German Cinnamon Stars – Zimtsterne

Part six in my Christmas Around the World series! Christmas in Germany, focus on: ZIMTSTERNE! A naturally gluten-free almond meringue cookie.

I’d be lying my ass off if I told you these were in any way “easy” or “foolproof”. “Pain in the ass” and “kind of frustrating” might be better descriptives. Fortunately, “really really good” and “very unusual” and “naturally gluten-and-dairy free” are also proper descriptives that save this recipe’s reputation. Cinnamon stars, or Zimtsterne, are a traditional German Christmas cookie. Like a meringue crammed with nuts, the texture of these is similar to an almond macaroon, but with a hefty dose of ground cinnamon added. Everyone I made these for (even the messed up, early batches that looked more like turds than stars) remarked on their striking texture: chewy, dense cookies with the crispy shell of an egg white meringue icing on top. I really don’t think I’ve ever seen another cookie recipe like these.

The history is a mystery — WHY MUST THEY BE SHAPED LIKE STARS?? — except for the obvious things like, almonds are expensive, cinnamon is expensive, what better way to celebrate Christmas than by eating really expensive things? It’s a universal truth. But the star thing, I never could find an answer for. I’d like to know, so if you have an inkling, please leave me a comment below.

Some tips on these:

  1. Give yourself plenty of time and have some snacks ready. The first time will probably be very annoying and you should not attempt on an empty stomach or you are liable to to end up in a tantrum fit on the kitchen floor.
  2. Have extra sugar and extra almond meal on hand. The recipe is fickle and the measurements change dependent of the humidity, the size and temperature of your eggs, and how much Schnaps you had in your breakfast smoothie. You’ll need more sugar for shaping the dough and you may need more almond meal if your dough is too soft.
  3. This is an expensive recipe. You’ll spend $5-6 for 16-20 cookies. Just accept it now. It might be hard if you are as penny-pinching and miserly as I am, but if you come to terms before you even buy the almond meal, you will be happier later on.
  4. But almond meal. Just buy it. Don’t try to grind your own in your shitty old food processor. You’ll end up with almond butter and then you will be REALLY pissed. Not pissed at me, though, because I’m the one who told you not to do that, remember? If you must grind your own, my advice is start with slivered or sliced almonds and process them in two batches, adding about 1/4 cup of the powdered sugar to each batch to aid in free movement through the blades. Pulse several times until almond meal is made. It’s better to have a few larger bits of almond than almond paste, so be judicious in your pulsing.
  5. If it comes time to roll the dough and it’s just WAY too soft and there ain’t no way in hay-ll that’s gonna be happening, don’t toss it! Just plop little cinnamon turds out on your baking sheet and spread them gently with the back of a spoon. Top with meringue and decorate with some slivered almonds and they will still taste great and even look half-way decent after all.

And with that, I set you free! Free to make cookies and make a mess but hopefully not make a mess of your cookies. Frohe Weihnachten!

Cinnamon Stars Video

Cinnamon Stars Recipe — Printable!

4.5 from 2 reviews

Cinnamon Stars – Zimtsterne
 
Prep time

Cook time

Total time

 

Author:
Serves: 16

Ingredients
  • 2 egg whites
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1½ cups sifted powdered sugar (plus more for rolling)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ pound almond meal
  • Optional: ½ cup slivered almonds for garnish

Instructions
  1. Beat egg whites on high speed until foamy and add the lemon juice. Continue beating until medium-stiff peaks form.
  2. With the beaters on, gradually add the sugar and cinnamon and continue beating until glossy, stiff peaks form.
  3. Remove about ½ cup of the mixture to another small bowl and set aside. (If baking cookies same day, they may stay uncovered at room temperature. Otherwise, cover tightly with plastic and refrigerate.)
  4. To the remainder of the eggs, add the almond meal and mix to make a soft dough. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour (or a few days)
  5. Preheat oven to 275 F
  6. Sprinkle a sheet of parchment paper generously with powdered sugar and plop the dough onto it then sprinkle with more sugar and lay another sheet of paper on top. Pat out gently to about a ⅓ inch thick and cut into stars. Remove excess dough from around the stars and lift paper onto a baking sheet.
  7. Transfer to greased cookie sheets and glaze with reserved meringue (from step 2). Garnish with slivered almonds if you like.
  8. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until meringue top is set, but still white. Remove from oven and let cool completely on baking sheets.
  9. Store airtight tins.

 

Comments

  1. …and the priest said unto me.”for your pennance make Zimtsterne.

    :o)

  2. This recipe excites me! Thank you Hilah! I would love to experiment with the base of it, do you think the egg white mixture can take an additional flavor component (rose water) & still turn out glossy and fluffy?

    • Hi Tara!
      I’m not a super expert of eggwhites, but I think it would be fine. Try swapping rose water for lemon juice, but have some lemon juice on hand if you need it. There might be enough acidity in the rose water to replace the lemon. I love that thought and flavor combination!

  3. My favorites (besides grandmas homemade christmas cookies), but these are the ones I don’t even think about making them myself. I made them once when I was twelve and they became hard as stone. Yet they were still a nice decoration. Luckily here in germany I have the opportunity to get storebought Zimsterne-dough.

    And it’s cute how you pronounce german words, you should talk it more often :)

  4. Oh and I forgot: There’s also antoher – way simpler – typicall german sweet dish: Bratapfel! (baked apple).

    Usually these are apples which are stuffed with a marzipan based filling with things like nuts, raisins, cinnamon, gloves, and much more! Then they’re baked in the oven until they’re soft and served with vanilla sauce and – if you want to – some more cinnamon :)

    Oh and Zimsterne originated from swabia :)

    • Thank you, Ralph! That’s very interesting that you can buy zimtsterne dough in Germany. I wouldn’t ahve expected that!
      The baked apples sound delicious and simple, too. Thank you for the instructions. Merry Christmas!

  5. Well I just took mine out of the oven and they smell wonderful. I didn’t have an open star cutter, so just did simple rounds. They look great, but not 100% sure they are baked enough.

  6. Hi, we enjoyed the Zimtsterne video. My wife and I decided to make it, but using pecans, we live in Georgia and have tons of them. We toasted the pecans in an iron pan for 6 minutes. We let them cool and ran them through a food processor with 1/4 cup of sugar until is made pecan flour. We decorated with pecan halves. It was a hit.

Leave a Comment

*

Rate this recipe: