Last time I was in Germany I made some of my mother’s Christmas cookies that she made, and taught me, all through my childhood. She, in turn, learned most of these recipes from her mother. So when I sat down to try and figure out how to make my world more Christmasy right now (the Christmas markets and Advent hype just wasn’t enough for me…) I thought I’d start baking some cookies.
My grandmother recently moved out of the home she lived in for forty years with my grandfather, and in which they raised my mother and two aunts. During the move, I inherited her hand-written cookbook, a gem of a cookbook if you ask me. It is full of post-war as well as traditional southwestern German recipes, most of which were written in fountain pen so I have to be very careful not to spill anything on this book! It has been well-loved, and some of the recipes have water damage on them and some pages are threatening to detach themselves. However, the recipes in them are still decipherable and so far have turned out beautifully!
I started my cookie baking with one of her cookie recipes that my mother didn’t make when I was a child, at least not that I remember. They are hazelnut macaroons. Of course, my mother and I disagreed whether or not they should be baked on oblaten, which are wafers similar in texture and taste to communion wafers. Much to my mother’s chagrin, I decided not to bake them on oblaten. I can only say I personally haven’t ever had macaroons on wafers before (for example Kosher coconut macaroons). My mother and I will have to ask my grandmother at Christmas to solve our dispute!
Overall this recipe turned into little mounds of pure, moist hazelnut goodness. And the best part about them is that, if you buy already ground hazelnuts, they are incredibly simple to make!
from the cookbook of Gertrud Mayr
4 egg whites
280g (1 1/3 cups) sugar
280g (3 cups) finely ground hazelnuts
Beat egg whites until they make stiff, snowy peaks. Fold in sugar and hazelnuts. Set small teaspoon-sized mounds of batter onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. They shouldn’t be perfectly smooth, as they look more pleasing to have small peaks that will brown nicely in the oven. Bake at 160۫۫ C (325 ۫۫ F) for about twenty minutes, or until golden brown. Keep an eye on them, as once they begin browning they bake very quickly! To make sure they bake through you may want to cover them with tin foil for the first ten or fifteen minutes, then remove the foil to brown.