Let’s talk about Christmas cookies! I really love the American ones during the holidays, however, I have to admit that I prefer the huge variety of the German cookies. I’m super sorry you guys but as soon as I see some Linzer Augen (Linzer eyes), Rumkugeln (rum balls), Anisplätzchen (anise biscuits), Lebkuchen (gingerbread), Orange-Schokoladen Plätzchen (orange chocolate biscuits), Vanillekipferl (vanilla cookies), Nussecken (nut edges), Butterplätzchen (butter biscuits), Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars), Schoko Crossies (chocolate crossies), Schwarz-Weiss-Gebäck (black and white biscuits), … my eyes start to twinkle and I hum “In der Weihnachtsbäckerei” (German song for kids about a Christmas bakery that gets easily stuck in your head for days and days).
Since I did not want to miss out on anything this year and my girls suggested baking some cookies together, we organized a big baking action. We had so much fun and, of course, some glasses of mulled wine, funny cookie cutters and flour dust everywhere. At the end of a wonderful day in our own little Christmas bakery, we produced five different types of amazingly delicious cookies.
I am really looking forward to sharing them with our fantastic American neighbors, our great colleagues and all the other wonderful people around here. I love how excited they get over homemade, German treats.
We prepared the different types of dough on the day before our lovely baking action. It’s just easier to prepare them upfront otherwise we might have baked for eight instead of six hours! If you have ever baked German Christmas cookies you might know that there are some important ingredients (in addition to the classics like flour and sugar): different kinds of nuts, a buttload of chocolate, wonderful scented gingerbread spice and, last but not least, vanilla sugar.
The latter has got me into trouble. I have tried and tried to find vanilla sugar in the supermarkets in Knoxville and in the surrounding area. The result was: vanilla sugar does not exist here. In Germany you can find it in every little shop, in America you will just get a confused look and someone will ask you, in a very friendly way, if vanilla flavor is what you are looking for. No, unfortunately not at all!
Good thing is you can find beautiful vanilla pods and sugar, sugar and even more sugar easily. You probably already know what my intention is: homemade vanilla sugar! A friend of mine mentioned it a couple of weeks ago and it was still buzzing around in my head. So, I put some vanilla beans in my cart and went home where the sugar bowl waited for me. There, I mixed both and waited about a week. The resolute was mind blowing: the best vanilla sugar I have ever had. The bought one is just nothing compared to this. I am still wondering why I never did it like this in the first place. Not only the taste is so much better, also this lovely sweet scent fills your home while slicing the vanilla, and every time you open the glass, it smells just amazing.
You see, I really do recommend making your own vanilla sugar. Use up the rest of your stored bags (if you found them or brought some from Germany), buy one, two, three vanilla beans and stock up. Your cookies, cakes and Co will thank you for that and taste ten times better!
*Those are just the Christmas cookies my family bakes and actually just an extract.
Homemade Vanilla Sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 3.5 oz sugar
- Step 1 Put the sugar in a small bowl. Fill 1 tbsp of it into a mortar. Slice the vanilla pod lengthwise and open slightly. Carefully scratch the pulp out with a knife and add it to the sugar into the mortar.
- Step 2 Work both with the pestle until the sugar has turned brownish and the vanilla dots are nicely distributed.
- Step 3 Add the vanilla-sugar-mix to the rest of the sugar in the bowl and mix well. Divide the vanilla pod in three and add them, too. Fill your finished vanilla sugar in a container.
- Step 4 Due to the moisture of the vanilla pulp, the sugar initially might become hard and clumpy. To prevent this, shake the sugar over and over in the next few days. That way it stays nice and loose. After about four to five days, the aroma of the vanilla has spread and you can use your vanilla sugar.
- Step 5 Once you have used up half, you can just add more sugar. If the aroma is too weak for you, it is really easy to reactivate it by blending a piece of the dried vanilla pod with a spoonful of sugar and mixing it with the rest.
- Step 6 Your homemade vanilla sugar keeps up for a year when stored in an airtight, dark and dry – Happy baking!