Try saying that blog title five times fast.
Go ahead – I triple dog dare ya!
Life has been busy lately; practically every weekend this fall we had something going on, whether it was birthday parties or family and friends visiting or community happenings, which relegated this poor little blog to a dusty corner of the web.
Well, despite the fact that this time of year is notoriously crazy because of a little event we like to refer to as “The Holidays,” I decided that it was finally time to clear the cobwebs off this wee little blog and get back to it. Plus, The Holidays are typically the time when I’m already working myself into a baking frenzy, so I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone.
That’s exactly what I was going for when I decided to make Weihnachtsplätzchen, which are simple, traditional German Christmas cookies. I found the recipe in the book Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss, a delightful tome full of traditional German baking recipes. Despite its title, it was published fairly recently and has some great background information and history about German baking. Which means…this will not be the last you’ll see of recipes from this book!
Truth Time: I had actually checked this book out from my local library awhile ago before I started this blog and didn’t think much of it – at the time I was busy with work and didn’t think I could devote a lot of time or energy to the recipes. When I returned to the library to find new sources to pull from for the blog, I decided to give Classic German Baking another chance, and I’m so glad I did!
When I mentioned to my husband – who, might I add, took several years of German and knows the language fairly well – that I wanted to make Weihnachtsplätzchen, he looked at me with a confused look on his face. That was my first clue that I completely butchered the pronunciation of the word (I think I said something like “WINE-KNOCKED-SPLATS-CHEN” when it should have been “VINE-NAHKT-SHPLET-CHIN”….I think…). Weihnachts means Christmas, and plätzchen means biscuit cookie.
Put them together and you have….Christmas Biscuit Cookie!
According to the author, “every German baker has a recipe for simple Christmas cookies in her or his archive.” This one was a thin biscuit cookie that was flavored with lemon and incorporated European-style butter, which has a higher fat content than American butter (I used Kerrygold). There were a few options for the glaze for the top of the cookies, including using rum, kirsch, glacé cherries, or raspberry jam, but I chose to keep it simple with a lemon sugar glaze.
First, I mixed the flour and butter in a large bowl and worked it with my hands until it resembled coarse meal. The author said that she tried using all purpose as well as a blend of whole wheat and all purpose flours, and both worked well – I took her word for it and decided to use the blend. In a separate bowl, I whisked together powdered sugar, baking powder, grated lemon peel and salt. In yet another bowl (because two just weren’t enough!), I whisked together an egg yolk, whole milk, and vanilla extract.
I combined everything together in the large bowl and worked it with my hands. The dough came together a bit more crumbly than I would have liked, likely due to the fact that I used the flour blend instead of just all-purpose flour, so I added in more milk than the recipe called for (a tablespoon at a time until it came together smoothly). Once the dough was ready, I wrapped it into a ball and stuck it in the fridge for an hour so it would be easier to work with.
I then rolled out the dough and used my super awesome Christmas cookie cutters procured from a Target 75% off post-holiday sale from years’ past to cut out some shapes. Then I stuck them into a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes (it was clearly spelled out that the temperature was Fahrenheit instead of just Celcius, which as an American I very much appreciated). Once the cookies were cooled, I added the lemon glaze and some fun sprinkles to spread some holiday cheer.
As far as taste – they were freaking delicious. Without the glaze they honestly didn’t look that appetizing, and I was concerned that they would be crunchy and dry with the consistency of a cracker. Oh no – they were nowhere near that texture. They were velvety-smooth, and slightly crumbly but just enough to remind you that you’re eating a cookie. They literally fell apart in my mouth in the most amazing way possible. The lemon added the right amount of sour to counteract the sweetness from the cookie and glaze. We had to stop ourselves from gobbling all of them up in five minutes flat…they were that tasty!
This is a great recipe to make with kids – my 5-year-old son helped me practically every step of the way and had a blast. He especially enjoyed glazing and decorating the cookies. Bonus: I got to share with him a piece of his culture as well, which really is the point of doing all of this!
What cookies are you making for the holidays? Using any traditional ancestral recipes? Please share – I want to hear all about it!
This recipe was made and adapted from the book Classic German Baking.