The church biscuit: 75. Zimsterne (Cinnamon stars)



Almost all my favourite Christmas biscuits are of Germanic or Italian origin. 2 years ago I made lots of  Gingerbread, Kipferl and Lebkuchen while last year it was amaretti. This year I’ve made plenty of amaretti but I also discovered a simple and delicious recipe for cinnamon stars. The recipe is by Edd Kimber and is to be found on the BBC Good Food website.

2 large egg white

1 tsp lemon juice, plus zest 1 lemon

200g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

250g ground almond

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

Heat oven to 150°C/130°C for  fan oven/ Gas Mark 2.

Line a couple of largish baking trays with baking parchment.

With an electric mixer whisk egg whites until foamy. Add the lemon juice and whisk again until soft peak stage.

Gradually sift in the icing sugar and carry on whisking until the mixture stiffens. Set aside about a quarter of the mixture for the meringue topping. To the rest add the almonds, cinnamon, ginger, lemon zest and mix until a stiff, slightly sticky dough results.

Zimsterne on an Anthropologie  tea towel

Zimsterne on an Anthropologie tea towel

Gather the dough together and place on a piece of  baking parchment which has been lightly dusted with icing sugar. Sparingly dust the top of the dough and place a second sheet of baking parchment over the top. Roll out the  dough to a thickness of about 0.5 cm. Peel off the top sheet of parchment and with a little bowl of icing sugar standing by in which to keep dipping your cutter cut out the biscuits. They won’t spread much at all so they can be 1-2 cm apart and you will get quite a lot on a tray. (As usual, I made them quite small – c. 2.5 cm across). Place on prepared tray. Cover the top of the biscuit  with the meringue mixture set aside earlier (you may need to loosen this with a few drops of water but I didn’t). Put in oven for about 10 minutes (12-15 if you have used a 5cm cutter). The meringue should be set but not brown. Allow to cool fully before putting in an airtight container where they could in theory be  kept for up to 2 weeks.


Zimsterne carol services are over (about 90 people at each of the villa

Both North Stoke and Ipsden had their carol services on Sunday late afternoon/evening and both saw turnouts of about 90 people (one village has a population of about 220; the other is just over 300).  Mulled wine and Christmas delicacies follow the services and goodness was there plenty. So lavish was mulled wine production at Ipsden that not only was there enough for those in the church but a full flask came home with us too.  The rest of the evening was consequently very relaxing and we all slept extremely well – but previously …

I had just begun reading the first lesson at Ipsden, when the smallest member of the family achieved a noisy breakout from his pew, did a rather fine dummy run past me at the lectern (rendering me helpless with ill suppressed giggles and the beginnings of tears), raided the crib of a goat and two sheep and made his getaway back the way he had come. I think I may have amended Genesis to the tune of noting that it wasn’t only the voice of God that could be heard in the garden and for a moment I did wonder whether I would be able to continue in anything other than a strangled half laugh/half cry of a voice. The parents, after a valiant attempt of containment decided perhaps the walk home was in order – the next target would have definitely been the vicar whose appearance in a dress has proved to be so exciting that the small person feels he has to keep tugging at it while lovingly looking up and interrogatively repeating, “gumpa?”. People were very charitable about him and several came up to afterwards saying he should have stayed and children should be welcome in church and in principle I agree … in practice … well, lets just say he will be 2 on 29 December…

Zimsterne and Anthropologie tea towel

Zimsterne and Anthropologie tea towel

Last night, the vicar had a more informal celebration in the ruined church at Mongewell and even there there were probably well over 50 people (and possibly 70) crammed into the old apse which is all that remains weather tight.

The vicarage is filing up with the first instalment of family as the politicos dragged themselves away from Palace of Westminster and settled themselves into rural life (if you don’t count going back for a drinks party this evening). Now I must get back to finishing the latest jumper for someone’s Christmas present – why oh why did I go for multicoloured stripes? Am I really going to bother weaving in all those loose threads from the end of the stripes? (And since Penny from Norwich left a comment telling me that Kaffe Fassett used to leave his ends dangling free I almost feel that’s all the precedence I need.) Slovenliness is creeping into the Christmas preparations…

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  1. Posted December 22, 2015 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Those biscuits do sound wonderful. I wonder when I’m going to get a chance to give that recipe a go…?

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 22, 2015 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

      They’re very simple, Rachel and keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight tin.
      But just let me warn you, the coating with meringue is quite time consuming.

  2. Bev S.
    Posted December 23, 2015 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Will you have Christmas Eve services too or Christmas Day services?
    We will have two tomorrow night–the first is the family service where children volunteer to act out the Christmas story. It is controlled chaos with an emphasis on the chaos. The second service is decidedly more sedate. We will start a new tradition this year with lighting candles outside and singing the last two carols there. Since the weather is to be in the mid-70’s (I am not sure what that is in Celsius but it is warm for Christmas), I am seriously thinking of wearing shorts under my robe.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 23, 2015 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

      70 degrees is quite hot for here even in summer, so shorts sounds a good idea! I hope you have the energy left to be more sedate after the children’s service which I’m sure you’ll all enjoy.
      We will have Midnight Mass at Ipsden starting at 11.30 pm and Christmas Day Mass at 11 am on Christmas Day.

  3. Posted December 24, 2015 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    About to make those lush looking biscuits and chuckling over the manger ambush! Thank you for all the pleasure and inspiration reading here gives me Mary…I am in awe of your embroidery. Happy Christmas to you and yours x

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 24, 2015 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      What a smashing comment, Lynne – a Christmas present in itself. Thank you.
      Your own blog is a joy and a stimulation to read some books which I might not otherwise bother with.
      Happy Christmas to you all too and best wishes for a New year Bon Voyage.

  4. Posted December 31, 2015 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I love the look of these biscuits and am a cinnamon and ginger fan, so might break out the baking bowl later today. They look so pretty with the meringue topping. I can picture the scene as your wee grandson kidnapped the livestock from the Nativity scene, what a comical moment. Happy New Year to you and yours Mary, thank you for this blog, which I love to read, and for always answering comments, which makes this such an interactive and entertaining place to visit. Wishing you a peaceful, healthy and handcraft-filled 2016 X

    • Mary Addison
      Posted January 1, 2016 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      These are very good Christmas biscuits but I wish they were a more attractive colour beneath the meringue as they are a bit grey and anaemic looking – perhaps a bit of cocoa might help without affecting the flavour too much – what do you think Penny?
      Thank you for letting me know you enjoy the blog and for being such a regular and supportive reader who always adds interesting and informative comments. To being with I never expected people to comment but as they began I realised how much colour they added to each post and how people enjoy reading the comments as much as the post. Happy New Year to you and your family, Penny.

      • Posted January 2, 2016 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

        Thank you so much Mary. Regarding the biscuit colour- cocoa has a tendency to dry things out, so although it may improve the colour, it may adversely affect the consistency, and probably the flavour. Looking at the photograph more closely, the colour actually looks very natural, and not unappetising. However if you feel it is a bit pale, or greyish, it might be worth adding just a tiny spot of brown food colouring to the mix (the gel type that comes in little pots, not the liquid in bottles). That will make it look more ‘biscuit’coloured. I occasionally add food colouring to all sorts of sweet and savoury foods, if they don’t look ‘right’ and it works quite well! It doesn’t affect the flavour, or consistency, but just makes the occasional anaemic foodstuff appear more as it should. If you add it to the lemon juice and egg white mixture, before adding the icing sugar, it shouldn’t affect the recipe. I feel I am confessing a guilty secret, but it does work very well! x

  5. Posted January 4, 2016 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    Another gorgeous backdrop to your delightful biscuit tales…. I am thinking that I must have a look at Antropologie online as they seem to have the most gorgeous patterns and colours….

    • Mary Addison
      Posted January 9, 2016 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

      Anthropologie do have some lovely things – it is difficult to restrain oneself sometimes

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