A winning recipe
A filled cookie tin spreads joy —and not just at Christmas time
By Susanne Janssen
Growing up in Germany, Advent was filled with familiar scents — the pine branches of the wreaths, oranges and mandarins, and freshly baked cookies, often with cinnamon, ginger or other warming spices.
Even with today’s busy schedules, baking cookies or gingerbread is part of the preparation for Christmas, even if some of the baked goods would be long gone before the 25th.
Both my mother and grandmother, as well as my aunts, are or were passionate bakers, so joining them in baking for Christmas became my Advent tradition as well. And as I moved to different countries, I brought the recipes and cookie cutters with me, much to the delight of the people around me!
One almond cookie recipe was especially popular, so much so that a friend asked for it in the middle of summer. First, I thought, “This is not the season for a Christmas cookie,” but then a thought came to my mind — who defines what makes a cookie a Christmas cookie? Only the shape and… tradition.
Would I really be too rigid and lose the opportunity to love my neighbor? In order to love my friend, I started to grind the almonds, take out some flower cookie cutters, and declared them to be summer cookies!
This moment helped me, while still treasuring my traditions and heritage, to be open to change and embrace new ones.
Since then, I’ve made these cookies over and over: as a gift, for Valentine’s Day or during a time when everyone can use something to cheer them up — and especially during Advent of course! Or even without any special reason...
German almond cookies
(makes about 50 small cookies)
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ cup ground almonds or almond flour (freshly ground toasted almonds for a heartier cookie, fine almond flour for a more delicate cookie)
2½ cups of flour
Cream butter and sugar until pale yellowish. Add the eggs, one at the time. Add vanilla extract and salt. Add ground almonds or almond flour. Mix baking soda with flour, then add flour. After mixing, knead with your hands and form dough into a ball. Refrigerate for around 30 minutes.
Roll out the dough to 50mm (roughly a quarter of an inch) — thinner cookies will be crispier, thicker cookies a bit chewy. Use your favorite cookie cutters and place cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes (or until golden). You can add frosting (raspberry jam passed through a sieve and mixed with confectioner’s sugar or confectioner’s sugar mixed with lemon juice or dip them in melted chocolate).
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