Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Early in our marriage, or maybe in the period when we lived together before we married, I really wowed my husband by making him cinnamon stars. His mom had always bought these German Christmas cookies (Zimtsterne) from a certain bakery and his family savored them each Christmas. When I found the recipe in Joy of Cooking, labored with the sticky dough, and produced sweet woggily stars, he was in heaven. Judging from the happy sounds he made as he ate them, it was almost as good as Proust's madeleine.
Each time I made them, they got a bit easier. I hadn't made them for a few years, but I made them again this week. To tell the truth, they seemed pretty easy this time--at least, no more difficult than any other cookie you have to roll out, cut, and frost. I guess I've just finally gotten the knack. I remember reading somewhere that you have to make a recipe ten times before you really know how to make it.
Don't mess with any other cinnamon star recipes with butter or other ingredients in them. These are the one! The cookie part is tender and nutty; the meringue topping has a slight crunch and then melts on your tongue.
Cinnamon Stars (from Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
2 cups of confectioners' sugar.
Whip until stiff but not dry:
5 egg whites
1/8 tsp. salt
Add the sugar gradually. Whip these ingredients well. Add:
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. grated lemon rind
Whip constantly. Reserve 1/3 of the mixture. Fold into the remainder:
1 lb. ground unblanched almonds
Dust a board lightly with confectioners' sugar. Pat the dough to the thickness of 1/3 inch. It is too delicate to roll. If it tends to stick, dust your palms lightly with confectioners' sugar. Cut the cookies with a star cookie cutter. Glaze the tops with the reserved mixture. Bake on a greased sheet for about 20 minutes. You can see from the photo that I like to let them get a tiny bit colored to make sure the glaze is crunchy when cooled.
My note on storage: Like other meringues, these can become sticky if the weather is humid. I layer them between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight tin box. Sometimes they will get sticky anyway. If they get sticky, don't try to peel the waxed paper off them. Just wait another day and they will dry out.