In Germany the Christmas season starts on 1 December, although Christmas cookies start being sold in September. The time from 1 December to Christmas Eve is called Adventszeit, the time of Advent, which is very important in Germany. The most visible signs of this time of year are the colourful fairy lights in the windows. Also children are given an Adventskalender - an Advent calendar - which means they can unwrap a small gift each day until Christmas Eve. An Adventskalender that has been bought from a shop often has a piece of chocolate as a gift in it. In many families, however, Advent calendars are homemade and contain small figurines, hair slides or other small things.
Another important tradition of the Adventszeit is to bake your own cookies. Families will come together to bake and decorate cookies following recipes handed down through the generations. It's great fun and homemade cookies often taste better than the ones you can buy.
Described below are a few recipes for such Christmas cookies. A few classics, however, may be missing as only the recipes that have been personally tested by this Researcher have been included.
Short Pastry Cookies
The most common Christmas cookies in Germany are the Mürbeteigplätzchen - short pastry cookies. There are quite easy to make. It is important to remember to use very cold butter and to work quickly as the pastry becomes sticky if it gets too warm.
For 80 cookies.
- 300g flour
- 200g cold butter
- 100g sugar
- One egg or two egg yolks1
- A pinch of salt
If 300g butter is used instead of 'just' 200g, the egg is not needed. The short pastry will be especially short and crumbly. On the other hand, you can also use 150g butter and one egg and a yolk.
Cut the butter into small bits then put it back into the fridge. The colder it is when later added to the dough, the better the result.
Sift the flour onto your kitchen plate2 and make a little hollow in the middle of it.
Put sugar, salt and the egg into that hollow.
Stir the sugar into the egg.
Get the butter out of the fridge and put the butter slices onto the outer edge of the flour. It helps if you push it into the flour a little bit but be careful not to break the flour 'bowl' and let the liquid escape.
Take a big knife and chop the dough with it. This way the ingredients get mixed without getting into contact with warm hands too soon.
When the dough consists of many tiny lumps of butter, flour and other ingredients, use your hands3 to knead all the ingredients into a smooth dough without any visible lumps of egg or butter or flour. Try to work as quick as you can as the dough becomes sticky when it's warm.
Flatten the dough, wrap it in cling film and put it into the fridge for about an hour. You can also put the dough between two deep plates.
Get it out of the fridge again, briefly knead it again and roll it out onto a bit of flour until the dough is about 3mm thick. You can also put the dough between the two sheets of cling film to avoid having to use any more flour.
Use different pastry cutters (for example, in the shapes of stars, angels and moons) to cut out the cookies.
Put the cookies onto a baking tray with baking paper.
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes in the pre-heated oven at 175°C, Gas Mark 2.
Let the cookies cool down, then enjoy them!
Variations of Short Pastry Cookies
The ingredients are similar to those used for short pastry cookies, but with some changes:
- 200g flour
- 100g ground almonds
- 100g sliced almonds
- 1 sgg yolk
- 2 tablespoons milk or cream
Prepare the short pastry as described above mixing the ground almonds with the sifted flour.
Mix the egg yolk with the milk or cream and use a baking brush to spread a little of the mixture onto each cookie.
Put a few sliced almonds on each cookie. The egg yolk and milk mixture will stick the almonds to the dough.
Bake as described above.
This is an adapted recipe for Mokka cookies with cocoa used instead.
The ingredients are again similar to those for the short pastry cookies, with these additions:
- 2-3 tablespoons cocoa powder (not, for example, caba fit but a dark cacao powder).
- 200g White chocolate
Prepare the short pastry as described above and add the cocoa powder to the sifted flour.
Use pastry cutters to cut out the cookies and bake them as described above.
Let the cookies cool down while melting the white chocolate in a double boiler4.
Put a drop of liquid chocolate into the middle of a cookie star and use a tooth pick to pull a bit of the chocolate onto each corner of the star so that the chocolate on top of the cookie forms a star, too.
Put the cookies into the fridge and let the chocolate harden.
For about 70 cookies.
- 150g ground walnuts
- 125g soft butter
- 100g brown sugar
- A package of good vanilla sugar
- 150g wholemeal flour
- A pinch of salt
- Two egg yolks or one egg
- 250g Walnuts
- 50g Brown sugar for the coating
Put the butter, sugar and the vanilla sugar in a bowl and use a whisk to beat it to a creamy consistency.
Add the ground walnuts, the wholemeal flour, the salt and the egg yolks, then stir.
Roll the dough into cherry-sized balls and coat them with the sugar.
Put the balls onto a baking tray with the baking paper and press one walnut onto each ball.
Bake in the pre-heated oven at 175°C, Gas Mark 2, for about 12 minutes.
Let the cookies cool down and enjoy!