Pistachio Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars)

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I’m just going to start off this entire post with the disclaimer that this recipe for zimtsterne is absolutely not traditional.  I’ve been known around these parts to bastardize traditional recipes, such as when I baked a “New York” cheesecake with mascarpone + amaretto or when I made tater tot poutine.  And if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about the internet, it’s that people get actually upset when you don’t make a recipe exactly like their recipe.  It’s the precise reason that I probably will never post a recipe for goulash or huevos rancheros, and why I keep disclaimers on these posts in the first place.  But I digress…this is about cookies.

Ever since I went to Germany, I’ve been obsessed with Germany.  Like, all I think of is Five Elephant and eating schnitzel with fries + mayo.  And then yesterday, I went to a local bakery in town, Bavarian World, and honest to god it’s probably one of my favorite places in Reno.  On one side, there’s a bakery/market that has absolutely the best baklava and pretzel rolls, and pecan cakes.  And then on the other side is a restaurant that I’ve never eaten at, but I have secret dreams of going on a date there Fast Times at Ridgemont High style.  While I was in line waiting to buy my pretzel rolls and roast beef for Christmas-day lunch, I saw a package of zimtsterne, a star-shaped cinnamon cookie,  which I had never heard of before, but then I got really excited (!!!) because I literally stayed up the night before trying to think of a cookie I could make with pistachios.  And even though zimtsterne is usually made with almonds, I am having a love affair with pistachios almost always, so I figured I could add those too.  Yay Bavarian World!!!

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This past week, I’ve had approximately three or four different Christmas parties to attend, and I am partied tf out.  I have spent two too many mornings hugging a Gatorade and popping Ibeuprofen for my headache after an evening of Moscow Mules and late-night tacos.  Which is why I spent my Friday night listening to She & Him Christmas albums and making this cookie dough.  And it was perfect, because it has to chill for at least a few hours, and it was perfectly chilly by the time I woke up to bake them this morning!  Traditionally these cookies are made with a meringue, but there are two ways you can go about things:

1. If you’re a sinner, you can just add the egg whites straight to the dough (hi), which yields a denser, chewier cookie.

2. If you’re a traditionalist, you can whip up a meringue and fold the nut mixture into the meringue which will result in a cookie reminiscent of a macaron.

Out of sheer laziness, and because the last time I whipped egg whites ended in an epic failure, I went with the “adding the egg whites” option, and I love that the texture is somewhat biscuit-y and chewy.  However, next time I’m going to try it the meringue way, because I also love airy cookies.

Now, if I can just somehow get myself back to Germany ASAP I promise to try real-life, traditional, Christmasy zimtsterne.  Scout’s honor.

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Pistachio Zimtsterne
Makes 28 two-inch cookies

INGREDIENTS

100 g ground, unsalted pistachios (about 1 c. whole)
200 g ground, unsalted almonds (about 2 c. whole)
100 g (about 1/2 c.) powdered sugar
50 g (1/3 c.) flour
2.5 g (1 tsp.) cinnamon
Zest of 1/2 orange
4.2 g (1 tsp.) vanilla extract
2 egg whites

Glaze

200 g (about 1 c.) powdered sugar
30 g (2 Tbs.) orange juice
30 g (2 Tbs.) milk
2 g (1/2 tsp.) vanilla extract

In a food processor, combine pistachios and almonds.  Pulse until they are finely ground, but be careful not to grind them too much, or they’ll turn into a nut butter!  In a bowl, combine the ground nuts, powdered sugar, flour, cinnamon, and orange zest.  Stir in the vanilla extract and egg whites until a crumbly dough forms*.  Using your hands, knead until everything is mixed together and the dough forms.  Flatten, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill at least an hour, but you can make it up to 2 days in advance.

Preheat oven to 350* F (170* C).  After the dough has chilled, roll it on a powdered-sugar surface until it is about 1/8 inch thick.  Using a star-shaped cookie cutter, cut out about 28 cookies, re-rolling as necessary.  I like to dip the cookie cutter in powdered sugar before cutting, because it prevents sticking.  Line on a greased baking sheet.  They can be pretty close together, because they don’t puff up much.  Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the edges are very lightly browned.  Let cool completely.

*Alternatively, for airy cookies, you can whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold the dry mixture into the egg whites, add the vanilla, and finish the recipe as directed.

While the cookies are baking, combine the remaining powdered sugar with the orange juice, milk, and vanilla.  I start with 1 Tbs. each of orange juice and milk and add more liquid to get my desired consistency of icing.  After the cookies have cooled, dip each one in the glaze.  Add sprinkles if desired!  Let harden, and keep stored in tupperware.


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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: I’ll Be Home for Christmas by She & Him

 

Girl Scout Samoa Nanaimo Bars

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Hihihihihihihi.

Have you ever had one of those days where you feel like nothing goes right?

And then you realize that literally everything you’re sad about is just a bunch of first-world problems, and nothing is actually wrong and you’re just being a princess about everything…?

Because I had that kind of day on Friday.

First, I woke up really early (at like, 6 a.m.  On my day only day off…) and could literally hear my next door neighbor’s TV.  Please note: I live in a house.  Not an apartment.  Not a condo.  A house.  And I could hear their TV.  Because only at 6 a.m. do I have superpower hearing.  After laying in bed staring at the wall for a few hours, I got up and *attempted* to do my hair and makeup, but no matter what I did, I looked like a hot mess.  After about 1 1/2 hours, I finally was able to make myself look how I do every single day.  It just took twice as long..  I finally decided that I would grab lunch and watch movies.  But then I dropped my lunch on the ground 1 bite in (and ate it anyways because at that point, I had no limits).  I also couldn’t find half of my Disney movies.  So to solve that problem, I had a meltdown.

I am almost 20 years old and I cried over not being able to find my Disney movies.

Eventually, I decided to go grab a coffee, talked to a cute barista, and ended up at an 80’s party wearing a Risky Business costume.

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Me attempting to accomplish Tom Cruise’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” dance in my costume. And failing…

The day ended up pretty great, and I realized that I just needed to take a deep breath, and understand that my problems were really not that bad.

Because they weren’t.

But they were kind of funny and now you can mock me a little.

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Plus, I had these sitting in my fridge, so how bad could my day really be?

Since I know most of you are probably thinking, “What’s a nanaimo bar”, here’s a brief history:

The Nanaimo bar was invented in none other than Nanaimo, Canada.  That’s about all I know.  The actual dessert is made up of 3 layers.  The first is a no-bake crust made with chocolate, nuts, coconut, and graham crumbs.  The second layer is traditionally a custard buttercream, and it’s topped with chocolate.

But since it’s Girl Scout Cookie season (because obviously that’s a season), I decided to make them using Somoa cookies.  Which already have chocolate, coconut, and a graham-like texture.

Plus caramel which is never a bad thing.

As previously stated, traditional nanaimo bars have a custard buttercream filling.  Which is really good, but really rich, and really sweet.  To make it a little less dense, I decided to make a swiss meringue buttercream filling.  And add caramel to enhance the Somoa theme.

Result = something you need to make now.

Note: Please don’t be scared.  3 layers sounds like a lot.  Swiss meringue buttercream sounds intimidating.  SO NOT.  These are very easy and don’t require that much time.  Be brave, bakers.

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Ingredients:

Bottom Layer:

1/2 c. unsalted butter

3 Tbs. sugar

1/4 c. cocoa powder

1 egg, beaten

1 1/2 c. Samoa cookie crumbs, crushed + 1/2 c. chopped roughly for garnish

1/2 c. almonds, chopped

1 c. sweetened coconut

Caramel SMB:

3 egg whites

1/2 c. sugar

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened

Pinch salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 c. caramel sauce, homemade or store bought

Top:

4 oz. baking chocolate

1 Tbs. butter

For the bottom layer, melt the butter, sugar, and cocoa on the stove over medium heat.  When it’s combined, mix 1/4 cup of the mixture into the egg to temper.  Add egg mixture back to the chocolate mixture and stir over the heat until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in Samoa crumbs, almonds, and coconut.  Press into a greased 8×8 or 8×11 baking pan.  Freeze for 20-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1-2 inches of water in a medium sized sauce pan on the stove until it starts to simmer.  In a heat-proof mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar.  Place mixing bowl on top of the sauce pan and stir the mixture until a candy thermometer reads 140-150* F.  Remove from heat, and whip egg mixture until stiff peaks form and mixture is cooled.  Add butter, 1-2 Tbs. at a time until frosting forms.  If it appears curdled, keep beating until it forms, or add butter 1-2 Tbs. at a time until the texture is creamy and smooth.  Add vanilla extract, salt, and caramel sauce.  Pour mixture and spread evenly over the crust layer.  Refrigerate until buttercream is firm.

While the buttercream firms, heat the chocolate and butter over low heat until melted.  Spread chocolate evenly over firm buttercream layer.  Sprinkle chopped cookies over the top, and refrigerate until chocolate is hardened.  Cut into bars, or bite sized pieces.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes 16 large bars or 64 bite sized pieces.

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I hope you all had a wonderful Sunday.  I laid in bed until 11, went to my favorite coffee place, and watched Friends for hours.

What did you do?

SerendipitybySaraSig

*Song of the Day: Pedestrian at Best–Courtney Barnett