Halloween is behind us, which means it is full steam ahead to Christmas! Here in Munich, the world-famous Christmas markets are already starting to be built and the stores are groaning with advent calendars and decorations. All over Germany, cooks are rolling up their sleeves and getting down to the serious business of baking Plätzchen or Christmas cookies. Today, I’m sharing my recipe for the best Spitzbuben, or Linzer Augen cookies.
Are German Christmas Cookies really such a big thing?
Absolutely! German Christmas cookies are a delight and as much a part of the season as Christmas trees and Father Christmas (possibly more so). It is always a treat to receive a tin of lovingly baked cookies at this time of year, and not at all unusual for that tin to contain 20 DIFFERENT types of cookies!
Seriously! I am completely in awe of the amount of care and effort that is taken in baking these beautiful, sometimes intricate cookies. Opening a tin of cookies is like opening up a treasure chest, and everybody has a favourite. I’ve already shared my recipes for two of the most beloved cookies, Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars) and Vanilllekipferl (Vanilla Moons), and today we are adding to those with Spitzbuben (which means Rascals, or naughty boys – cute, huh?)
What are Spitzbuben?
Spitzbuben are a cookie made from two layers of deliciously crumbly, buttery dough filled with redcurrant or raspberry jelly.
Spitzbuben go by various names in different places and have found their way to many countries across the world. In New Zealand, I grew up with a similar cookie, called a Shrewsbury, whereas the British version is called a Jammie Dodger! Even in the Germanic-speaking countries, they have all sorts of regional names: Linzer Augen (Linzer Eyes) are named after the city of Linz in Austria and lend their name to the American Linzer cookies. However you call them, they are delicious!
For the best Spitzbuben, keep the dough cold
When working with short, buttery doughs like this one, it is important to keep the dough as cold as possible,, that way you will get perfect, melt in the mouth results every time. If you’re baking these in the southern hemisphere, I’d suggest dividing the dough into quarters and baking in the coolest part of the day.
Choose a tart or tangy jelly
For the best tasting Spitzbuben it is important to use a jelly that is not too sweet. Traditionally they are filled with bright and beautiful redcurrant jelly (you can try making your own with my recipe here) but raspberry or plum are both delicious too. If I find my jam or jelly is too sweet, I stir a pinch of citric acid into it to give it a little boost.
Well, it’s all go in my kitchen and the Weihnachtsbäckerei is in full steam. Have you started your Christmas baking yet? Let me know in the comments below!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can I make Spitzbuben in advance?
You sure can! All Christmas cookies are made well in advance as there can be a lot of work involved.
How do I store German Christmas cookies?
They are traditionally kept in metal cookie tins, rather than tightly sealed containers. In very humid climates I’d suggest keeping them in the fridge.
Can Spitzbuben be made without eggs?
Yes, replace the egg yolks with a few spoonfuls of milk, just enough to bring the mixture together.
Can Spitzbuben be made without nuts?
Yes, they can. Replace the nuts with 50-75g of plain flour. They’re nicer with nuts though!
Can I freeze Spitzbuben?
Yes! My mother in law freezes her delicious cookies with great success every year. In my household, they all get eaten before they come anywhere near the freezer!
Spitzbuben are a great for holiday baking with kids. Use different coloured jams and jellies to decorate!
for the dough:
- 300g plain flour
- 200g unsalted butter, softened
- 100g powdered / icing sugar
- 100g ground almonds / almond meal
- 2 tsp vanilla sugar
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- pinch of salt
- 2 egg yolks
- powdered sugar / icing sugar for dusting
for the filling:
- 100g redcurrant jelly or raspberry jam
- MAKE THE DOUGH: Measure the flour into the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment fitted. Cut the butter into large chunks and add to the bowl. Run the mixer on low speed until the mixture looks like rough breadcrumbs. Add the powdered sugar, almonds, vanilla sugar, zest, salt and egg to the bowl and mix until completely combined.
- KNEAD THE DOUGH: Using your hands, squeeze the dough together, then turn it out onto the benchtop and knead very briefly, just enough to make a smooth dough. Form into a round, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
- PREPARE: When the dough has rested in the fridge, heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4 and line two baking trays with baking paper or silicone mats.
- ROLL AND CUT: Divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Take the smaller piece and roll it out on a lightly floured surface to approx 5mm thick. Cut out 35-40 rounds, using a smaller cookie cutter or the wide end of a piping tip to cut a hole in the middle of each (see notes). Re-roll leftover dough and repeat until the first half is used. Count how many cookie tops you have cut - you’ll need to cut the same amount again.
- BAKE: Bake the Spitzbuben tops in the middle of the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until just very slightly browning around the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. While the cookie tops are baking, roll and cut the bases. After you have removed the tops from the oven, bake the bases for 12 minutes.
- DECORATE: When the cookies are cool, generously dust the cookie tops with powdered sugar. Stir the jelly or jam in a small bowl until smooth, then put about ½ a teaspoon full on a cookie base. Carefully place one of the cookie tops onto the base and twist gently to seal. Return to the tray and repeat with all remaining cookies.
- ALLOW TO SET: Cover the cookies loosely with a piece of baking paper and allow to set for a few hours or overnight before gently packing into a cookie tin.
PIN ME FOR LATER!
I like to use a special cookie cutter that does double duty and cuts the shape in the middle as well as the outside. If you like, you can simply use two different sizes of cookie-cutter, or use the wide end of a piping tip to cut the holes instead.
It's important to weigh your ingredients when making Christmas cookies for the best result I recommend a small, portable digital scale.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 40 Serving Size: 1 cookie
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 136Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 17mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 1gSugar: 10gProtein: 2g
Nutrition information is calculated automatically and isn’t always accurate.