Christmas Snowball Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened - recipe assumes unsalted butter. If you use salted butter, omit the salt below
3/4 cup powdered sugar for cookies, more to dust after baking
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and a tablespoon of whiskey or other spirits
1/3 cup toasted finely chopped hazelnuts or almonds (optional)
1 and 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (gluten free, use buckwheat flour)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of allspice or cloves – meaning a big pinch
Whole cloves for garnish (optional, see note below)
Cream butter and sugar ’til fluffy, then beat in egg, vanilla, whiskey and spices.
Mix dry ingredients together and mix these into the butter mixture.
Shape cookies by rolling walnut-sized pieces of dough between your hands into little balls. Stick a whole clove into the center of each cookie, leaving the flower end of the stalk poking up.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or very lightly browned and cooked through.
Sift powdered sugar onto a plate or cookie sheet, place the warm cookies on the powdered sugar clove side up, then sift powdered sugar over the top ’til they look snowy. Cool completely.
Let people know to remove the cloves in the center when they eat the cookie. The cloves provide a lovely aroma to the cookie and a nice decoration but are tough to chew and not to be eaten. If you have any concerns, leave the cloves out.
Zimtsterne (German Cinnamon Star Cookies)
Among Germany's most famous Christmas cookies and coincidentally gluten-free!
3 large egg whites
2 cups powdered sugar sifted
1 packet vanilla sugar or 1/4 tsp vanilla extract (more extract will require more flour)
3 1/2 cup natural almond meal or hazelnut meal or a combination (You can use ready-made or grind your own). You want a coarse flour that is not made with blanched almonds but ones with the skin on.
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
Small star-shaped cookie cutter - traditionally 1-1.5 inches across. You can use other shapes but keep the cookies small. Larger shapes will handle and bake differently.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (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 peaks form (be careful not to over-beat the egg whites or the frosting/glaze won't turn out right). Stir in the powdered sugar until combined. Reserve two generous, heaping tablespoons of the egg white mixture for the glaze.
Add the nuts, cinnamon, vanilla/vanilla sugar and salt and beat until the dough comes together in a fairly stiff but pliable mass. If it's too soft to work with, add a few more ground nuts and powdered sugar. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more nut flour.
Press/roll the dough onto a non-stick surface (baking parchment or waxed paper is best) 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 baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Form the scraps of dough into a ball, roll it out again and cut cookies out of the remaining dough.
Use a pastry brush to brush on the reserved egg white mixture in a thin layer across the top of each cookie extending the glaze out to the edges of the cookies.
Bake for 15 minutes. Traditional Zimtsterne are small stars about 1-1.5 inches across and these bake quickly. Do not let the cookies brown on top. The icing should still look a bit white and snowy. Let the cookies cool completely.
The cookies can be stored in a dry, airtight container in a cool place for at least two weeks.
McMahon writes from Cape May.