Today, the "Gutsle" from south Germany have conquered the world. Russians relish them as "roshdestvenskye svesti", in America they go under the alias of "cinnamon stars", and even Italians can be found enjoying the odd "stelle alla canella".
- 375g ground almonds
- 250g icing sugar
- 3 medium eggs
- 1 vanilla pod
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 pinch of ground coffee
Sieve the icing sugar. Separate the eggs and beat the whites until they form stiff peaks. Gradually fold in the icing sugar. Set aside three dessert spoons of the egg white mixture to use as a topping.
Tipp: Mix the egg whites gently, or your stars will not shine afterwards!
Scrape the seeds loose from the vanilla pod. Mix them with the cinnamon and coffee and fold into the egg whites. Gradually fold in the ground almonds. The dough should not be sticky. Add more ground almonds if necessary.
Roll out the dough until it is as thick as your finger. If the dough sticks to the rolling pin, place a sheet of baking parchment on top of the dough.
Cover and refrigerate for two hours.
Preheat the oven to 130°C. Use a star-shaped cookie cutter to cut out your stars. Place a sheet of baking parchment on the oven tray and place your stars on it. Carefully top them with the rest of the egg white mixture you put aside.
Bake in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 100°C and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the stars. The topping should not be allowed to brown! Remove the stars from the oven, place on a cooling tray and leave to cool.
Did you know that people baked the biscuits that are today synonymous with Christmas before Christmas even existed? At the winter solstice the Celts baked ritual biscuits with honey. The first biscuits as we know them today were originally baked in mediaeval monasteries. Baked goods with sumptuous spices were given to the sick to help make them better – they were the predecessor of the Lebkuchen we know today.
Germany – a thumbnail sketch
Population: 83 million
EU member since: 1958
Famous German Europeans: composer Ludwig van Beethoven – his Symphony No. 9 became the European anthem; naturalist and illustrator Maria Sibylla Merian – she was a true European and an independent globe-trotter well ahead of her time.
Interesting facts: Germany produces more science graduates that anybody else. According to an OECD study, 35 per cent of German graduates hold degrees in subjects like maths, IT, sciences and technology – that is the highest percentage in the world.