Spending the Thanksgiving holiday with friends who have recently moved to Germany, I found myself thinking – yet again – “I am becoming sooo German”. The topic of conversation was the abundance of deliciousness available at German bakeries; under contention was whether they are all as delicious as they look. In the end, we all agreed that German pastries are less sweet than American pastries, and the level of sweetness required to define “delectable” was left to the individual. What I realized is that after 10 years of German sweets, the American fare is far too sugary for me. For the newly arrived, German pastries are lacking in about a pound of sugar each.
And now we find ourselves in the midst of the holiday season, when kitchens everywhere are bustling with cookie-baking and good cheer (and at our house, Glühwein too!) Something I have grown to love about my host country is Christmas baking. German Christmas cookies are different than American ones. They are less sweet, although still incredibly rich and buttery. I have been making them for a number of years now and have noticed that no matter how many pounds of butter, ground almond, sugar and flour I process in a day, the finished cookies are always nearly gone by the time I turn around. German Christmas cookies are divine. Perhaps it has to do with the use of REAL nuts instead of nut flavoring, or the use of REAL rum instead of rum flavoring. Or maybe it’s our organic butter and eggs. Whatever the case, they are worth every minute of effort and every extra calorie!
This Christmas season I would like to share with you my family’s favorite. I have translated the recipe from our standard German cookbook „Ich helf dir Kochen“, which is now so well-loved that I have had to tape the binding back together.
Schwarz-Weiß Gebäck (Black & White cookies)
250g soft butter
250g sugar (I use feinster Backzucker)
1 pack vanilla sugar
1 egg yolk, 1 whole egg
2 T rum
500g flour (I use type 550)
2 T cocoa
1 egg white, lightly beaten, for brushing
Cream butter, sugar, vanilla sugar, egg & egg yolk. Add rum. Add flour a little at a time and continue to beat until mixed, then turn onto counter and knead into a smooth dough. Separate into 2 halves. Mix the cocoa into one half of the dough, kneading until uniformly brown. Wrap each ball of dough in plastic wrap and chill.
Roll out the dough in sections, layering to create different patterns (see the picture for ideas). Brush each layer with beaten egg white before adding the next layer. Roll into logs, wrap in plastic wrap and chill.
Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F). Slice cookies from the log about 1cm thick and bake for 10-12 minutes on a parchment-lined baking sheet. The white part should not brown.
I hope you try these and enjoy them as much as we do! Wishing you a lovely holiday season and a good slide into 2011 (or as the Germans say: einen guten Rutsch!)