Germany is huge on Christmas cookies - they are called Gutzle where I am from (which could be translated with “little good thing”). My aunt Margarete bakes something like 4,000 Gutzle each year! Which sounds about right because we eat hundreds of Gutzle throughout the Advent season and I have to almost guard mine to make sure we have enough to last until the 4th of Advent. I do not bake 4,000 cookies and I do have a rule: “if you don’t help you don’t eat”. Gutzle are often hand formed, small and time consuming to make. I love baking but I also love help.
Growing up, my sister and I would spend days in the kitchen, baking at least 10 varieties and several batches of our favorite ones. The goal is to be done with baking by the first of Advent which is celebrated on the 4th Sunday before Christmas by lighting the first candle on the Advent wreath, singing Christmas carols and, well, eating cookies. And eating more cookies on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of Advent and also eating many cookies in between and finally a couple of leftover cookies on Christmas eve and Christmas day and hopefully you didn’t have to start baking all over again...
Spitzbuben are one of my absolute favorite Christmas cookies and they are always one of the first ones I make. A “Spitzbub” is kind of a prankster. A bad boy. Don’t ask, I have no idea why these sweet and harmless cookies have such an unfitting name. Maybe because they disappear so quickly? Or, as my mom was told when she was young, because they hide the jam.
YIELDS ABOUT 80
- 2 sticks and 2 tablespoons of soft butter (250)
- 3 cups of flour (350g)
- 3/4 cups of sugar (150g)
- 1 1/4 cups of blanched, ground almonds (125g)
- a pinch of salt
- one jar of Hiffenmark (rosehip jam)
Tip: I always blanch and grind my almonds myself for these cookies. The almonds are moist and not as finely ground that way and I think this is what makes these cookies so good.
Combine the flour, sugar, ground almonds, butter and salt and knead into a dough. It will be kind of crumbly but moist enough to hold together. Cover the dough in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Work in batches, on a lightly flowered surface, roll the dough to about 1/8" thick. Use a round cookie cutter to cut out the cookies, it can be fluited or smooth. The cookie cutter I use for this cookie is a little over 1" in diameter. You could also use a larger round cookie cutter and cut a little heart or star into the center of each top to let the jelly show through. I do not cut a shape into the top of these cookies because I am making a double or even triple batch of these and then I store them in metal tins for up to 4 weeks. They keep very nicely but if you cut a hole into the top there might be crumbs messing up the jelly center in the end.
Tip: I always pick up my cut out cookie with the cookie cutter. A little twist will make the cookie stick into the cookie cutter to transport it to the baking sheet without a spatula.
You can set the cookies close together on the baking sheet, they will not expand. Bake for 10-13 minutes until very pale brown.
Let cool completely before filling each with a dollop of jam.
Tip: I really think that the Hiffenmark or rosehip jam is best. It’s not the easiest to find however. (I am going to make this myself one of these days - but first I have to find a suitable rose bush!) If you absolutely cannot find rosehip jam you can substitute with seedless raspberry jam, current jam or apricot. Hiffenmark is a common product in Germany but I remember once, years ago, there was no rosehip jam available anywhere. We substituted with raspberry jam but that was a sad year.
Dust with powdered sugar to finish.
Store in a tin container lined with parchment paper. I place a sheet of parchment in between each layer of cookies and I only dust the top layer of cookies with powdered sugar (I’m kind of crazy for that freshly dusted instead of smashed look!) I dust the rest right before serving. Store in a cool room if possible.
These cookies are meant to be stored for up to 4 weeks (they won’t taste stale) but mine never last that long. Too many hungry, cookie loving kids (and husband).
SOURCE: ADAPTED FROM A FAMILY RECIPE
PUBLISHED ON DECEMBER 2nd, 2014