"Wiehnachtsguetzli" – homemade Swiss Christmas Biscuits
Updated: Feb 2, 2022
Christmas is coming! It's not just me that's noticed that Christmas items have already started to appear on TV and crept onto the shelves in shops. It feels like this happens earlier and earlier every year. So with Christmas coming, Swiss families are already thinking of what homemade gifts to make for their family and friends.
Two observations about the Swiss – they are very family-orientated and they love to make homemade gifts. "Wiehnachts Guetzli" or Christmas biscuits are often the perfect gift choice. They satisfy this Swiss sentiment in that they are homemade AND it's an activity you can do together with family. They are just so delicious!
Here in Switzerland, all things “Guetzli” have started to pop up in supermarkets.
Guetzli is the Swiss-German word for biscuits or cookies. The Swiss love to add the diminutive ending -li to words to give them a small or cute feel.
“Guet” in Swiss-German means “good”, so the literal meaning of Guetzli could be translated as “little treats”.
Guetzli can be eaten throughout the year, but in the lead up to Christmas, the Swiss baking thermometer goes through the roof! Baking guetzli is a much loved bonding activity between family and friends of all ages starting as early as mid-October. Many different varieties of Christmas biscuits are baked to enjoy, exchange and give away as sweet Yuletide treats.
My favourites are Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars) but I won’t say no to a Mailänderli (Little Milanese), which happens to be the all-time Swiss favourite or a Brunsli (Chocolate Almond biscuits). You may also find Anis Chräbeli (Aniseed Scratchers), Lebkuchen (Gingerbread) or Kokosmakronen (Coconut Macarons) in the decorative biscuit tins that are a standard in the homes of the Swiss during the festive season.
Some bakers can not imagine any other way but to bake these sweet treats from scratch. Time consuming, yes, but the resulting biscuits are worth the effort.
But in the busy times leading up to Christmas, many Swiss households have “Betty Bossi” to thank, the fictional equivalent of “Betty Crocker”, whose wide variety of ready-made biscuit dough makes it easy to enjoy the biscuit making ritual without the fuss.
As a Christmas treat for you, here is the recipe for Zimtsterne. And why not also share the recipe for Switzerland’s beloved Mailänderli. You will need a baking sheet or two!
Let me know how they turned out by leaving a comment below. Merry Christmas! Or “Schööni Wiehnacht!” as they say here in Bern!
2 egg whites (approx. 70 g)
1 pinch of salt
200 g sugar
350 g ground almonds
1.5 Tbsp cinnamon
0.5Tbsp kirsch (cherry liquor)
70 g icing sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff. Gradually add the sugar as you do this. Fold in the ground almonds, cinnamon and kirsch to make a dough
Sprinkle some sugar evenly on a clean surface. Roll out dough in portions on the sugar to about 1 cm thick, loosen with a spatula
With a star shaped cookie cutter, cut out stars, repeatedly dipping the cookie cutter in the sugar. Place the stars on baking sheets lined with baking paper
Dry at room temperature for about 6 hours or overnight
Preheat oven to 240°C
Bake: 3-5 minutes in the centre of the oven.
Remove and cool on a wire rack
Mix icing sugar and lemon juice to make a thick glaze
Spread glaze thinly on cinnamon stars with a teaspoon and allow to dry
250g butter, softened
1 Tbsp. vanilla sugar
2 egg yolks
1 pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon peel
500 g flour
For the glaze:
2 - 3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon cream
With an electric mixer, cream the butter until fluffy. Gradually add all other ingredients except the flour and mix well. Sift the flour over the mixture and quickly work everything into a smooth dough. Don’t overwork the dough or it will become tough. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for about 60 minutes
Line the baking sheets with baking paper. Preheat oven to 180°C
Take chilled dough and roll out to a thickness of 5 mm. Cut out in shapes of your choice then place evenly on the prepared baking sheets. Don’t overcrowd the sheets
To glaze, whisk the egg yolks and cream and brush the glaze thinly over the biscuits
Bake in the middle of the preheated oven for about 13 minutes. Don’t overbake! They should have a crumbly buttery texture
Remove from the oven and cool
Photo credits 1: istock photos, 2: my personal photo 3: phx photos