Zimtsterne aka Cinnamon Stars, are a popular German Christmas cookie. Essentially cooked marzipan with a meringue icing, they are chewy with a cinnamon fragrance that lingers on your palate. This is one of the best traditional 4-ingredient cookie recipes you can find for the holiday season.
Naturally gluten-free, these chewy cookies taste like marzipan marshmallows when they are fresh. Over time they become a bit chewier but no less delicious. This is an excellent cookie to prepare ahead, as they age well. The only downside to this is they are so delicious that in 2021, I personally ate 60% of all Zimtsterne prepared.
This is a very easy recipe, which you could make with simple ingredients that are pantry staples in many kitchens. Most kitchens will have cinnamon in some form.
These may be made with either almond or hazelnut flour. They are never made with “all-purpose flour”.
If you keep a cinnamon sugar mixture for cinnamon toast, this will work as well as plain cinnamon powder. Use a bit more than is called for as the sugar will be about 50% of the volume to make sure you have enough cinnamon flavor in the cookies.
I will confess that one year I could not find the cinnamon, and made them with ginger instead, which was lovely. Naturally, these were ingwersterne (ginger stars). There is nothing wrong with a last-minute substitution if it works.
These are meant to be soft cookies, so they should be kept in an airtight container with parchment paper between the layers to protect the smooth surface.
Meringue and soft peaks
While this is one of my favorite easy cookie recipes, there are some simple things to remember to help make them faster. One of the best tips is to make sure you stop beating the egg whites when they reach the soft peaks stage. Otherwise, it is difficult to ensure the icing is smooth and easy to apply.
Use a large bowl, not a medium bowl, or small bowl to whip your egg whites. As odd as it may sound, you must use a bowl that can hold the air you are whipping into the meringue. If you use an electric mixer, be sure it is set to medium speed. If you use a hand mixer, a steady rhythm that doesn’t move the bowl a lot will give you the best results.
Additionally, the eggs used, the bowl, the beaters (or whip if that is what you are using) should all be at room temperature.
This recipe works best with large eggs. If you are using small eggs, use twice as many. To use up the egg yolks, consider making lemon butter.
Preparing the cookies
Zimtsterne are made from very tender cookie dough, so it is best to use a pair of silpats to roll them out. Otherwise, your rolling pin will likely stick to the dough. When handling the dough, be sure to moisten your hands first with water or the cookie dough balls will stick to the palm of your hand.
Keep a dish of icing sugar at hand so that you can dip the cookie cutters into it between cuts
I have tried baking these at various temperatures and find that the lowest is the best. 250º F (130º C), requires a longer bake time but is well worth it. A cooler oven will help ensure that the frosting doesn’t become golden brown while cooking. These are meant to look like shining stars.
Be sure to cook these in a preheated oven so that every cookie sheet has a consistent result. Give the oven a rest between batches to let it come back to heat. Transfer sheets in and out quickly.
Make sure that each baking tray is fully cooled before putting the next batch of cookie batter onto it. Thick cookies work best with this recipe, so do not roll dough too thin.
Make sure to cover your baking sheet with either a silpat or parchment paper. I find that for these and other meringues, parchment paper is the better choice.
Like all favorite cookies, these are excellent with a glass of milk.
- Egg beater
- Star shaped cookie cutter
- Cookie sheet
- 4 Egg whites Whipped to soft peaks
- 300 gr Icing sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp Cinnamon
- 300 gr Almond or Hazelnut flour
- 1 Tbsp Kirsch or 1/2 Tbsp Lemon juice (I use ice wine)
- Beat egg whites to soft peaks
- Beat in the icing sugar
- Set aside 1/4 of the meringue for icing the cookies before baking
- Blend the cinnamon into the nut flour
- Fold the dry mixture into the meringue
- Blend in the Kirsch or Lemon juice
Forming the cookies
- Roll the dough out and cut into stars (plain stars are easier to release)
- Paint the stars with the reserved meringue
- Preheat the oven to 250º
- Bake the cookies on the bottom rack of the oven for 30 – 35 minutes – resist deciding that they should not be soft. These are best at a chewy texture.
- Use a second cookie sheet on the rack above to help keep the icing from browning