Christmas in Germany is the Christmas celebration of all Christmas celebrations. From mid-November through Christmas day, the streets of Germany are bedecked with Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets) full of Glühwein, fragrant baked goods, handmade decorations, wooden toys, Bratwurst, and the list goes on. Everywhere you go you can feel the festivities of Christmas. The Christmas season I spent in Hamburg is one of my fondest memories.
One of the best parts of German Christmas traditions is the baked goods. Lebkuchen, Stollen, Plätzchen, fill the bakeries, the market stalls, and the kitchens of those who bake. I could write an entire blog on the delicacies of the Christmas Konditorei, but for this post I have chosen one of the many Weihnachtsplätzchen (Christmas cookies) enjoyed this time of year.
The Germans have a different technique of making cookies than we do here in the United States. Most of our cookie recipes call for us to cream together the butter, sugar, and other wet ingredients first and then to add in the dry ingredients. Many German recipes instead instruct first mixing all of the dry ingredients and then kneading the butter and eggs into it with your hands until a smooth dough is formed. If you find this technique difficult, you can substitute a food processor for a quicker and smoother result.
Spitzbuben are made by sandwiching two cookies together with currant jelly (Johannisbeergelee is a staple in German baking!) and sprinkling the top cookie with powdered sugar. What makes these cookies unique is the addition of hazelnut flour (almond flour can be subsituted) and vanilla sugar. You can purchase vanilla sugar here and hazelnut flour here. This recipe was translated from a Christmas baking book I purchased in Germany.
400g all purpose flour
200g granulated sugar
250g unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes
1 packet bourbon vanilla sugar
125g ground hazelnut flour (or almond flour)
1 jar currant jelly
100g powdered sugar
- Combine flour, sugar, butter, egg, vanilla sugar, and hazelnut flour, and knead into a smooth dough with your hands. Alternately, combine ingredients in a food processor and process until a ball is formed. Flatten into a circle and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
- Preheat the oven to 400F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and cut out an even number of circles and circles with holes cut out in the center. Place on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake for about 10 minutes.
- Let cookies cool. Once cool sprinkle the circles with holes with powdered sugar and spread the full circles with a layer of jelly. Sandwich the two cookies together, the powdered sugar circle on top of the jelly-spread cookie.