zest.
  9. Bake at 350°F (175 C) for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  10. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan.
Recipe Notes

There is no need to frost these muffins.

This recipe can also be baked in a large pan as a cake.

If you don’t have baking soda, which can be hard to find in Europe, just use more baking powder

Greek yogurt has the best flavor for this recipe.

If you don’t have vanilla extract, use a packet of vanilla sugar instead.

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Vanilla-Lemon Cake Recipe in a Lamb Mold for Easter

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Light, sweet lemon-vanilla cake for Easter or spring celebrations, baked up in a lamb-shaped mold for the occasion. Smaller portion of batter to fit lamb mold.

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Cake, Vanilla-Lemon in a Lamb Mold for Easter Recipe
Traditional European Easter delicacy baked in a lamb mold.
Course Dessert
Cuisine German
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
small cake
Ingredients
Course Dessert
Cuisine German
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
small cake
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).
  2. Generously coat cake mold with butter or oil and dust with flour.
  3. Cream butter and sugar together with hand mixer. Mix in eggs, vanilla, milk, zest and lemon juice.
  4. Combine flour and baking powder in separate bowl; mix well.
  5. Add flour mixture to wet mixture and beat thoroughly.
  6. Pour batter into mold, filling nooks and crannies. Bump filled mold on countertop to dislodge any air bubbles.
  7. Bake 40 minutes.
  8. Let cake cool in mold on rack for 30 minutes.
  9. Shake mold firmly then carefully remove one half of mold from top of cake. Loosen edges of cake left in other half of mold with a knife. Carefully remove cake from other half of mold. Let cool completely.
  10. Dust cake with powdered sugar just before serving. Serve for Easter breakfast or brunch.
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