The holiday season – Thanksgiving and Christmas in North America, Advent and Christmas in Germany – is peak season for home bakers to practice their skills. Christmas cookies are a fun way to get started, even for people with no baking experience. The recipes are usually fairly simple and straightforward, requiring only pantry staples and a few special seasonal ingredients. But we’ve also included a few recipes that are definitely for the experienced baker! While it might well be a rewarding experience to bake homemade Stollen or Lebkuchen, or make a gingerbread house from scratch, lowering one’s expectations towards the final product is advisable. In the case of Stollen and Lebkuchen it has taken German bakers centuries to refine their recipes and methods of preparation. Considering that long strive for perfection, buying the finished product imported from Germany and savoring the refinement is becoming easier as more and more specialty foods retailer and well-stocked grocery stores carry these products.
Lightly sweet and absolutely scrumptious, this wonderful yeast bread is perfect for a holiday breakfast or brunch.
A very special Christmas treat. Stollen is a rich, sweet cake filled with fruits and nuts. Stollen from Dresden are particularly well-known. A masterpiece of baking, treasured around the world. The product’s long shelf life also makes it a perfect gift for any food lover.
German dark chocolate gingerbread cake full of deep, rich flavors looks great baked in a Bundt pan and dusted with confectioners’ sugar.
Honey-sweet, richly spiced ginger Lebkuchen come in three basic varieties – plain, chocolate covered or sugar glazed. While they are available in different shapes like hearts, the classic Lebkuchen is round.
Gingerbread houses are often old-fashioned looking, but they don’t have to be. Let this recipe for a townhouse with a garage and a skylight be your guide to all kinds of modern, whimsical possibilities. Use German cookies and candies to make it authentic, as gingerbread houses were first made as a Christmas tradition in Germany.
Special Seasonal Ingredients
The following ingredients may not be a staple in everyone’s pantry. Most of the ingredients are available at well-stocked specialty food stores near you or even in the international aisle of your local grocery store. Placing an order online with online retailers who carry German products is another convenient option.
While in North America the use of wafers is usually limited to communion in church services, in Germany they have long been used as a baking ingredient, primarily for Christmas cookies.
Candied citrus peel
The two most renowned German Christmas treats, Lebkuchen (ginger bread) and Stollen (sweet bread), require candied citrus peel as a basic ingredient. In Germany two basic varieties are sold – Zitronat, which is candied lemon or lime peel and Orangeat, which is candied orange peel. These ingredients are sold in diced form in small containers.
Gingerbread spice is a wonderfully fragrant mixture of ground spices containing a combination of the following spices – cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, mace, ginger, allspice, coriander, cardamom.
While hazelnuts are available in most well-stocked specialty food and grocery stores, the ground version is still fairly hard to find. These nuts are not as easily peeled as almonds. If a recipe requires ground hazelnuts, it might be worth the effort of trying to find a store which carries German baking ingredients or buying them online.
Marzipan is a confection consisting primarily of sugar and ground almonds. It derives its characteristic flavor from bitter almonds, which constitute 4% to 6% of the total almond content by weight. Some marzipan is also flavored with rosewater. Persipan is a similar product, in which the almonds are replaced by apricot or peach kernels.
Marzipan is available as a baking ingredient as a paste or in bars. Consumer-ready marzipan products include chocolate covered marzipan bars or marzipan-filled chocolate as well as small marzipan imitations of animals, fruits and vegetables. It is also used to decorate cakes. During Advent and Christmas season, marzipan is an indispensable ingredient in Stollen, cakes and Christmas cookies.
Looking for Christmas cookies?
Our collection of recipes for German Christmas cookies was so long it needed it’s own page! See recipes for all the classics from Aachener Printen to Butterkekse to Lebkuchen, Marzipan, Spekulatius, and Zimtsterne.