Christmas cookies are a ritual in our family that has been observed for generations and that I’ve passed on to my children and grandchildren. Recipes often remain unchanged through the ages. I have a hand-written cookbook from 1714; its recipe for Springerle is identical to the one I use today. Five kinds of cookies are a must: spiced honey almond bars called Lebkuchen or Leckerli, anise-flavoured Springerle, butter cookies, hazelnut macaroons, and cinnamon stars — essentially an almond and cinnamon macaroon (except I now call them cinnamon rounds). These cookies were only ever baked at Christmas time, and once they were gone, we would have to wait until next year. Today’s recipe is for cinnamon rounds.
Traditionally, cinnamon stars are cut out with a cookie cutter resembling a four-pointed star. A German cookbook says “the working of this soft dough demands a certain degree of dexterity,” an understatement if I ever heard one. So, I have simplified the process: instead of cut-out cookies, I make drop cookies with an ice cream or cookie scoop (much easier and nearly as satisfying, though we do miss biting off the stars’ points one by one).
4 large eggs, whites only
250 grams (1 3/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar (powdered or icing sugar)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
400 grams (4 cups) almond meal (unblanched almond flour)
Preheat the oven to 275ºF.
Make a meringue: beat the egg whites until stiff. Add the confectioners sugar spoonful by spoonful while beating until the mixture is smooth and fairly stiff. Stir-in the lemon juice. Remove about 3/4 cup of the mixture; cover and reserve.
Thoroughly mix the cinnamon into the remaining portion of the meringue. Lightly fold-in the almond flour.
Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Drop the dough onto a cookie sheet with a 1 5/8”diameter cookie or ice cream scoop, spacing the scoops 2 cm apart. Flatten the cookies into approximately 1 cm high rounds. Let them dry off and set for 15 to 25 minutes.
Generously ice the cookies with the reserved meringue, taking care to cover the entire cookie without letting any icing drip onto the cookie sheet. Bake them for 20 to 25 minutes in a 275ºF oven. The icing should stay white and the bottom should be lightly tanned. Let the cookies cool a bit, then move them to a rack. Store the completely cooled cookies in a tightly closed container.
They will keep for two to three weeks, though with time they’ll dry out. If they become too dry for your taste, crunch them up and use them as a topping/filling for baked apples — superb.