Making these cookies always makes me feel like it is actually Christmas. At first glance these seem quite fussy and like they take quite a long time to bake, which is entirely true! However, try to take the afternoon off, stop trying to find something that your dad might actually want for Christmas (that isn’t a pair of socks) and wait for the smell of cinnamon and baking almonds to start wafting around your kitchen. Originally these were used as edible Christmas tree decorations but in my house that would inevitably end with a suspiciously barren tree in less than a day.
If you have friends who can’t eat wheat or gluten, these also make a brilliant home-made Christmas present as they don’t use any flour and still taste great. Technically the fact that they also don’t contain butter makes them a lovely healthy Christmas treat (if you ignore the epic amount of sugar). They should easily stay tasty for a week or so, as long as you keep them in an airtight box so that the meringue glaze does not go all soggy and horrid.
4 egg whites
400g icing sugar
450g ground almonds
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cinnamon
(A generous amount of sugar to stop the dough from sticking)
1. In a large bowl beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
2. Pour icing sugar through a sieve into the bowl and mix until egg whites look glossy and smooth. It helps if you do this slowly or in the sink, otherwise you will end up coating everything in icing sugar. Set aside 1 cup of the egg & sugar mix for glazing the cookies. You should have about half of the egg and sugar left in your mixing bowl.
3. Add almonds, lemon juice and cinnamon into the mixing bowl and shape the dough into a rough ball.
4. Pre-heat oven to 120 C (fan assisted 100).
5. Cover a clean kitchen surface with a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar and roll the dough out. It should be about 1 cm (1/3 inch) thin. Keep adding sugar when the dough starts to stick.
6. Cut out shapes and put on a baking tray. Stars are traditional, so that’s what I go for but really you can use any shape. If your cookie cutter gets too sticky rinse it off a few times in cold water.
7. Spread glaze on the cookies. The glaze shouldn’t be dripping down the sides, but it should be a generous amount. I find the easiest way to do this is to put a dollop of glaze into the centre of your star and then use a knife to spread it out onto the arms.
8. Bake for 20-25 mins. You don’t want the glaze to colour so watch the oven carefully towards the end of the baking time. You should end up with 55-60 cookies. If you keep them in an airtight container they will definitely be good for a week or so.
9. Merry Christmas!