Swiss Christmas Cookies

The old-fashioned tradition of hand-crafted christmas treats

It’s the time of the year when my various cookie tins come out of storage and get dusted off. Most of them are cheapies from the Dollar Store, which are only brought out for Christmas. I usually bake between six to eight different types of cookies and they all have to be stored separately in order to keep their identical flavor and crunchiness. My two favorite tins are two dented old-fashioned beauties which I inherited from my grandmother. I often wonder how old they are and how many christmas cookies they have kept fresh during the years.

Swiss christmas cookies actually taste as delicious as they look
Swiss christmas cookies actually taste as delicious as they look | Source

Mailänderli (Milano Cookies) are butter cookies similar to shortbread cookies

Switzerland's most popular Christmas Cookie
Switzerland's most popular Christmas Cookie | Source

Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars) are sugar glazed almond cookies with a hint of cinnamon

These cookies are air dried overnight and only baked for 3 - 5 minutes
These cookies are air dried overnight and only baked for 3 - 5 minutes | Source

Spitzbuben (Cheeky Boys): Jam filled Butter Cookies that will melt in your mouth

Delicate Butter Cookies filled with your favorite jam
Delicate Butter Cookies filled with your favorite jam | Source

In winter our traditional swiss chalet looked a bit like a gingerbread house. Since my early childhood I remember my mother and grandmother baking several types of cookies for Christmas and shipping them off to friends and family from all over Switzerland, when postage was still affordable. In return they would receive a box of fancy chocolates, a festive basket filled with rare tropical fruit and dates or a good bottle of wine. For me Christmas has always been the season of sharing.

The sweet smell would linger in our house for days and became the symbol of the festive season. The dough making, cookie cutting and baking would usually take at least 2 to 3 days, as my mother was a keen baker famous for her huge and beautiful assortment. You have to know that swiss christmas cookies require quite a bit of time as they are hand-crafted in different steps. The delicate butter cookies have to be refrigerated before baking so that they keep their shape and some of the nut cookies have to air dry overnight.

While anybody with the right recipes is capable of making the perfect cookie dough, the rolling out and baking are the two most important steps. A dough that is not rolled out evenly often results in some under-cooked cookies, while others are burnt. Most cookies only go in the oven for a very short time and have to be checked frequently. Swiss christmas cookies are labor intensive but the rewards and compliments are definitely worth it. They make a unique gift that shows the recipient how much he is appreciated.

When I spread my wings and ventured out to explore the world I always felt that there was something missing and so I started baking my own christmas cookies every year. I once baked them on a rocking sailboat in the Caribbean, in the middle of a tropical storm. Since I didn't have a rolling pin I improvised with an empty wine bottle which worked just fine. The only problem was that the butter cookies melted before my eyes as I couldn't refrigerate them. In the end they didn’t look very nice but the smell and the taste still made it worth my while. My cookies have been fed to people in the United Kingdom, in South Africa and now in Canada. They have become my very own Christmas tradition and I hope that I can inspire a few readers to do same.

Probably the most popular swiss christmas cookies or “Weihnachtsguetzli” (Swiss German term) are Mailänderli, Zimtsterne, Spitzbuben, Brunsli, Chräbeli and Vanillehörnli. I usually get the recipes out of my well-worn Swiss Cookie Book but due to copyright I cannot share them with you. However I have found a few good Internet links where Swiss people have published their favourite recipes.

Once you get seriously into cookie baking I highly recommend the book I am using which contains 29 recipes for Christmas and all year round. The instructions are easy to follow and the book contains many useful tips regarding ingredients, storage and unique gift wrapping ideas as well as the necessary translations and measurement conversions.

I wish you a festive and blessed season full of sweet moments. With some luck you may even be able to inspire your whole family and friends to share the old tradition of hand-crafted cookie baking with you.

Happy baking!

Brunsli are chocolate almond cookies with a hint of cinnamon & clove

These cookies have to be air dried overnight and are only baked for 4-6 minutes
These cookies have to be air dried overnight and are only baked for 4-6 minutes | Source

Ingredients:

  • Swiss christmas cookies are the "real thing" and unfortunately not recommended for people with health problems or allergies. The main ingredients are sugar, flour, butter or margarine (do not use low-fat products as they will make the cookies too moist and doughy), eggs and ground nuts. Above mentioned ingredients should not be substituted.
  • Kirsch is a Swiss brandy which can be substituted with your favorite liquor or lemon juice.
  • Vanilla sugar should not be substituted with vanilla concentrate. You can make your own vanilla sugar by filling a jam jar with icing sugar and 1 vanilla bean split down the center. Leave for a few days to enable the sugar to absorb the vanilla flavor.


Chräbeli (Aniseed cookies): Anise flavored Sugar Cookies

An acquired taste. Either you love them or you hate them. Chräbeli have a strong anise taste.
An acquired taste. Either you love them or you hate them. Chräbeli have a strong anise taste. | Source

Storage:

  • Dough can be stored in the fridge for several days before baking.
  • Dough can be frozen for 4 - 6 weeks prior to baking. Make sure that it's properly defrosted before rolling out.
  • Freshly baked cookies can be frozen in separate containers or plastic bags and stored for 1-2 months. Make sure that you defrost cookies for 30 minutes before serving.
  • Baked cookies should always be stored separately in airtight containers in a cool room. If stored properly they should stay fresh for approx. 3 weeks.


Vanillehörnli (vanilla crescents) are delicate vanilla flavored almond cookies

Make sure that you make enough of these. They usually disappear in no time
Make sure that you make enough of these. They usually disappear in no time | Source

How to roll out the perfect cookie dough

Christmas cookie poll:

Do you bake your own christmas cookies

  • No, I don't care for christmas cookies
  • No, I rather buy them
  • Yes, I bake them but buy the dough already made
  • Yes, I bake my own cookies and I also make my own dough
  • I haven't baked christmas cookies before but now I'm inspired to try it out
See results without voting

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Comments 9 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is baking cookies. Yours look delicious!


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia

Oh my, I think my tradition hs just changed. For over 30 years I have made home-mde candies and filled old tins with them to give a gifts. I throw diets and nutrition aside and make about 10 different candies, everything from mints to chocolate covered cherries, truffles to orange/coconut balls, fudge to rum balls. But...I cannot resist trying your Brunsli and Chrabeli. I love the flavors of anise and clove. Thank you so much for sharing your tradition and...your wonderful recipes. My family will be so happy to have new treats this year. Voted up+++


novascotiamiss profile image

novascotiamiss 4 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada Author

Billy: Glad to hear that there are some souls out there who still enjoy old Christmas traditions and don't just rush out to buy material things that people don't need, for people they don't like. May your home be filled with the sweet smell of cookies and good friends who celebrate the holiday season with you.


novascotiamiss profile image

novascotiamiss 4 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada Author

Linda: Glad to hear that I inspired you. Be aware that both the Brunsli & the Chräbeli are quite hard (especially the Chräbeli). They age better when you leave the lid off the cookie tin which seems to keep them a bit softer. Your home-made candies sound absolutely divine (what about a hub...?). Christmas is the season for sharing and sweet treats are the perfect way to spoil your friends. Regarding diet & nutrition: I've recently seen a T-Shirt at the Salvation Army Shop that read "Christmas calories don't count!". That's my motto as well. Christmas is the season to indulge so that you can come up with some good new years resolution in January... Happy baking!


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

We always make our own cookies not so many now. With kids here there and everywhere not so many at home like there use to be. Enjoyed your hub voted up.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia

Novascotiamiss, thanks for the warning about the hardness. I make Gingersnaps from time to time that seem to be the same way. I'll file your suggestion for a candy hub and see if I can get that done in the next week or so. I appreciate you giving me a good excuse to blow the diet for Christmas. I'll swear to my friends that I bought that t-shirt but sent it to a friend in need. lol


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

Marking this for Christmas cookie making, thanks so much!


Thundermama profile image

Thundermama 3 years ago from Canada

So wonderful. Growing up we had a family friend who made extraordinary Christmas cookies and your hub made me think fondly of that time. Lovely, inspiring hub. Voted up and sharing!


Fiona Jean Mckay profile image

Fiona Jean Mckay 2 years ago from South Africa

These look really awesome - don't think they'd last a month in our house though :)

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