Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars) are classic German Christmas cookies made from ground nuts that are chewy and naturally gluten-free!
These cinnamon-spiced star cookies are a delicious cross between a macaroon and a meringue. With their nutty flavor and their chewy texture, Zimtsterne make a tasty addition to every cookie platter!
The unique thing about these cookies is that the snow-white glaze gets added before baking, not after, and because these cookies get baked (or better dried) at a low temperature, the glaze stays white.
This recipe is a bit labor-intensive but well worth it, and if you follow my tips and tricks, you will master this classic recipe like a German Oma!
What country is cinnamon stars from
Like Marzipan, Linzer Cookies, Lebkuchen, and Pfeffernusse, Cinnamon Stars are a classic Christmas cookie in Germany. But they are also popular in other European countries, especially Austria, Alsace (a region of France), and Switzerland.
What are Zimtsterne
Cinnamon Stars or Zimtsterne are traditional German Christmas cookies made from ground nuts, usually hazelnuts or almonds, that have a meringue glaze on top that hardens during baking.
They’re also known as Erstesternen (first stars) and are eaten by German Jews as part of the first meal after the Yom Kippur fast.
How to make German Zimtsterne cookies
You can find detailed instructions and measurements in the printable recipe card below!
- Preheat oven and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Beat egg whites until stiff, then mix in powdered sugar. Set aside 1/3 cup for the glaze.
- Add vanilla extract, cinnamon, and ground nuts.
- Roll out dough and cut out stars.
- Spread meringue on top of each cookie.
- Bake cookies for about 15 minutes.
Can I use almond flour in this recipe
Almond flour doesn’t work well in this recipe because it is too fine and usually made from blanched almonds. You want these Cinnamon Star cookies to have a coarse texture and darker color, which they get from the skin of the nuts.
I like to use a mixture of ground almonds and ground hazelnuts. You can buy ground almonds or almond meal in the baking aisle of many grocery stores or natural food stores, but you can also make it at home in a mixer or food processor.
What to do if the dough is too sticky
Depending on the size of the eggs and the kind of nuts you use, the dough might very sticky. Freshly ground almonds or hazelnuts are moister than the packaged type, and the humidity in your home is also an influential factor.
The dough should be a bit sticky but workable. Here are a few tips for rolling out Zimtsterne, I’ve learned over the years:
- Adding a few more tablespoons of ground almonds or nuts usually helps to bring the dough together
- Sprinkle work surface and dough with powdered sugar
- Dust rolling pin with powdered sugar
- You can also place the dough between 2 layers of clingfilm and then roll it
- Dip star cookie cutter in powdered sugar
- Use a star cookie cutter that has less pronounced points makes cutting out shapes easier
- Some people also recommend to let the dough rest for 1 hour or more after mixing before rolling it out. This will make the dough less sticky but is not necessary, in my opinion.
When are cinnamon star cookies done
These cookies will not change color while baking. The meringue top should stay snow white, but it will harden during baking, similar to meringue cookies. The cookies should still be soft and look slightly wet on the bottom. It’s important not to overcook them! They will firm up while cooling down and then get chewier after a few days.
How long are Zimtsterne good for
These cookies keep for about 3 weeks, stored in metal tins. They get chewier as time passes and are a perfect Christmas cookie to make ahead!
Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Star Cookies)
- 3 egg whites
- 2 cups powdered sugar, sieved plus more for rolling out
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 cup ground hazelnuts, or almonds or a mix
- Preheat oven to 280 degrees F (140 degrees C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites at high speed until stiff. Add powdered sugar and mix until combined and smooth. Set aside 1/3 cup of the meringue for glazing the cookies.
- Switch to the paddle attachment and add vanilla extract, cinnamon, and 3/4 of the ground nuts. Beat until combined, then add as much of the remaining ground nuts so that the dough hardly sticks anymore.
- Dust work surface generously with powdered sugar and roll out dough to 0.4 inches (1 cm) thickness. Dust top with powdered sugar if needed. Cut out stars, dip the cookie cutter in powdered sugar in between.
- Transfer stars to the baking sheet and spread meringue on top of each cookie. Put a little bit in the middle of each cookie and spread it finely with a small knife or brush.
- Bake cookies in the lower third of the oven for about 15 minutes. The meringue top needs to stay white, and the cookies should still be soft and look slightly wet on the bottom.
- Pull cookie with the parchment paper onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.