Among the most popular and beloved traditional German Christmas cookies, the holidays simply aren’t the same without Zimtsterne! Wonderfully fragrant and flavorful with a fabulous texture, this authentic Zimtsterne recipe will guide you through step-by-step to ensure your success in creating these delicious German cinnamon star cookies!
It’s that time of year to roll up your sleeves and get ready to fill your kitchen and home with the aroma of Christmas baking! And there’s no better place to start than this traditional Zimtsterne recipe!
The smell of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, fennel seed and star anise are what remind me most of Christmas because they are the smells, along with staple ingredients like nuts and butter, that I grew up with in my home of southern Germany. And those traditional German baked goodies are the ones I’m forever biased towards come Christmastime.
Today I have another traditional German cookie to add to your repertoire of holiday baking: Zimtsterne. Have you tried these before? You can find them in any grocery store and Christmas market throughout Germany as well as in Austria and Switzerland. Christmas simply isn’t Christmas without them and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And of course, as with most things, homemade is the best. This traditional Zimtsterne recipe is the one I grew up and is how my Oma and Mutti made them!
What Are Zimtsterne?
Zimtsterne, or “cinnamon stars” in English, are traditional German cookies flavored with cinnamon and made almost entirely of ground nuts – traditionally almonds but also commonly combined with hazelnuts. A southern German specialty, they are naturally gluten free and dairy free and feature a snowy white hard frosting made from sugar and egg white.
An ingredient this recipe calls for that you may not be familiar with is Vanillezucker (vanilla sugar). It’s commonly called for in a lot of German recipes. Why it’s so uncommon outside of Europe I’ll never understand; sometimes in baking you need that touch of vanilla flavor without adding any liquid (i.e. vanilla extract). That’s where vanilla sugar comes in.
You can easily make your own and a great cost-saving way to do that is to use the discarded vanilla beans of homemade Vanilla Extract, but it’s much more convenient to have these packets on hand.
Other than that, these cookies call for just a small handful of ingredients, but I promise you, they really pack a wonderful flavor and texture. Zimtsterne are one of the most popular and beloved of all German Christmas cookies. And once you’ve tried them you’ll see why.
Happy baking and may you enjoy this Most Wonderful Time of the Year!
Let’s get started!
Beat the egg whites until peaks form (be careful not to over-beat or the frosting won’t turn out right). Sift the powdered sugar into the egg whites and use a spoon to stir just until combined.
Reserve 2 heaping tablespoons of the egg mixture in a small bowl for the frosting.
Add the nuts, cinnamon and vanilla sugar. Mix until combined and everything comes together in a fairly stiff but pliable mass. If it’s too soft or sticky to work with add a little more nut meal and powdered sugar.
Press the dough onto a non-stick surface (you can sprinkle the surface with powdered sugar but I still prefer to spread the dough out onto either plastic wrap or a non-stick cookie sheet to prevent sticking). Press/roll it to a thickness of about a 1/3 inch.
Use a 3-inch star-shaped cookie cutter and cut stars out of the dough. Knead the scraps back into a ball, roll it out again and cut more stars.
Preheat the oven to 250 F. Transfer the cookies to a non-stick or lined cookie sheet.
Place a little of the egg white mixture on each cookie and use a toothpick or a pastry brush to smooth all the way to the edges. Alternatively you can use a pastry bag or condiment bottle to apply the egg white mixture.
Place the sheet on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake the Zimtsterne for 30 minutes. Then open the oven door just a crack and let the cookies sit for another 10-15 minutes to further dry out.
Transfer the cookies to a wire rack.
Let them cool completely.
Store the Zimtsterne in an airtight container in a cool place.
They will keep for up to 2 weeks.
For me traditional German and Austrian Christmas goodies be sure to try our:
- Vanillekipferl (Austrian Vanilla Crescent Cookies)
- Pfeffernüsse (German Iced Spiced Cookies)
- Lebkuchen (Nürnberger Elisenlebkuchen)
- Stollen (German Christmas Bread)
- Springerle (German Embossed Cookies)
- Printen (Aachener Gingerbread)
- Speculoos (Gingerbread Shortcrust Cookies)
- Bethmännchen (Marzipan Cookies)
- Heidesand (Browned Butter Shortbread Cookies)
- Marzipan (or Almond Paste)
Zimtsterne (German Cinnamon Stars)
- Preheat the oven to 250º F (120º C) (do not turn on the fan, it can cause the egg white topping to brown before the cookies are done). Place the rack on the bottom rung of the oven.
- Beat the egg whites in a medium-sized bowl until soft peaks form (be careful not to over-beat the egg whites or the frosting/glaze won't turn out correctly). Sift the powdered sugar and stir it into the egg whites until combined. Reserve 2/3 cup of the egg white mixture to glaze the cookies.
- Add the nuts, cinnamon, vanilla sugar and salt and mix until the dough comes together in a fairly stiff but pliable mass. If it's too soft or sticky to work with add a little more nut meal and powdered sugar.
- Press/roll the dough onto a non-stick surface sprinkled with powdered sugar to a thickness of about 1/3 inch. Use a 3-inch star cookie cutter to cut out the cookies and transfer them to a lined or non-stick cookie sheet. Form the scraps of dough into a ball, roll it out again and cut cookies out of the remaining dough.Place a little of the egg white mixture on each cookie and use a toothpick or a pastry brush to smooth all the way to the edges. Alternatively you can use a pastry bag or condiment bottle to apply the egg white mixture. Place the sheet on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake the Zimtsterne for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the oven door just a crack and let the cookies sit for another 10-15 minutes to further dry out. Then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies can be stored in a dry, airtight container in a cool place for up to 2 weeks.
Originally published on The Daring Gourmet November 28, 2016