Zimtsterne are also known as Erstesternen (first stars) – the emerging stars indicate the end of a day of fasting. These days they are eaten as part of a traditional German Christmas (see How Germans Do An Epic Foodie Christmas), but originally they were eaten by German Jews at the meal following Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement, which occurs in the autumn).
In the original Jewish recipe only the egg whites are used, and this results in a meringuey light textured biscuit. I’m afraid I can’t bear either to throw away a yolk, or to have small bowls of hardening yolks cluttering up my fridge, so I make peanut butter snickerdoodles (recipe to come) simultaneously.
Some people add ginger to the mix, but I think this adds a slightly soapy taste rather than the zingy one sought so instead I use fresh lemon and add in the zest.
If you can’t get the vanilla bean dusting sugar, substitute icing sugar and add half a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste to the dough.
Recipe for Zimtsterne
Makes about 40 small stars, or 30 larger ones
- 3 eggs
- 250g/9 oz/2 cups icing sugar
- 100g/4 oz (1 whole carton) vanilla bean dusting sugar (Waitrose has this, among others)
- Juice and zest of half a small lemon
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- 400g/14 oz ground almonds (or, if you can get them already ground, hazelnuts)
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp rum
- Separate the eggs and whisk the whites with an electric whisk until they are stiff, retaining soft peaks.
- Add a pinch of salt, and about a tbsps. of lemon juice (reserve any you have over) and whisk again.
- Slowly sift in the icing sugar and over half of the vanilla bean dusting sugar.
- Save about a quarter of the mixture in a separate bowl (to make the topping) and set aside.
- Add the almonds, cinnamon and rum.
- Cover the pastry and put it in the fridge for an hour or so.
- Preheat the oven to 150°C (use the AGA simmering oven).
- Cover a large piece of silicon paper (or baking paper) with about half the remaining vanilla bean powder sugar.
- Roll out the pastry, dust with the rest of the vanilla bean powder sugar, cover with another sheet of silicon paper and roll out quite thin (about half a centimetre – ⅛”).
- Use a smallish, star-shaped cutter to cut out the Zimtsterne.
- Place them on your largest baking tray, covered with silicone paper.
- Now take the remainder of your original meringue mix, and stir to loosen. If it is still a bit too thick to spread add the remains of the lemon juice, or a few drops of water.
- Brush the stars with the meringue icing, and bake for about ten minutes – the icing should be set, but still white.
- Leave to cool – they’ll keep in an airtight container for about two weeks.