There is nothing terribly new or ground-breaking about our Christmas baking. These are tradition, which is as it should be.
I say ‘our’ and ‘we,’ because my mom is the standard-bearer, she is present in each one of those painfully pressed out and carefully cut out stars. I find cookies a bit tedious, and many Christmas cookies are especially fiddly with an unnervingly sticky dough and precise shaping requirements. But they are custom, and the most exacting ones are also the very best (the cinnamon stars — but, hush, don’t tell the others).
Luckily my mom gets on with it, and before I’ve had the chance to write out the list of ingredients for the Stollen, the almonds are already ground, and the scent of cinnamon awaft.
But lest anyone catches on to the fact that I am a lazy cook, here is my valiant contribution to the Christmas spread: Stollen. I’ve rarely broken the promise, I’ve baked Stollen in Berlin, I’ve baked it in New York, I’ve flown it home across the Atlantic, I’ve made it through the night watching films while waiting for the dough to rise, and I’ve made it in London with yeast a few days too old, watching anxiously as the dough barely became plump. It’s a whole day’s (or night) work and worth every minute.
But for the indolent cook, here are little shortbread cookies that are a cinch to make and endlessly adaptable. I’ve known them all my life simply as ‘almond and currant cookies,’ but I’ve also used pistachios and saffron, and, here, pecans, cranberries, and orange blossom water.
Finally, I have in the archives the recipe for another Swiss confection, small footed aniseed Chräbeli.