Christmas is approaching fast which for me means only one thing – even more baking. With baking comes the smell of orange zest, honey, cardamom and cloves. Every time I am anywhere near these ingredients, even if it’s in the middle of summer I’m immediately transported back to my childhood. I spent hours helping my mum make Polish Christmas cakes and absolutely loved being allowed to whip egg whites, sift flour, knead dough etc. from a very early age. In our house we were huge on cakes to the point that we would actually choose not to bother with a few traditional savoury dishes in favour of more type of dessert. For my brother and me to hear our mum say “Who wants to lick the bowl?” when the heavenly batter had just been poured into the baking tin was music to our ears. Do you think we ever answered “not me”?
For years now I’ve been making various types of biscuits and give them to friends and family just before Christmas. One of everyone’s favourite are cinnamon stars hence my choice for this post. Surprisingly they’re butter free and flour is used only for dusting so perfect for those slightly more health conscious. Think of almond macaroons but made much quicker and with far less fuss.
The reason this recipe makes 60, not the usual 25 – 30 biscuits is simple – when it comes to food, Christmas should be all about sharing. Watch out for the little ones though, the meringue – like icing disappears in seconds! Unlike most of my recipes, for this one you will need an electric mixer. At Sunshine we always grease the baking tray with butter but these biscuits like sticking to it so prevent it happening use a sheet of baking paper instead. And now aprons on!
CHRISTMAS CINNAMON STARS
Makes 60 medium size biscuits
- 375g icing sugar
- 250g ground almonds plus a few tablespoons extra
- 3 egg whites
- 60g mixed peel
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon + extra for sprinkling
- Grated zest of one lemon
- A couple of tablespoons of plain flour or gluten-free flour for dusting
- Baking paper
Line the baking tray with the baking paper. Put the icing sugar into a bowl. In another bowl separate the egg whites from the yolks. With a spoon fold the egg whites into the icing sugar. This will prevent the sugar from lifting up and going everywhere when you start mixing with an electric mixer.
Whisk on medium speed for about 3 – 4 minutes or until the mixture is thick and glossy. It’s ready when you turn the bowl upside down and it sticks to the bottom instead of falling out. For children this is true magic. Take one third out and put aside.
In another bowl mix the almonds and cinnamon together. Add the lemon zest, almonds with cinnamon and mixed peel to the remaining meringue and mix gently with a spoon. Once all the ingredients are combined, using your hands shape the dough into a ball. If it seems far too sticky, don’t panic – add the reserved almonds one tablespoon at a time while kneading the dough gently for just about a minute. Don’t be tempted to do it for longer for it may turn sticky and too delicate to roll again .
Dust the surface and the rolling pin with the flour and roll the dough out to a thickness of a one pound coin. Stamp out star shapes with a medium biscuit cutter. By medium I mean about 5 cm in diameter. Transfer them onto the greased baking sheets.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C /gas mark 4. Now, let’s decorate! In my experience, the easiest way of spreading this particular icing on the biscuits is doing it with your fingers. Take about half a teaspoon of the reserved meringue and spread it on each biscuit. Good luck stopping the children from licking their fingers! Sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon.
Put in the oven for 10 – 12 minutes until the underneath turns golden brown and the meringue icing sets. Cool down on the baking sheets and eat, eat, eat, pack in cute boxes and share, share, share! Merry Christmas.