Baking Christmas Cookies – Step by Step

26.11.2019ChristinaChristina

Outside the wind whistles and the rain pours, but inside the warm farmhouse kitchen it’s nice and cosy. The scent of freshly baked cookies fills the air and reminds me of my childhood, when we would pinch the odd biscuit straight from the tray as soon as they came out of the oven. With Christmas just around the corner, I am looking forward to making my own cookies once again this year. Farmer and baking expert Karoline Schapfl kindly invited me into her kitchen in Lans to share some of her top tips.

Karoline’s Tips and Tricks

  • Use high-quality ingredients.
  • Wheat flour 480 is good. You can also use special cake-making flour.
  • Use icing sugar instead of semolina sugar. If you have time, sieve the icing sugar before you start.
  • Don’t use eggs for shortcrust pastry.
  • The butter should be soft but not too soft. If you are planning on baking in the morning, take the butter out of the fridge at breakfast. If you forget to do so, you can always grate the butter into the dough instead.
  • Top tip for making dough. Put the flour into a bowl, create a small depression in the top and pour in the sugar and butter. Add grated nuts (depending on the recipe) and knead the mixture until you have a smooth dough. Karoline recommends using an electric mixer. It’s a good way to save time and energy.
  • Never put the dough into the fridge to rest. Just a few minutes at room temperature is enough (butter hardens in the fridge, thus making the dough difficult to use).
  • Place baking paper on the tray.
  • Instructions on temperature and baking time can vary depending on the oven you are using, so don’t always assume they will be correct. It is a good idea to keep an eye on the cookies for a few minutes after you have put them into the oven. You will soon work out if the information given in the recipe is right for your oven.
  • Remove the cookies from the oven when they are golden brown. Karoline likes her cookies dark brown, because that way they are more crunchy, but you can choose for yourself how you like yours. With plenty of hungry people around, cookies of all shapes, sizes and colours will be eaten up quickly enough!
  • Store different cookies in different tins. If you keep them all together in the same tin then they will take on the taste of the other ones. Karoline places her vanilla cookies on top of each other. For all other cookies she layers them using a sheet of baking paper in between.
  • Keep the finished cookies in an unheated room (Karoline recommends eating them up as soon as possible).

Ready, steady, bake!

Today we will be making four different types of cookies. Depending on their size, these recipes make up to 120 cookies each.

1. Vanilla Cookies – A Childhood Classic

Ingredients: 250g wheat flour, 200g butter, 160g crushed almonds, 70g icing sugar
Topping: vanilla and icing sugar mixture; if you don’t want to use vanilla sugar bought from a shop, you can simply store normal sugar with a vanilla pod in it – it tastes exactly the same. Cookie cutters: none.

Here’s how it works!

Knead the dough until smooth, shape it into a ball, then leave to rest at room temperature for a few minutes. Take a piece of the dough and roll it into a long, thin sausage (about 1cm thick). Make sure you use no or little flour on the rolling board and pin. Cut the long sausage into pieces of around 3-4cm in length.

Bend each piece into a U-shape (known in German as a “Kipferl”) and place them onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Bake for 10-15 minutes in the oven at 160°C. Remove from the oven when the cookies are golden brown.

While the cookies are still hot and on the baking tray, sprinkle them through a sieve with the mixture of vanilla sugar and icing sugar. Then leave to cool off.

2. “Spitzbuben” or “Linzer” – An Annual Favourite

Ingredients: 200g butter, 250g wheat flour, 100g crushed almonds, 100g icing sugar, juice of half a lemon
Filling: heat one jar of apricot jam with one tablespoon of rum (30% alcohol) and stir; this makes the jam easy to work with and gives it a shiny appearance; place the mixture into an icing bag or use greaseproof paper to create an improvised funnel. Topping: icing sugar Cookie cutters: 1 x circle, 1 x circle with hole (or use a separate, smaller cutter to make the hole).

Here’s how it works!

Knead the dough and leave to rest for a few minutes at room temperature. Shape the dough into a large ball, spread a little flour onto a board and onto the rolling pin, then cut off a piece of the dough and roll it out to a thickness of around 0.5cm. If the dough sticks to the pin, use a spatula to carefully remove it.

Cut out the bottom half of the cookie using the cookie cutter without a hole in the middle. Then cut out the top half using the cookie cutter with a hole in the middle. Bake these in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 170/175°C (keep an eye on them).

Sprinkle icing sugar over the pieces with a hole in the middle. Leave to cool.

Turn over the pieces without a hole in the middle and add a small dab of the jam-and-rum mixture. Then place one of the pieces with a hole in the middle on top to form a kind of sandwich. If possible, try to ensure the indentations around the edges of the upper piece and the lower piece line up. This will give your cookies that “professional” look.


3. “Seezungen” – A Sweet Advent Treat

Ingredients: 560g butter, 700g wheat flour, 140g crushed nuts, 140g icing sugar
Chocolate cream for the filling:
Mix and heat 1 egg yolk with around 1/8 of a litre of milk + 1 heaped tablespoon of sugar. Once the mixture has boiled, take it off the heat and leave it to cool fully.
Melt ¼ of the butter with 140g of dark cooking chocolate in a saucepan, add the mixture described above (egg yolk, milk, sugar) and mix using a hand mixer.
Chocolate icing:
Mix 60g of melted butter with 200g of melted dark cooking chocolate. Die Schokoglasur sollte nicht heißer werden als 60 Grad und nur kurz gerührt werden, weil sie sonst zu dickflüssig wird.
Topping: colourful or glittering hundreds and thousands (as many or as few as you want)
Cookie cutters: teardrop shape

Here’s how it works!

 

Knead the dough, then leave it to rest for a few minutes at room temperature. Shape it into a ball and sprinkle a little flour onto a board and a rolling pin. Cut off a piece of the dough and roll it out thin (0.5cm) with the rolling pin. If the dough sticks to the rolling pin, remove it carefully with a spatula.

Use the teardrop-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the cookies and then place on a try covered with greaseproof paper and place in the oven at 170/175°C for 10-15 minutes (keep an eye on them). Take them out of the oven and leave to cool.

Squirt a dab of chocolate cream onto each cookie.

Place another cookie on top, forming a sandwich. Then dip the top into the chocolate icing mixture.

Spread as many or as few hundreds and thousands as you want over the top. Leave to dry completely before eating or storing.

4. “Nuss-Zwieback” – Tirolean Version of an Italian Favourite

Ingredients: 3 eggs, 200g icing sugar, 240g wheat flour, 200g raisins, 500g walnuts (whole, not chopped)
Cookie cutters: none

Here’s how it works!

Mix the eggs and sugar into a cream, then fold in the flour. Add the nuts and raisins. Stir it all together and add water as necessary until you can place the mixture into a long sausage-like shape on the baking tray. Put into the oven for around 20 minutes at 180°C.

Leave to cool, the cut into slices around 1cm thick. Done! These Italian-style cookies are a delicious treat whatever time of the year.

 

„Christmas cookies should be eaten as quickly as possible!“

Karoline’s farm is located in Lans, a small village just outside the Innsbruck. She is the representative for female farmers in the region around Innsbruck. Making cookies has always been a passion of hers. Per year she makes around 20-30 different kinds of biscuits and cookies for the whole family. During the run-up to Christmas she makes more then normal, but she and her family are big fans of sweet treats all year round. Instead of hiding her cookies away to keep them for Christmas, she prefers to share them with her friends and family. “Cookies should be eaten as soon as possible,” she smiles. Karoline regularly visits residential homes for elderly citizens to share her love of baking with the residents.

Photos: Charly Schwarz

Christina

With passion for the detail—and with a twinkle in her eye, Christina Schwemberger takes you on a journey to meet amazing people, visit interesting places, and experience all that Tirol has to offer.

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