Zimsterne {cinnamon meringue star cookies}

By now you all know my adoration for Classic German Baking, by Luisa Weiss. Her Christmas cookie recipes have found a solid place in my holiday cookie baking (and eating) habits. In case you’re curious, the final tally this year was was 61 dozen cookies—732 cookies! Yes, I was very exhausted when it was all done. Call me crazy, but now that it’s all finished, and most of the cookies are packed in tins, on their way to friends around the country, I miss the flurry of flour, sugar, eggs, and butter.

Last year I was fascinated with the idea of making Zimsterne from scratch. Zimsterne are a German Christmas favorite, even to be easily found wandering the holiday markets in New York City. They had lots of lebkuchen too!

This was one recipe, though, that I had troubles with last year, so it required some tweaking before I set out to make them again this year. The ingredients and ratios stayed mostly the same, but the technique needed some reevaluation. Now, Luisa points out that there are many methods for making Zimsterne to ensure the meringue comes out crisp. The technique she references in Classic German Baking is the one that has worked best for her.

Perhaps different kitchens and climates is why I didn’t have luck, but I also know a thing or two about meringue. This year I trusted my instinct on everything I know about making meringue. Most recipes for Zimsterne call for icing sugar, but since I didn’t have luck with that last year, I swapped in caster sugar, which is a superfine granulated sugar. This used to be very easy to find in regular grocery stores but it’s been harder to track down in recent years. If you have trouble finding it, too, just add regular granulated sugar to a food processor, and process it for a few minutes until it becomes finer.

Also, no need for the cookies to rest overnight, which so many recipes direct. The rest can’t harm them, but who has an extra 24 hours this time of year?  I let my Zimsterne hangout on the counter for three hours before baking but that’s only because I had to rush off to an appointment.

The biggest change I made to Luisa’s Zimsterne recipe was the baking temperature. Instead of 350ºF (180ºC) as the recipe directed, which I just knew felt too risky, I went with a low 200ºF (95ºC). Like good barbecue, the key to dry, crispy meringues is low and slow. They crisp up perfectly without browning.

A few notes to keep in mind. I used whites from medium eggs because that’s what I had in the fridge from the farmstand. If you use white from large eggs, you’ll likely need more almond meal (but not more sugar). So, be sure to have an extra 3/4 cup (75 grams) of almond meal just in case. Also, blanched or skin-on almond flour are both fine to use.

Don’t plan on making these when you’re in a rush (lesson learned!). The dough and meringue come together very easily, and rather fast. Spreading the meringue on the stars takes time, though, so be patient, sip some tea or cocoa, and watching some Christmas movies while you do it. Enjoy! xo-Jennie

Eight Years Ago: Homemade Hot Cocoa
Seven Years Ago: Peanut Butter Bon Bons, Crispy Potato Latkes
Six Years Ago: Chocolate Gingerbread Doughnuts
Five Years Ago: Homemade Eggnog
Four Years Ago: Crispy, Chewy Gingersnap Cookies, Candied Pecans
Three Years Ago: Gingerbread Chess Pie
Two Years Ago: Peppermint Fudge Brownies, Slow Cooker Lentil Soup, Gingerbread Scones
One Year Ago: Almond Milk Eggnog, Asian Vegetable Noodle Soup, Homemade Almond Paste (without egg whites)

Zimsterne {cinnamon meringue star cookies}

5.0 from 1 reviews
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: Makes 36 – 2 ½ inch cookies

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature (preferably from medium eggs)
  • pinch of salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 cup (200 grams) caster sugar (also known as superfine sugar)
  • 2 ¼ cups (225 grams) finely ground almond meal (read post before starting)
  • 2 teaspoons (7 grams) ground cinnamon
  • Confectioners’ sugar, to roll out cookies (also called icing sugar)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºF (95ºC). Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.
  2. Add the egg whites and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat until frothy, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the cream of tartar, and then with the mixer on medium-high speed, slowly dribble in the sugar. It should take 2 to 3 minutes for it all to be added. Continue to beat the egg whites until they become stiff and glossy, 6 to 7 minutes.
  4. Spoon out ¾ cup of the meringue, and set aside.
  5. To the remaining meringue in the bowl, add the ground almond meal and cinnamon. Fold in with a spatula until just combined.
  6. Line a counter with a sheet of plastic film. Dust with a bit of confectioners’ sugar. Add the meringue dough onto it. Dust the top of the dough with a bit of confectioners’ sugar, and cover with another sheet of film. Roll the dough into a ¼-inch thick (6mm) sheet. Use a star shaped cutter to press out the cookies, and place them on the prepared baking sheets. Dip the cutter into confectioners’ sugar every now and then to prevent the cookies from sticking to it.
  7. When all the cookies have been cut out, get to work on icing them. This is best done with a small, clean paint brush. Dab a bit of the reserved meringue in the center of a cookie, and spread it out to the edges of the star’s tips. Don’t be skimpy, as you want a thick coating on each cookie. Repeat with each cookie.
  8. Bake the cookies for 70 minutes, until the meringue is crisp but still snowy white (best to keep an eye during the last 10 minutes. Rotate trays halfway through baking for even cooking.
  9. When done, shut off oven, open door slightly, and leave cookies inside until oven is cooled. Store completely cooled cookies in a tin for up to 1 month, but I assure they’ll be eaten much sooner.