02 December, 2013

"Happy Christmas!" From Europe, With Love: Day 2: Schweiz Weihnachten

There are 3 places I have always wanted to visit in the winter and you can blame it all on the movies.  England, particularly the sleepy little English countryside towns like what I saw in the movie "The Holiday".  Austria, a Von Trapp Christmas...c'mon, even you have wanted to try that...I hear that you can even stay in the house they lived in.  Then, there is Switzerland.  I dare you to Google "Christmas in Switzerland" and not wish you lived there, especially at Christmastime.  The lights, the snow, the shops, the snow, the food, the snow, the mountains, the snow, the family baking...and did I mention the snow?  The Swiss Alps get an obscene amount of snow every year and quite frankly I'd love to bury myself in it, smell the fresh mountain air, and see the beautiful cities nestled in all of the Alp passes...just like I read about in "Heidi" when I was a little girl.

Aside from longing to find myself in near white out conditions with snow, their traditions of family baking...serious amounts of baking people...really hits home for me.  In my own family, we traditionally end up making a list of 16 "must haves" every year and then trying a couple new ones out to see how they rate with our other must haves.  This seems to be somewhat normal in Switzerland at Christmastime.  Year 'round you can find a couple of different cookies that are the standard for Swiss baking, but at Christmas...the list of cookies in demand and available triples.  Yes...triples.  Everything from anisbrotli to zimtsternes and basler brunslis to guetzli...they seriously seem to have a cookie for every letter of the alphabet when Christmas rolls around.  Each one fabulous, each one as special to the Swiss families as the next.  But the cookie I chose to make from the monstrous list Simone, a woman from Switzerland, had was a cookie called mailänderli.

Mailänderli are quite simply little butter cookie with lemon zest in them.  Light, brightly flavored, and the perfect little snack for tiny hands to sneak off of the counter when Momma isn't looking.  A number of Swiss folks I have come across claim this cookie is the first one made every year and there is always a second batch a couple of days after the baking has come into full swing.  Sounded like a cookie I just had to try.  I am sure these little lemon delights will help you feel like you are having a Frohe Weihnachten, Schweiz design.

**The U.S. measurements appear first followed by the European weights in parenthesis, unless only U.S. measurements were given.  I weighed the amounts out first, then measured them with U.S. measuring cups and spoons.  You can thank me later.

2 sticks butter, unsalted
1 1/4 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 lemon, grated peel
1 pinch salt
4 1/4 c. + 1 T. flour
1 egg yolk

Stir butter until it is soft and creamy then add the sugar and mix until fluffy and there are little ‘bubbles’ forming on the bottom of the bowl.  Then add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating each on in completely before adding in the next egg.

Add salt and lemon zest, then sift flour into mixture, mixing between additions.  From into a ball, cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Roll the dough out half at a time on a little bit of flour until a just over 1/4″ thick. Using your favorite cookie cutters, cut out shapes and place on lined baking sheet.

Place the sheet in the cold for a few minutes then brush the surface with the egg yolk (I used a little sponge brush from the dollar store...really, don't break the bank making these cookies...use things you have in the house!) and bake 6-10 minutes in the middle of the oven, or until just lightly golden brown on the bottom and the tops are shiny and yellow.

In my opinion these would best be enjoyed with your favorite snacking beverage...a cold glass of milk or a nice hot cup of cocoa.  Really, I am probably going to say that about every single cookie from Europe that I make this year.  I found them to be a bit crisp, but all of the ladies I shared them with at church begged to differ and told me that they loved them.  I hope that you find yourself enjoying them as much as they all did.

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