The smell of freshly baked cookies wafting through the air is a sure sign Christmas is upon us.
While there's a seemingly never-ending list of great Christmas cookies in Switzerland, the star of the show – pun well and truly intended – is the cinnamon star, or Zimtsterne.
Cinnamon stars have been a central part of Christmas dining for more than 200 years.
These simple cookies keep well and are relatively easy to make.
This recipe comes from Andie Pilot from Helvetica Kitchen, one of our favourite sites for baking, frying, cooking and making anything Swiss and delicious.
The full recipe has been reproduced below, but can also be found – along with a range of other great dishes and treats of all kinds – here.
3 egg whites
250g icing sugar
350g ground almonds
Two tbsp cinnamon
One tsp cloves
Shot of kirsch schnapps
Using a large bowl and an electric mixer, whip the egg whites until they are stiff. On low speed, mix in the icing sugar.
Now you want to fill a small bowl with about 100 ml of the egg white-sugar mixture to use later as icing. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge until you are ready to ice. In a large bowl, mix together the ground almonds, cinnamon, and cloves.
Add the egg white mixture and gently mix until you have formed a dough. Fold in the kirsch. Roll out to about 1 cm (½ inch) thick, then cut out with a star-shaped cookie cutter (dipping in warm water between cookies) and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Let dry on the baking sheets for a few hours or overnight. Now, take your reserved icing out of the fridge. Either dip the cookies in the icing, or spread it over the cookies with a small knife or offset spatula.
Preheat your oven to 250° C / 450° F / gas mark 8. One at a time, put the baking sheets on the bottom rack of the oven and watch until the icing just barely sets and the cookies get just a bit of colour at the edges.
This usually takes less than five minutes—so don’t leave them unattended or they will get too dark (though they’ll still taste delicious).
Alternatively, you can bake the cookies without icing (for about 5 minutes), let cool completely, then brush the reserved icing on top. Let sit for a few hours for the icing to dry completely.
Andie's hot insider tips
Use granulated sugar or a wet rolling pin to roll out these sticky cookies.
In my house the Zimtstern (and Brunsli and Mailänderli) were always rolled out to about a cm thick and cut with relatively small cookie cutters.
If you prefer a thinner cookie, roll the dough slightly flatter.
These cookies will keep for a couple of weeks before they start to dry out. Store them alone in their own container and not with other cookies.
Use the leftover egg yolks to make Mailänderli or Spitzbuben.