Maybe I wasn’t being completely truthful last year when I exclaimed that the almond and currant cookies of my youth are my favorite. In reality I’ve always loved Zimtsterne most of all.
As a little girl, cinnamon stars represented the very promise of Christmas. The sweet tinge of icing an irresistible finish to the chewy bite. Nutty. Not too cinnamony. For some years I may have snubbed them a little, perhaps in a flaccid effort at emancipation from too obvious a childhood treat. But why resist the irresistible?
This is another recipe my mother has kept alive all these years. She received it initially, many years ago, from Marcelle, a close family friend and my grandparent’s neighbor in Switzerland.
The cookies must rest for a few hours or overnight before baking, so plan accordingly. They are best made a few weeks ahead. (Ahem.)
Store in an airtight tin box, separating the layers with parchment paper.
450 g (3 cups) almonds
3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
300 g (1 1/2 cups) unrefined sugar
2 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
Kirsch (1 Tbsp for cookies and 1 Tbsp for the icing)
Star-shaped cookie cutter
100 g (3/4 cup) powdered (icing) sugar
Pulse chop the almonds in a food processor until they reach the consistency of coarse sugar. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until very firm.
Add the sugar, cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon kirsch to the almonds. Fold in the egg whites with a wooden spoon, then knead by hand until the dough holds together (kneading will help extract the almond oil).
Take the dough and flatten it evenly on a slightly moistened wooden board (working in batches if necessary). The height should be approximately 8 mm (1/3 inch), but the most important is that it be even so it also cooks evenly.
Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkled with sugar. Cut out stars from the dough with a wet cookie cutter and place them on the baking sheet. (Wet the cutter repeatedly throughout the process to avoid sticking.)
Let the stars rest, uncovered (they must dry a little), at room temperature, for a few hours or overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Slide the sheet in the middle of the oven and bake the cookies for 10 minutes. They will harden when they cool but must remain moist.
Make the icing by mixing the icing sugar with 1 tablespoon Kirsch and 1 tablespoon water. The icing should be quite liquid, add water drop by drop if necessary.
Using the back of a small spoon, coat each star, while still warm, with a light layer of icing. Let dry.
Store in a tin box, layers separated by parchment paper, for up to a month.