By November the ski season has already opened in some areas of Germany, the hour has been changed onto winter time, an aroma of wood smoke wafts from chimneys and into the night air, and homes begin to fill with the scents of vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, and aniseed, holiday baking has begun ready for Advent and Weihnachten.
The first day of Advent is on the Sunday nearest St. Andrews Day, November 30, and in Germany what is a period of expectation and contemplation is also a time filled with Christmas tradition. As soon as the St. Martin's Day lanterns are put away out come the hand written family recipe books because, as some varieties must wait a few weeks before they are ready to eat, it is time to start preparing ‘Weihnachts Plaetzchen’, the German cookies that are enjoyed throughout Advent.
Cookie dough of every variety can be bought at supermarkets, and bakers all have wonderful selections of Plaetzchen for sale, but traditionally families make their own Christmas cookies, with parents and children getting together to bake their holiday favorite Weihnachtsgebaeck from recipes which have often been handed down for generations.
Here are two very easy, quick and ‘child friendly’ family Christmas Cookie recipes to try. They were given me by my late mother-in-law whose delicious Plaetzchen never managed to remain even an hour on a plate.
Liebesgruebchen – Love Dimples or Pots of Love makes 25
(Also known as Engelsaugen, Angel Eyes)
175 gr plain baking flour
65 gr superfine sugar
1 tbsp vanilla sugar from packet or five drops pure vanilla essence plus tbsp extra sugar
2 beaten egg yolks
Very finely grated zest half a lemon
125 gr. Butter, room temperature
50 gr. Raspberry jam, this is our favourite flavour but any jam can be used, and a yellow one looks fun, or melted chocolate.
Whisk together sugar, vanilla sugar, butter until light and frothy, then add beaten egg yolks and lemon zest.
Whisk until combined and add sieved flour, kneading the mixture until smooth.
Wrap in cling film and leave in fridge for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 175 -180 degrees C.
Line baking sheet with lightly greased paper.
Divide dough into 25 pieces and roll in balls.
Using a wooden kebab stick or spoon handle made a small dimple in the middle of each ball taking care not to go right the way through.
When using jam, beat thoroughly to make sure it is smooth and fill dimples, (an icing bag with or without nozzle makes this easy), then pinch edge slightly to ensure jam does not run out while cooking.
Bake on middle shelf for around 12 to 15 minutes, or until turning golden but not brown.
If using chocolate bake cookies and fill with melted chocolate when cooled.
Confectioners sugar can be lightly sprinkled over the Little Pots of Love or Angel Eyes when they have cooled, it adds a pretty ‘finish’, but this is optional.
Can be eaten at once, but taste even better if kept for a while in an airtight tin.
Kokosmakronen mit Schokolade - Coconut and chocolate macaroons makes 40
3 egg whites
200 gr superfine sugar
1 pinch salt
1 Packet vanilla sugar
100 gr grated chocolate (at least 60% cocoa is best)
200 gr coconut flakes
Whisk egg whites together with salt until in stiff peaks
Gradually whisk in the super fine sugar and vanilla sugar, (or 210 grams vanilla pod sugar from your store cupboard).
Grate chocolate into flakes and combine with coconut.
Carefully add chocolate and coconut to egg white mixture, folding in gently until mixed. The macaroons will be flat and hard if heavy handling removes the air from whisked egg whites.
With teaspoon place in small mounds on a baking paper or rice paper covered baking tray, and place in bottom of oven pre-heated to 120 degrees C.
Leaving oven door a little ajar bake for about 25 minutes.
Remove macaroons from oven and allow to cool.
They should still be soft and chewy on the inside.
Leave for a week for flavor to develop.
Guten Appetit!..........And enjoy your Weihnachts Plaetzchen
Virtually any cookie shape you have in mind can be achieved with this Cookie Cutter set, and it is ideal for all kinds of celebrations, not only during the holiday season
This is one of my favorite Weihnachten CD's with some really beautiful and atmospheric Christmas music to listen to while baking those cookies, or to simply enjoy. The voices are just superb and while this CD includes Silent Night and O Tannenbaum there many other melodies you will recognize, together with the peals of church bells from churches and cathedrals across Germany
Liebesgruebchen, Angel Eyes, photographer Bryan Ochalla, Kokosmakronen mit Schokalade, Coconut chocolate macaroons photographer Andreas Kaiser, Weihnachts Plaetzchen, Christmas Cookies Plateful of Christmas Cookies contributed by Fagles, all via de.Wikipedia