For almost a month already, we have been floating in the yearly jolly atmosphere that smells like cinnamon, shines with the twinkle lights and tempts us with delicious food.
Germany is famous for its wonderful bread and it’s a very well-deserved reputation, however, there’s a lot that can be said about German pastries, cakes and cookies. Normally, people’s thoughts fly all the way to France and its delicate macaroons or éclairs as the must-try when looking for something sweet in Europe they can later talk about. I find myself much more inclined for the astounding variety of Christmas cookies that Germany has to offer, hence, here a list of my favorite ones among the sorts I have tried so far just in time for you to judge if I have walked the wrong path, chip in with a recommendation or bolt out in search of some newly discovered variety to munch on while waiting for the holy and silent night. If you are left feeling hungry for more cookie tales, check out Alie’s earlier A Small Festive Treat blog post.
- Lebkuchen (gingerbread). By far my favorites, especially when baked by a German Oma. With or without a thin flour layer at the bottom and covered with chocolate or white sugary frosting, these ancient brown beauties are a spice party that includes cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, ginger, cardamom and more.
- Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars). They’re small and cute, you can find them in every supermarket and also in every Christmas market (I very much prefer those from street markets because the taste is drastically different from those factory ones). The soul of these cookies is of course, cinnamon, but they also feature almonds and a citrus frosting.
- Spekulatius (shortcrust cookies). These cookies are very thin, crunchy and artsy, because aside from the load of spices they host, what really makes Spekulatius so special are the beautiful and delicate designs printed on the dough, all of which are, of course, Christmassy. It’s a pretty experience to roll your dough and use a special wood roll that’s engraved with the festive figures to “print” them on it before baking. All cuteness aside, I must warn you to watch it when a bag of these cookies is around, they’re so light and yummy you won’t notice you have eaten more than ten.
- Mandelbällchen (almond balls). Do you like almonds? These cookies are for you. They’re basically just almonds with flour and sugar, yet somehow, they manage to be utterly delicious with their neither crunchy nor chewy texture and all that powder sugar on top.
- Vanillekipferl (vanilla crescent rolls). Probably the easiest cookies to make and to which you should give a go as a beginner if you decide to try your luck at baking in Germany (not so easy to do because the altitude and pressure conditions alter whatever experience you may have, expect disappointments!). Flour, vanilla, eggs, butter and some almond powder. Good luck.
- Adventsschnitten (Advent cookies). Chocolate makes an appearance again. Paired with cinnamon and other spices, some citrus here and there and yes, hazelnuts. Nutella’s glorious aftertaste is put to shame by these little bundles of joy.
- Spritzgebäck (shortbread cookies). A classic, no matter who you ask. These cookies are also “simple” to make, they don’t require many or too exotic ingredients and the result is wonderful. These cookies are buttery and crispy; they will melt in your mouth as soon as you bite them. They’re also versatile, you can eat them natural or try with as many coverages or toppings you may have at hand; dipping them in chocolate is a very common thing, but topping them with any kind of homemade jam or use it as glue to sandwich the cookies is also a winner idea. As for the toppings? The sky is the limit!
There are many, many more cookies and other seasonal delicacies to try out and the best advice I can give from one expat to another is: eat it all! Find yourself someone to share all the joy the season brings with the bright lights, the emotional carols, the excellent food, and make every moment count. Frohe Weihnachten im Voraus!