In Germany it’s traditional to bake a vast selection of small cookies for Christmas. These Cinnamon Stars are the perfect Christmassy biscuits!
The following makes 50 biscuits!
– 2 medium egg whites
– A pinch of salt
– 1 tbsp lemon juice
– 250g icing sugar, sifted
– Grated zest of 1/2 unwaxed lemon
– 175g ground almonds, plus extra for rolling
– 75g mixed candied peel, whizzed briefly in a food processor or very finely chopped
– 2 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1/4 tsp ground cloves
– Put the egg whites in a mixing bowl, add the salt and lemon juice and start beating with an electric mixer. Once you see bubbles forming, gradually add the icing sugar, beating until you have a thick meringue. Transfer about a third of the meringue (125g) to a bowl and set aside, covered with cling film.
– Add all the rest of the ingredients to the remaining meringue and mix with a wooden spoon or a spatula to form a firm dough. Dust a work surface lightly with ground almonds and roll out the dough to a sheet 8mm thick. Transfer it to a baking sheet or chopping board that will fit in your fridge.
– Using a palette knife, spread a thin, even layer of the reserved meringue on top. You probably won’t need it all. What is left can be recycled in a second round of rolling. Chill the sheet in the fridge for 1-2 hours, until the meringue has set and is no longer wet.
– Remove the dough from the fridge and cut out stars with a 3cm star-shaped cutter – or a 5cm klipp-klapp cutter, if you happen to have one. Cut the stars out with minimal gaps, as the first round of rolling makes the nicest cookies. For the best results dip the cutter into cold water first, shake off the excess water, then cut out the star. Use your middle or index finger to push the star upwards out of the cutter, being careful not to get any fingertips on the delicate meringue surface. Place the cookies 1cm apart on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.
– Recycle the offcuts by gathering them up and adding some more ground almonds to them, since the meringue on top will have made the dough softer. Roll out, over with a thin layer of meringue and chill as before, then cut out more stars. If you run out of meringue, you can also bake the stars plain, leave them to cool and then drizzle some melted chocolate over them, or dip them in the chocolate icing.
– The baking off the stars is crucial to their success. Since all ovens have their own idiosyncrasies, you may need to adjust the instructions below.
– Heat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6. Put the stars on the lowest shelf, as they need hardly any top heat, and bake for about 7 minutes. The meringue should stay nice and white, with a hint of light browning around the edges, the base should be dry and a light golden brown, while the centre should still be moist. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray. Stored in an airtight container, the stars will keep for several weeks.
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