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.
Mailänderli (Milano Cookies) are butter cookies similar to shortbread cookies
Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars) are sugar glazed almond cookies with a hint of cinnamon
Spitzbuben (Cheeky Boys): Jam filled Butter Cookies that will melt in your mouth
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.
The ultimate recipe book for Swiss cookies
Brunsli are chocolate almond cookies with a hint of cinnamon & clove
- 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
- 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
Mailänderli (Milano Cookies) recipe link
Spitzbuben (Jam filled Butter Cookies) recipe link
- Spitzbuben Recipe - Allrecipes.com
This is a typical Swiss recipe. You can buy the spitzbuben in any bakery here in Switzerland.
Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars), Brunsli (Chocolate Cookies), Chräbeli (Anise Cookies) recipe link
- 3 Swiss Christmas Cookie Recipes with Airtime | Newly Swissed - Switzerland Expat Design Lifestyle
So we’re in the third week of Advent and many must have already set up their Christmas trees! And if all goes well, a great many of you will hit the kitchen this weekend to bake your favourite Christmas cookies. Here is a selection of Swiss cookies w
Vanillehörnchen (Vanilla Crescents) recipe link
- Vanillekipferl » delicious:days
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How to roll out the perfect cookie dough
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