Tis the Season… for Weihnachtsguetzli ! (Cookie time !)

When December rolls around and the holidays approach, what gets you the most excited? For some, it’s the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree and taking it home to decorate, not to mention placing wrapped gifts underneath.  For others, it’s thinking of their city filled with festive lights – always an elegant display here in Zürich.  Still others anticipate the winter markets, roasting chestnuts by the fire or cooking and baking family recipes.  For me… it’s Weihnachtsguetzli, Christmas cookies, of course! (recipes below)

Christmas CookiesChristmas CookiesChristmas CookiesChristmas Cookies

You know fall is here in Zürich when the green huts selling heissi Marroni (roasted chestnuts) pop up all over town.  And you know Christmas is just around the corner when the main train station transforms into Switzerland’s largest indoor Christmas market, 50 foot Swarovski tree and all.  [Here are photos from 2009 and 2008].  There’s a new Christmas market in Zürich this year too, albeit a smaller one: Goldene Weihnachten am Bellevue, with 15 charming stands at Sechseläuten Square.  While back in April we celebrated the end of winter there by watching a huge snowman go up in flames and explode (it’s true, look!), now we’re filling up on Glühwein, Stollen and cookies.  Oh, and Raclette of course, as no market – for any occasion or any time of year – would be complete here without it.

Christmas time in ZürichChristmas time in ZürichChristmas time in ZürichChristmas time in Zürich

My favorite stand of all was Globus for their variety of Weihnachtsguetzli.  Six different cookies are all baked in a little oven right there.  One day I watched Carmen (2nd photo up top) put the icing on the Zimtsterne, chewy cinnamon stars; and the next time, she had just finished a tray of Weinguetzli, most of whose red wine evaporates during baking, she assured me.  And on yet another occasion, I was greeted by freshly cut dough for anise flavored Chräbeli.  Most of all, I had my eye on the buttery Mailänderli, Vanille-Kipferli (vanilla crescents) and the chocolate almond Brunsli.  I’m a bit sad they are no longer making Stollen-Confektion, adorable and delicious bite-size Stollen.

Christmas time in ZürichChristmas time in ZürichChristmas time in ZürichChristmas time in Zürich

When my friend Nick Malgieri, who loves Switzerland *almost* as much as I do (a heated competition), is here visiting, we make sure to check out the sweet scene together.  If he were here right now, no doubt I’d find him at the Globus stand, checking out the cookies. And perhaps comparing them to his own – another heated competition! When I asked Nick his favorite, it was hands down the Mailänderli, a thick butter cookie he absolutely loves. Don’t miss his recipes below for Mailänderli (below left) and Brunsli (below right), two of many I’ll be making in the coming weeks. Danke villmal, Nick!

Christmas CookiesChristmas Cookies

Nick is also the sweet mastermind behind Saveur’s cookie feature in the December issue. He shared his favorite recipes from around the world, including American sugar cookies, Roman Tozzetti (anise, almond and hazelnut biscotti), speculaas and… Basler Brunsli! Here are a few more pages I’ve bookmarked that will be coming into the kitchen with me during the holidays:

* Hazelnut and marzipan macaroons, jam drops and German Spitzbuben from Meeta of What’s For Lunch, Honey?
* Peppermint bark chocolate chip cookies, sparkling ginger chip cookies, Swedish rye cookies and many more on 101 Cookbooks
* Saveur’s holiday cookie roundup adds more recipes to Nick’s favorites, including spice walnut cookies, German butter cookies and Claudia Fleming’s gingersnaps
* Over at delicious:days, I’ve had my eye on Nicky’s Brombeerbusserl (vanilla shortbread cookies with blackberry jam), Wespennester (“my kind of macarons”), Pepparkakor (Swedish ginger biscuits) and cocoa hazelnut spritz cookies. (Check out her Basler Brunsli and Vanillekipferl too)
* Betty Bossi (in German) has a whole feature on Swiss readers’ favorite Weihnachtsguetzli with recipes, and ranks their popularity as such: 1. Brunsli, 2. Mailänderli, 3. Zimtsterne, 4. Spitzbuben and 5. Chräbeli/Anisbrötli.

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season! What’s your favorite holiday cookie?

~

Nick Malgieri’s recipes for Weihnachtsguetzli, Swiss Christmas Cookies

BASLER BRUNSLI

“Though traditional Brunsli are made with almonds, occasionally I like to substitute hazelnuts or a combination of the two nuts.”

Makes about 5 dozen cookies, depending on the size of the cutter used

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups whole almonds, about 6 ounces
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large egg whites
More sugar for rolling the dough
2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans covered with parchment or foil.

1. Combine the sugar and almond in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse repeatedly until the mixture is finely ground, but not pasty.

2. Add the chocolate and spices and pulse again until the chocolate is finely ground. Add the egg whites and pulse repeatedly until the dough starts to form a ball.

3. Invert the bowl to a work surface covered with sugar and carefully remove the blade. Press the dough out to an even 1/4-inch thickness. Streak the top of the dough with a fork to stripe it.

4. Use a heart, star, or other decorative cutter to cut out the Brunsli and place them an inch apart of the prepared pans. Press any scraps back together, streak again and cut more Brunsli. Continue until all the dough is used.

5. Allow the Brunsli to dry for 2 hours at room temperature.

6. About 20 minutes before you intend to bake the Brusnli, set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.

7. After the oven has preheated, place the pans in the oven and lower the heat to 300 degrees. Bake the Brusnli for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until they become matte in appearance and slightly firm – they will become more firm as they cool.

8. Cool the Brunsli on the pans on racks.

9. Store them in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover between sheets of wax paper.

~

MAILAENDERLI

“The name of these cookies literally means ‘little Milanesi.’ I have no idea what the derivation might be, but they may be descended from an Italian cookie.”

Makes 4 to 5 dozen cookies, depending on the size of the cutter used

DOUGH

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

EGG WASH

1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 pinch salt
2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans covered with parchment or foil

1. For the dough, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, beating smooth after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

2. Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift he flour over the butter mixture, thoroughly folding it in with a rubber spatula.

3. Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and form it into a 10-inch square, about 1/2-inch thick. Slide the dough onto a cookie sheet and chill it for at least 2 hours, or until it is firm. The dough may be made several days ahead.

4. When you are ready to roll out the cookies, make the egg wash. Whisk all the ingredients together and strain them into a measuring or other cup.

5. Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

6. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut the square into quarters. Place one of the quarters on a lightly floured work surface and return the remaining ones to the refrigerator.

7. Lightly flour the dough and gently press it with a rolling pin to soften it slightly. Roll the dough to a 6-inch square. Use a fork to streak the top of the dough in a series of straight stripes about 1/16-inch deep. Cut the dough into 2-inch rounds or diamonds with a lightly floured cutter. Arrange the Mailaenderli on the prepared pans about an inch apart in all directions. Repeat with the remaining dough. At the end re-roll the scraps to make more cookies.

8. After all the cookies are cut, paint them carefully with the egg wash.

9. Place the pans of cookies in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 325 degrees. Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes, or until they are pale golden and firm.

10. Cool on the pans on racks.

11. Store the Mailaenderli in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover between sheets of wax paper.

~

34 Responses to “Tis the Season… for Weihnachtsguetzli ! (Cookie time !)”

  1. Lani says:

    What’s my favorite cookie? Butter cookies with some sugar on top in fun shapes. I can’t decide which one of the cookies above I would love more….help me out here! Need to taste test! New York has lots of cookies so where should I go here for fabulous Christmas cookies….I can just smell the aroma of baking cookies thru the computer. Your photographs are just fab!!!!

  2. Nick Malgieri says:

    Thanks! What a great post. Hope you try the tozzetti – they’re SO good. I guess we both love Zurich and all of Switzerland about equally, I’ve just been at it longer…

  3. Rosa says:

    Mmmhhh, Swiss Guetzli! I love them so much.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  4. Kerrin says:

    Lani, mmm sugar topped butter cookies sound perfect to me. Simple and good ! You’re not sure about the ones above here… well you would just have to try 1 of each, like I did ! ;) I’m not really sure where to get the best Christmas cookies in NYC, we’ll have to ask our New York readers…

    * Hey New York City, where do you get your Christmas cookies ?? * [Thanks !]

    Nick, thank you again ! So glad you like the post. And I will have to add those Tozzetti to my baking list too, never made biscotti with that technique. As for us both loving Züri and Switzerland, hey, I’m catching up…. ;) Bis bald !

    Rosa, me too ! =)

  5. AmyRuth says:

    Dang Girl! “Sweet Dreams” you say. I’m thinking those cookies are dreamy. They are far away from here. Merry Christmas
    AmyRuth

  6. Jess "Klutzy Chef" says:

    Oh how those pics make me miss Switzerland. Happy holidays from the “other” side of the ocean.

  7. Victoria (District Chocoholic) says:

    Oh wow, I actually just read that article and picked up almonds to make Basler Brunsli tonight. I’ve never made them, but my dad made me promise to bring some with me when we all get together in a week. The Swiss sure seem to know their chocolate and baked goods, and this brings both together. So excited!

  8. Kerrin says:

    AmyRuth, sweet dreams I definitely had last night ! Those little stars and crescents dancing around above my head ! =) Thanks so much, Merry Christmas to you !!

    Jess, happy holidays to you too ! You’ll just have to come visit now… and include Zürich on your itinerary ! :)

    Victoria, you said it best, Switzerland definitely knows its chocolate and baked goods – so the Brunsli was a perfect pick, a perfectly Swiss cookie ! And so…. how did they come out ??? I doubt there will be any left for your dad next week; you’ll have to bake a new batch for sure ! ;) Enjoy !

  9. Kerrin says:

    * Christmas cookie address in New York:

    One Girl Cookies on Baltic street right off Smith street in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.
    (F train to Bergen street)
    http://www.onegirlcookies.com/

    Thanks Tina (@swissmiss) for the tip !

  10. Jenn says:

    Oh these cookies sound lovely! Last weekend at the Christmas market in Montreux I bought my weight (ok not quite!) in flavored nougat and caramels, but I think I need to start trying all of these beautiful cookies! Thanks for sharing these recipes.

  11. kelleyn says:

    Zimsterne are my favorite! Don’t miss the snow, but I miss the Christmas markets.

  12. Jamie says:

    Mmmmm I want the first cookies made with spices and chocolate. Yeah! Lucky lucky you to have a real and really fabulous Christmas market. Ours is a poor parody of one selling cheap tchatchkes made, well, not in France. No traditional goodies at all. I want to come to visit you!

  13. Kerrin says:

    Jenn, the Christmas market in Montreux must be so beautiful, on the water, no ? And oooh you just said my favorite – nougat !! What flavors did you get ? If you try the recipes here, definitely let me know. Hope you like the cookies.

    kelleyn, yes those Zimtsterne are so good, chewy and sweet, without being too sweet. I would miss the snow, but not the cold… ! ;)

    Jamie, the Christmas markets in the German part of Switzerland (and certainly in Germany and Austria…) do rank a bit higher than those in Nantes I suppose… but have you been to the ones in Alsace ? Outstanding (so I have seen in photos) ! There you’ll have the traditional Christmas market ambience… yet still plenty of tchotchkes I bet ! ;)

  14. jkiel says:

    Ah, you had me at raclette…

  15. Mowie says:

    Kerrin! Don’t get me started on Christmas cookies – love them and can’t stop baking them. Love all the ones you mentioned above, and I don’t think I could ever pick a favourite. Maybe Vanillekipferl? Just maybe. =) xx

  16. Victoria (District Chocoholic) says:

    Haven’t made them yet – will email you the blog post about it. So excited! Thanks for sharing all these recipes and wonderful photos that inspire me to bake even more.

  17. Dinners & Dreams says:

    Baking for the holidays is a source of much pleasure. Enjoy the season!

    Nisrine

  18. Kerrin says:

    jkiel, haha !

    Mowie, but of course – you and German Christmas cookies !! Oh my goodness, your blog must be a treasure trove of Weihnachtsguetzli recipes; I must go check ! And Vanillekipferl as your fave ? Good choice ! ;)

    Victoria, you are most welcome ! =) And no rush on the cookies, but I’m certainly looking forward to seeing them. Thanks for sharing !

    Nisrine, I could not agree more. Thank you, and many holiday wishes to you too !

  19. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    Some time ago I went through all my baking books and compiled a list of cookies I’d love to bake this year for Christmas. I was going to pick 6 – from a list that stretched past 50! I don’t think I could pick one single cookie, but I do love the earthy, spiced cookie in all its forms.

    It’s this time of year that I long for a white winter. Instead, we have 30C+ temperatures, 90% humidity, and storms/flooding in our future. Not as festive, but hey, we are in the sub-tropics, right?

    Does Olivier have a favourite Christmas cookie?

  20. Victoria (District Chocoholic) says:

    Oh but there WAS a rush, because they sounded delicious. And it turns out that they are. I think I’m going to need to make another batch, these turned out wonderfully. And such a simple recipe!

  21. Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday says:

    I get swept away with cookies from different cultures. Really I do. Right now I’m into shortbread since my sister recently returned from a trip to Ireland.

    After reading this post I really want to get into making German cookies! Mmmmm!

  22. Nicole Urdang says:

    Hi Kerrin,
    Thanks for the great Basler Brunsli recipe. It looks just fabulous.
    Hope you have a wonderful holiday season.
    Namaste

  23. Kerrin says:

    Julia, that would be awfully impressive to be able to pick just 6 cookies to bake from all those that catch your eye. I keep trying these past few weeks to limit my list, not easy ! ;) And yes, it certainly is funny to think of Christmas in a bikini ! Stay tuned, I’ll share some photos from France next week so you can enjoy the ambience there too… where it’s far from 30 degrees ! Brrrr….

    * Oh, and as for Olivier’s favorite Christmas cookie… let’s ask him. “Hey Olivier… As-tu un cookie/biscuit de Noël préféré ??”

    Victoria, fantastic !! Ok, I clearly need to make them now too ! Thank YOU for the inspiration ! =)

    Samantha, oh absolutely, that’s what is so much fun – discovering each country’s cookie ! Have a cookie party and make one of each ! =)

    Nicole, you’re very welcome. And thank you so much, hope you enjoy the holidays as well, filled with only the very best chocolate ! What’s your favorite of the moment ???

  24. Andrea M. says:

    Hooray! New cookie recipes to try! Merci vielmal!

  25. bobbie says:

    I am so happy to find your wonderful Swiss blog. I lived in Berne in the 70′s and the 80′s for a year each time, and have been back many many many times…as often as I can since then. So, this is a great find and a great blog. I’m looking forward to visiting it often.

  26. Nicky says:

    Baked the Mailänderli yesterday (my only change to the recipe: I made them thinner) and they turned out great! Very buttery, with a wonderful vanilla flavor. They might become a regular on my Christmas cookie plate!

    Thank you for this lovely recipe, Kerrin :)

  27. Kerrin says:

    Andrea, bitte bitte. ;)

    bobbie, thank you so much for your comment. I’m so glad you found MyKugelhopf and it sure sounds like you love Switzerland as much as I do ! :) Enjoy the holidays !

    Nicky, and thank you for sharing ! I am so glad you tried the recipe – and loved it !! I have noticed that the Swiss make their Christmas cookies much thicker than others. I’ll have to do a side by side tasting ! ;) Have one of your delicious Mailänderli for me, bitte. (If there are any left, haha !)

  28. Emma says:

    Marrrrkkkketttttssssss.

    I’ve been away from the internet for the better part of the past week, and I missed this lovely post! I’ve also been away from a kitchen for much of the past week, and I just made my first holiday cookies yesterday – sandbakkels, yum! I put up a few pictures at http://ofagatesandmadeleines.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/sandbakkels/ I really love their appearance :)

    My other favorites…. hmmm, spritz, rosettes, and candy cane cookies! and jam thumbprints! and rumballs, although those aren’t really cookies.

    Happy holidays Kerrin!

  29. Camille says:

    Weinachten ohne diese kleinen Schweizer Weihnachtsguetzli wären keine Weinachten !

  30. Marlies says:

    I remember as a kid in Switzerland baking with my mom for Christmas. As I got older and life turned hectic, we often bought premade dough at the Migros and with the full intention of baking cookies. Unfortunately for the dough, our family loved to eat dough raw and so of the 7-8 packages bought only less than have were ever baked.

    At one point my 12 year old brother requested the Mailaenderli recipe from my mom, so that he could make himself some dough. She wisely only gave him the quanties for half the recipe.

    Thanks for bringing back all those memories.

    Frohe Weihnacht.

  31. Baron's Life says:

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
    All the best for 2011

  32. Kerrin says:

    Emma, ah yes, how could I forget your love of markets ! Me too ! =) But I do love cookies even more. And oooh, all your faves, thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to check out your sandbakkels – never heard of them. And I am just excited to see your own blog !! Happy holidays Emma !

    Camille, I could not have said it better myself ! It wouldn’t have been Christmas without these festive and delicious Weihnachtsguetzli ! =)

    Marlies, thank you so much for sharing your story. I could only but giggle at your mother giving your brother *half* the Mailaenderli recipe, ha ha ! She is very wise. =) Is her recipe very different than the one here ? Happy holidays to you, and I’m so glad I could bring back these sweet memories.

    Baron’s Life, hello !! Thank you so much, and the very best to you in 2011 too !

  33. Alexander says:

    That’s a winner! The cookies looks yummy and pretty. hahaha…

    Alexander
    Alex’s World! – http://www.kakinan.com/alex

  34. Sarah says:

    Hi there!

    Just discovered your blog, and I absolutely love it!! I’m a big sweet tooth, wanna-be linguist and I totally love German(ic) food, so your blog is right up my alley. :)

    My favourite Weihnachtsgebaeck (and I’m guessing that’s the German equivalent of the Swiss: Weihnachtsguetzli?) are vanillakipferl! I make trays and trays of them every year and I’m terrible addicted to them. :)

    xox Sarah

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