I have always yearned to visit Germany in December to experience the famous Christmas markets, having heard so much about them from my dear friend Diane. The Christmas markets start with the beginning of Advent, around the end of November, and generally last till December 21 or 22, which somehow never coincided with my visits. Oh, to walk around and experience the festive atmosphere, buy some local handicraft, eat some bratwurst, drink a hot mug of traditional mulled wine – “Glühwein”!
Diane hails from Heilbronn and has lived there her whole life except for brief episodes when she went to Scotland to study. Which is exactly where I met her 24 years ago – in Edinburgh, when I was studying as well. And since then, we have never looked back, remaining very close and in touch from wherever life took us. Even to Tarrytown, when she visited me some years ago, as you can see in the picture on Broadway.
Christmas or “Weichnachten” as it is called in Germany, has very special significance in German households, with Christmas Eve being the most important evening of all the days. Diane is very nostalgic when she remembers these special evenings at her grandparents’ home, where she helped her grandfather decorate the tree with real candles and sang Christmas carols like ‘Stille Nacht” with her family.
So, since another year has gone by and my wish remains to come true, Diane thoughtfully sent me some pictures of the market, described the traditions and shared her recipe (in the metric system) for cutout cookies, which are very popular in Swabia where Diane comes from.
I tried out these cookies myself – so simple even for a novice baker such as myself – and I must say, they are delicious and impossible to stop eating! They had me dreaming of enjoying a white Christmas with my friend in Germany in 2021!
German “Ausstecherle” – Cut-out Cookies
- 80g butter
- 100g caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 250g flour
- Some lemon zest
- ½ tsp baking powder
- Few drops of vanilla flavoring
- One whisked egg to brush on
- Confectioner’s sugar, sprinkles for decoration
- Beat the butter and caster sugar until fluffy.
- Add the egg, flour, baking powder and lemon zest, and mix to form a dough. Store the dough in cling wrap in the refrigerator overnight.
- Roll out the dough to approximately a 1/4 inch thickness.
- Cut out the cookies with a cookie cutter and place on a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Baste them with whisked egg and decorate.
- Bake them in a preheated oven at 360 degrees for 8-9 mins or until golden brown.
- Cool for a few mins and enjoy!
Renu Rao is a long-time River Towns resident who finds cooking therapeutic for the soul and believes eating right is the pathway to wellness.