Traditional Swiss Christmas Cookies

It’s not Christmas without traditions and for me going without the cookies I grew up with is unthinkable. When I first moved to this country, I was suddenly faced with the challenge of making cookies that before I would just be able to buy at the local bakery, cookies I had never made before. yeah, I did not always make everything myself. But I needed them, I mean Christmas was NOT going to come without, so I was going to find a way and I was going to learn how to make them, whipped egg whites and all. Over the years I tried different substitutes for ingredients that are not readily available in the US, and have refined and tweaked the recipes to reproduce the flavors of my home without having to fly back and what not ūüėČ

I grew up in Basel, a city on the Rhine that had extensive trade with spices, sugar and tea long before the rest of secluded Switzerland had ready access to such luxuries, and there is extensive use of (former) exotic spices. A lot of times the recipes also have a couple of tablespoons of local cherry brandy on the ingredient list (which can be left out without altering the result significantly)

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Over the years ground almond meal (aka almond flour) has become more readily available and my cookies turn out much better than when I tried blending the almonds in my food processor. Yeah, not a grinder, should have known, but driven by desperation (I wanted to have Christmas, after all) I sifted through the result and picking out most of the large remaining almond chunks.

Another challenge is the measurements. All my recipes are not only metric, but in grams, kilograms, deciliters and so forth. We measure ingredients by weight not volume, which I still believe gives you more accurate results in most cases, specially if you have to divide or multiply a recipe. But ¬†for convenience in the American kitchen, I have converted all of the ingredients into imperial measurements, cups and so forth. So, worry not, no need to run out and get a food scale (although I do think it’s a good thing to have, just sayin’)

Many of the recipes that I will be sharing here are considerably healthier than your average cookie recipe. What usually happens when I bring them somewhere is this: people marvel at the different looks and how pretty it is, then they try one and are amazed that there is so much  flavor and not just plain sugary sweetness, and then they completely lose it when they learn that many of the cookies they just tried use no butter or oil and the only fat content is  natural oils from the ground almonds, many are gluten and even grain free ( a thing I never realized until this year)

There are four that absolutely HAVE to be on my list for a real Swiss Christmas,

Links will be updated as I update the recipes

Basler Brunsli (our local version of Brownies)

gluten free, grain free and butter free

Mailänderli (delicately scented with lemon, these were always the first ones my Mom would bake each year)

 

 

Zimtst√§rnli (Cinnamon Stars, I think this one has great potential to become a American Favorite, given it’s shape, taste and color, not to mention taste)

gluten free, grain free and butter free

√Ąnisbr√∂tli (Anis breads/cookies )

fat free besides the eggs

 

And of course there are several other that are just as good and I try to make them too, but without those four, I don’t even care if it snows or not!

 

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 Chocolate Balls

Almonds and chocolate, what more could you want?

   Hazelnut Squares

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Spitzbuebe (Sablé like, translates to Rascals, I have heard them called Linzer Cookies in the US)

Orange Hearts

And I could go on and on

What is one thing that is absolutely essential to your holidays?

 

 

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