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  Recipes From a German Grandma


German Christmas Baking

In the Black Forest of Germany, as in a lot of the old world, friends and relatives around Christmas would bring baskets of baked goodies covered with a nice piece of linen to the door when visiting. I thought maybe you'd like to do it this year with your friends and relatives, especially if you have some German or Old World heritage.

I have German Background and although I don't consider myself an expert on German baking, I have been carrying on this tradition of giving the German cookies and Stollen at Christmas time. I have learned a few things that might be helpful to pass onto others.

I will present a series of recipes with full instructions, on:

Stollen- A braided rich white egg bread, similar to a Challah.

Pfeffernusse- Spicy and round little bite sized cookies rolled in powdered sugar.

Mandelschnitten-Almond cookies that are a favorite everywhere.

Lebkuchen-Similar to a gingerbread style, a chewy crispy one and a soft cookie bar type with lemon icing.

Springerle-Little square anise cookies with an imprint.

Berliner Pretzels- Little shortbread cookies with in the shape of a pretzel.

German Esses-A lemony cookie, like a shortbread shaped in an S.

Hazelnut cookies-Hazelnuts and almonds grew well in Germany, and it is such a flavorful nut. The Germans use a lot of ground nuts in their cookies and this one is simple and beautiful looking. It also uses up the egg whites that are left when doing the German Esses.


This tradition is very popular in Dresden, Germany and many recipes for it are called Dresdner Stollen. The tradition started back in the Middle Ages when German bakers were required by the bishop to bring to long loaves of Stollen to celebrate Christmas. It is braided with 3 rolls of dough. Those 3 rolls represent the trinity. People from all parts of Germany give it as a Christmas gift but our family makes it year around without the candied fruit because it is so delicious, tender and lemony, especially as toast.

This recipe here makes 4 or 6 Stollens. And is the perfect amount if you are doing it in a kitchen aid mixer.


7 C flour
1 C sugar
1/2 lb. butter softened
2 pkg. dry yeast (or 2 T)
6 eggs (1/3 cup)
1/2 tsp. mace, or allspice works well
2 tsp. salt
Grated rind of one lemon
1 1/2 C milk (lukewarm)
Candied Fruit and raisins. (From 3/4 to 1 1/2 C)
1 beaten egg for glaze.
1 cup blanched almonds to decorate the outside.


1. Heat the milk to a lukewarm, 100°F, and stir in the yeast.

2. In your bowl pour in the milk mixture, 2 C flour and 1/4 C sugar, blend together. This is called a sponge, and let it sit so the yeast activates. (15 min.)

3. While the sponge is working, assemble the other ingredients.

4. Add the eggs, butter, mace, salt, lemon peel, and the fruit and raisins.

5. Add the flour and mix in one cup at a time. Knead until the dough is smooth and shinny. A little bit more flour is necessary if the dough is too sticky, but don't add too much, that will make it heavy!

6. Place in a greased bowl, or right on your cutting board if you like, and let it rise for 2 hours or until doubled.

7. Punch the dough down and divide into 4 or 6 pieces.

8. Now take a piece and divide it into 3 pieces. Roll each one into a snake about 1 and ½ inch in diameter and about 6 to 9 inches long.

9. Braid the snakes loosely just a few times and tuck in the end pieces.

10. Place on a greased baking sheet and repeat with the remaining pieces.

11. Allow to rise nearly double. Brush with a beaten egg and top with blanched almonds.

Our family painstakingly skins and splits the almonds in halves. Bake at 335 to 350 degrees for 25 to 30 min. till golden brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

When cooled I double wrap the stollen in plastic wrap, and then foil. I keep them in the freezer and let them cure till the holidays. They are good right out of the oven as well.

Blanching almonds.

Put 1 C of shelled almonds in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and allow to stand for 5-min. drain off hot water and cover with cold water and let it stand for a few minutes. Drain and place on a towel. The skins will slip off easily. Split in half starting at the narrow end. The halves stick well to the dough, whereas if you use the whole almonds, they are bulky and fall off when you slice the Stollen.

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This is a softer recipe than the old world version, which there are many recipes for. The pepper is very subtle but wonderful.The cookies mellow with age.


Oven: 300°
½ lb. butter
1 C. sugar
2 ¾ C. flour
1 C. walnuts or almonds (ground in nut grinder or food processor)
½ C. candied orange peel or mixed candied fruit
1 lemon rind, grated, plus the juice
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. cloves
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper (optional)
1 tsp. Cardamom


Mix all ingredients together. Either roll into 3/4-inch balls or drop by scant teaspoon onto a cookie sheet. Bake in 300° oven for about 15 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar while there warm. Store in tight covered cookie tins, or in a tight covered container in the Freezer.

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This is a wonderfully simple and delicately flavored cookie that will please almost anyone.


Preheat oven to 350F (180C)

1 lb. (450 g) ground almonds
1 cup (250 ml) sugar
1 cup (250 ml) Butter (2 sticks, 225 g)
3 eggs (separate 1 egg white and keep for later use.
1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt
2+1/2 to 3 cups (625 to 750 ml) flour


Beat butter until soft, add sugar gradually. Blend until very light and creamy.

Beat in, one at a time, 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk.

Add salt and 1/2 to 3/4 lb. (125 to 350 g) ground almonds. (Reserve surplus for coating tops.)

Add enough flour to make dough the right consistency to roll. (May chill till ready to roll.)

Roll out 1/8 inch (5 mm) thick; cut into 1" x 2" (2.5 x 5 cm) rectangles.

Brush with slightly beaten egg-white and invert each cookie into a pie-plate with ground almonds, to coat top of each cookie. Place on cookie sheet; bake at 350F (180C) for about 12 to 13 minutes, or until brown around edges.

Makes 7 dozen.

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These have molasses in them instead of honey , and were truly baked in the old-fashioned German way. The dough, which had to sit for 3 weeks in a cool basement, was made early in December so the cookies would be ready by the Christmas holidays. They are still great if you don't have the full 3 weeks. But the flavors really have time to marry this way and they have such a wonderful flavor. Ingredients

3 lbs (1350 g) Flour (about 6 cups, 1.5 L)
1 1b.(675 g) molasses (about 3 cups, 750 ml)
1 cup (250 ml ) brown sugar
5 oz (140 g) Lard or shortening
2 oz (60 g) candied orange peel
1 cup (250 ml) rose water (or 1 cup water)
1/2 oz (15 g) Cloves
1/2 oz (15 g) Cinnamon
1 grated lemon rind
1 cup (250 ml) almonds, blanched and split in halves
Candied Fruit and raisins. (From 3/4 to 1 1/2 C)


Bring molasses and sugar to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes. (to disolve sugar)

Let cool then stir in everything else, with the flour being last.

Let the dough stand covered, at room temperature for 3 weeks.If you don't have that much time its okay.

Roll out fairly thin, cut into rectangles 1and a half inches by 3 inches (4 x 8 cm) with a fluted cutting wheel, or just a knife.

Roll out fairly thin, cut into rectangles 1and a half inches by 3 inches (4 x 8 cm) with a fluted cutting wheel, or just a knife.

Try a few cookies and bake in a 325 degree oven for 10 minutes, and let cool.Check the texture. If you desire a crispier texture, bake an additional 5 min.

This recipe makes lots of cookies, but they keep well if kept in a tightly covered tin or in the Freezer.

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You will need a springerle mold or rolling pin for these cookies. You can pick one up from most kitchen specialty shops. Springerle are great when dunked in coffee. This recipe make about 24 cookies. Ingredients

4 cups flour
3 cups white sugar
5 eggs
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. Anise seed


Whip the eggs until they are light and fluffy, either with an electric mixer or by hand, in a large mixing bowl. Use your favorite mixing bowl, one that's large enough to really mix ingredients in, so you can "get into it" without feeling that food will fly out the sides.

Mix in all the dry ingredients, (except the Anise seed) one cup at a time, until the dough is sticky and shiny-looking. The dough looks very pretty, almost like wood that has been well sanded and varnished.

Put the dough, still in the mixing bowl, in the refrigerator and chill thoroughly for at least 2 hours.

Sprinkle a little flour on the bread-board, take a piece of dough about the size of a tennis ball, and shape it into a rectangle about 2" by 3" and 1" thick.

Either roll out with a design-carved Springerle rolling pin, or press into shape with a similarly carved wooden mold. Spray the rolling pin or mold with a non-stick spray. (I prefer the mold. My grandma preferred the rolling pin.)

Rolling or pressing the dough, squash it down to about ½ inch thick. When you lift up the mold or rolling pin, the dough will have nice-looking imprints.

Cut the cookies apart and place them on a cookie sheet that has been buttered or sprayed with non-stick spray and sprinkled with some Anise seeds. Set the cookies an inch apart.

The leftover scraps of dough can be reworked nicely a couple of times, as long as you don't get too much flour in the dough.

Now find a cool place to let the cookies sit and dry. Cover them with a dish towel, and let them sit for 24 hours but not too much longer. What you are aiming for is to dry them enough to keep the imprint distinct, but not so dry that the surface cracks. The towel helps to keep this from happening.

Pre-heat the oven to 300 and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the surface of the cookie shows just a hint of brown.

Cool, and store in an airtight container.

*Suggestion: Before baking the entire batch, try baking one cookie just to see whether the imprint stays visible after baking. If not, let the unbaked Springerle dry a little longer before baking.

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Berliner Pretzels

The name "Pretzel" came from an imagined shape of a little girl's arms crossed over her heart while praying. These cookies are very mild in flavor, and are great with coffee. Ingredients

1 C. butter
½ C. sugar
2 C. flour
2 beaten eggs
2 yolks of hard-boiled eggs


Cream butter and Sugar together.

Add eggs, flour and riced egg yolks.

Roll into small snakes 5 inches long and bend into a pretzel shape.

Lay on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 15 min. They do not brown just get a little pale.

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German Esses

These cookies were part of Grandma Block's Christmas repertoire. They were a good way to use up the yolks after baking something requiring a lot of egg-whites, such as the Hazelnut cookies Ingredients

Oven: 350°

¾ lb. butter
¾ lb. sugar
1¼ lb. flour
9 yolks of eggs, beaten
Grated rind of 1 lemon


1. Cream the butter and sugar together well.

2. Add beaten eggs and lemon rind, mix well together.

3. Add flour and mix till smooth.

4. Chill the dough for one hour.

5. Roll it out on a lightly floured bread board and make into "S" shapes by pinching off a piece of dough, rolling it quickly between your hands, and shaping it on a cookie sheet; continue till all dough is made up.

6. These are best when put in a cool place overnight and baked the next day, but chilling them in the freezer for a while should work.

Bake in moderate oven for just a few minutes, until they are baked but not browned.

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Hazelnut Cookies


1 ¼ lbs. of hazelnut meats
1 C. egg whites (about 10 eggs)
1 tsp. Cream of Tartar
2 tsp. Vanilla
2 C. powdered sugar


1. Prepare meringue by whipping the egg whites in a large 3 qt. Stainless steel mixing bowl. (Be sure it is very clean and cool.) Add the egg whites, Cream of Tartar, Vanilla, and powdered sugar. Whip until the meringue peaks.

2. Set aside 48 nuts for garnish.

3. Grind the remainder of the nuts in a hand-cranked grinder (one that is made for nuts). Otherwise use a food processor. Add only a small amount of nuts at a time, so the grinds are consistent. They should be a little larger than the size of grated Parmesan.

4. In another mixing bowl, fold 4-5 cups of the meringue into the grated nuts. The consistency should be similar to a play-dough. It holds together very nicely, and is pliable.

5. Make into 1½-inch balls, and place 1 inch apart on a greased cookie sheet. Place remaining meringue in a pastry bag or a 1-qt. Zip-lock bag with one of the corners snipped off.

6. Dip your finger in water and make a dimple in each cookie. Top each with a dab of meringue squeezed through the corner hole in the Zip-lock bag, and place a hazelnut on top.

7. Bake in a 325° oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the meringue just starts to brown slightly. You should get from 20 to 25 cookies

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