Christmas cookies | Swiss aniseed Chräbeli

While I don’t shy away from de-veining a foie gras or beating the heavy dough of the yearly Stollen for 10 solid minutes, the idea of forming sticky wet dough into dozens of tiny elaborately shaped cookies never particularly appealed to me. I used to find cookies too fiddly.

But time passes, I change, and how else to have lots of homemade cookies at Christmas time? So last year I embraced cookies, and I must admit I’m enjoying making them — a lot.

There is a strong Christmas cookie making tradition in Germany, where my grandmother came from, and Switzerland, where my grandparents lived and where we spent every Christmas until I was 9. So the cookies I crave at Christmas are Lebkuchen and Zimtsterne, Linzer and Chräbeli.

Chräbeli are scented with anis. They have a very specific shape that reminds me of a branch, though the Swiss refer to them as ‘feet.’


Makes about 40 cookies. Translated and very slightly adapted from La Mia Cucina, with thanks to Jennifer for pointing me in its direction.

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups (200 g) powdered sugar

2.5 flat Tbsps aniseeds

1 tsp Kirsch

1/4 lemon zest

1 pinch salt

2 cups (250 g) flour


With a whisk, beat the eggs and powdered sugar for a good 10 minutes.

Optionally, heat a small pan, remove from heat, and add the aniseeds just to warm them up.

Combine the aniseeds, Kirsch, and lemon zest with the egg/sugar mixture.

Add the flour little by little. Once all the flour has disappeared, cover the bowl and let rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour. **The dough must be sticky but not runny. If it doesn’t hold together in a loosely shaped ball in the bowl, add just enough flour before setting to rest.**

Prepare a cookie sheet with buttered parchment paper.

Divide the still slightly sticky dough into 2 parts, and form into a thick roll; divide each of these into 4 pieces, and roll each piece into an even, long stick about 1/2 inch (1 cm) in diameter. Form each of the four sticks into 4 cookies and place them onto the buttered parchment paper. To form the cookies: cut the stick into 4 pieces 1 3/4 in (4 cm) long, then with a clean, sharp knife, cut 3 angled incisions halfway into the cookie to form the ‘branches,’ then bend slightly into a half-moon shape.

Let the cookies rest for at least 10 hours (and up to 24h) in a cool place with an even temperature and no draft.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).

Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, until the top is slightly hard to the touch, but not yet turning brown. **Do not open the oven for the first 10 minutes.**

Store the cookies in a tin in a cool place for up to a few weeks.


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8 Responses to “Christmas cookies | Swiss aniseed Chräbeli”

  1. Molly McCarthy Says:

    hi there what is the measurement on the lemon? it says 1/4 …

    • valerie Says:

      Thank you, I will clarify this in the recipe. It is the zest from a quarter of a lemon. Happy baking!

  2. Sven De Coninck Says:

    Superb! Swiss patisserie that continues to do well after the holidays.
    I knew a Spanish version of cookies with anise taste but these have more “Hotel” allures …

  3. hladue Says:

    these look lovely valerie, glad you reposted the recipe. i want to make these next week when i’m in vermont!

    • valerie Says:

      Thanks so much, Holly. I’m responding much too late so I know you didn’t bake these cookies after all… Hopefully next year. All the best. V

  4. michelvago Says:

    mmm… Merry Xmas !

  5. Oui, Chef Says:

    I love the flavor of anise, and used to devour the anise biscotti my Italian Nonna used to make for the holidays. can’t wait to try these little “feet” and see how they stand-up to their Italian cousins. Happy holidays to you and your family! – S

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