Rapadura, Spice, and Everything Nice!
The striking dense and chewy, crisp-around-the-edges texture of these delicious cookies has made them a favorite at our house around Christmastime. Zimtsterne, which means “cinnamon stars,” are traditionally made with ground almonds and sweet spices, but without wheat, so they’re naturally gluten-free. Make your own powdered sugar without fillers like cornstarch or wheat, and they’ll be grain free too.
In this version, I sweetened them with rapadura, but feel free to substitute coconut sugar or any granulated sweetener instead.
I’ve found that, depending on the size of the egg whites, I sometimes need to add a little more almond flour to make the dough the right consistency for rolling. Be sure to have some extra on hand to mix in if you need it.
Zimtsterne also make a great old-fashioned Christmas tree decoration. Just poke a hole in one of the points of each star before baking them. Then when they’re cool, string a ribbon through the hole and hang the cookies from the branches of your Christmas tree.
Zimtsterne Recipe (Almond Spice Cookies)
For this recipe you will need: Parchment paper or a Silpat are helpful for rolling and baking, Rolling pin
- 4-1/2 cups almond meal/flour or home-ground whole almonds, or more if needed (buy whole almonds in bulk here)
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder plus more for rolling
- 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 egg whites (I used "large" eggs.)
- 1 cup rapadura, coconut sugar, or alternate granulated sweeter (buy rapadura in bulk here)
- powdered sugar for dusting on top (Here's how to make it from unrefined sweeteners like coconut sugar and sucanat )
- If you'll be grinding the almonds yourself, place 1 cup almonds at a time in a VitaMix or food processor and whiz until finely ground (about 10 seconds in the VitaMix). Be sure to STOP before they become almond butter! Repeat until you have 4 1/2 cups of ground almonds. Here's what mine looked like; pretty coarse, and the cookies still turned out great.
In a medium sized bowl, combine all ingredients except the egg whites and rapadura. Whisk together, until it is a uniform sandy mixture. If you're using almond flour instead of ground almonds, reserve 1/2 cup of your flour.
- Set that aside, and separate your egg whites from the yolks, if you haven't already done so. Place the whites in a large bowl, and beat them with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. That means the egg whites turn frothy, and when a spoon is dipped into it and drawn out, the egg forms a peak and then falls back over. Add the rapadura or sweetener of your choice tablespoon by tablespoon, beating it in each time. It will make a lovely thick mixture and give the cookies a mild molasses taste.
- Fold the almond mixture into the egg-white mixture until the two are combined. Let it sit for fifteen minutes to absorb some of the moisture.
Once the fifteen minutes are up, your dough should be soft; able to be rolled out without sticking hopelessly to the rolling pin. If you're using almond flour and you reserved 1/2 cup, slowly add in your remaining almond flour until the dough becomes pliable without being overly sticky. You may not need the fill 1/2 cup, so just add what's needed.
- If you're using ground almonds and you find it's too sticky, add in a little more, say, a quarter cup or so, to make it more workable.
- Go ahead and preheat the oven to 325 F. Now it's time to roll out the dough.
- I found it helpful to place a piece of parchment paper or a Silpat on the counter top where I rolled it out so the cookies wouldn't stick. And I sprinkled a little arrowroot powder underneath the dough and a little more on top. This worked beautifully!
- Roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out the star shapes and gently transfer each cookie to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Put the cookies in the oven for 12 - 14 minutes, until they get lightly golden underneath. You want to watch them carefully here and make sure that they don't over bake so they stay tender and chewy. It's okay if they seem fragile when they come out; they'll firm up as they cool, but still be beautifully soft.
- While they're still piping hot, sift a little powdered sugar over the top of each cookie.
Let the cookies rest for a few minutes on the pan, and then carefully transfer them to a cooling rack until they are ready to eat. But knowing the smell wafting through your house as they've been baking, that might not be very long.
And that's it for the cookies! As a final note, though, we had company the day I made these. I offered one to our guest, and as she was leaving several hours later, she turned around and said to me, "Those cookies rock." And yes, ladies and gents. That is a direct quote. I hope you love them as much as we did! Enjoy!
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