It’s the most wonderful time of the year and we’re sure your stomachs agree with this phrase! From turkey to Yule logs…tis hard to deny that food plays an important role in the Christmas celebrations. And sitting pretty on the festive table is the humble Christmas cookie. This sweet baked treat goes way back to Medieval Europe where some believe that the gingerbread cookie was the first to be associated with the holiday season. These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bakery in town without a display case for Christmas cookies. Of course, this being Europe, there are an untold variety of Christmas cookies that go beyond the traditional gingerbreadman. Below, we’ve listed 12 Christmas cookies found around Europe, one for each day of Christmas!
1. Linzer Cookies (Austria)
No festive table is complete without a serving of these buttery, jam packed cookies. Thought to be based on the famous Linzertorte, the Linzer cookie is a short, crumbly pastry lightly dusted with confectioners sugar, with raspberry jam peeking out of the centre in all its shimmery elegance.
2. Speculaas (Netherlands)
This traditional Dutch cookie is usually consumed on or the day before St Nicolas’ feast in the Netherlands. Also known as Dutch windmill cookies, these spiced, shortcrust biscuits are thin, crunchy and made unique by the image stamped on the front side -usually of St Nicholas.
3. Anisette cookies (Italy)
No matter how old you are, lets admit it’s pretty tough to resist the allure of rainbow sprinkles on your cookie and the Italian Anise cookie holds plenty of it! These delicate cake-like cookies are glazed with icing and have a mild anise flavouring, which is typical of many Italian desserts. Topped with nonpareils, they certainly add a merry presence to the Christmas table.
4. Polvorón (Spain)
You’d know what kind of cookie the polvorón is if you knew the Spanish word for powder or dust –polvo. One bite of this rich, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookie will leave your lap covered in fine crumbs and powder! Produced mostly in Andalusia but popular throughout Spain, polvorones are a common presence in Spanish households during the Christmas season.
5. Pepparkakor (Sweden)
It’s not a proper Swedish Christmas if there are no pepparkakors somewhere in sight. You can spot them by their gingerbread men shape, although these days, hearts, stars and pretty much any shape goes. Unlike commercial gingerbread cookies, pepparkakors are usually thinner, crispier and seasoned with warming spices. Tradition states that you should place a pepparkakor in your pal, tap it with your thumb and forefinger and make a wish. If your cookie breaks into three pieces, your wish will come true.
6. Lebkuchen (Germany)
The Germans are a tough lot to beat when it comes to Christmas cookies -as a trip to any Germany Christmas market or bakery will confirm. The one cookie that almost all vendors will have is the lebkuchen aka German gingerbread. First made by Franconian monks in the 13th century, the lebkuchen is softer than the traditional gingerbread cookie and has a sweet, slightly nutty taste with a spicy aroma courtesy of the ginger, cadamom, coriander and aniseed in it.
7. Zimtsterne (Switzerland)
The star –literally, of all Swiss Christmas cookies has got to be the zimtsterne. Translated as cinnamon stars in English, zimtsterne are star-shaped, sugar-glazed almond cookies that appear in abundance during Christmastime in Switzerland.
8. Kolaczki (Poland)
Sometimes called Polish Foldovers, kolaczki is a flaky biscuit that can be round, square or diamond shaped. You’ll find them stuffed with anything from blueberry to pineapple jam, although if you’re a stickler for tradition, go with the ones that have a prune, apricot or raspberry filling.
9. Vanilice (Serbia)
Vanilice are bite-sized Serbian cookies made for holidays and special occasions. Crescent-shaped and made from walnuts, vanilice, or sitni kolaci as they are known in Serbia have a rosehip or apricot jam centre underneath all that vanilla scented sugar dusting.
10. Krumkakes (Norway)
The Scandinavian version of Italian pizelle, krumkaes are light, crispy, cone-shaped cookies filled with whipped cream, sprinkled with sugar and perfumed with cardamom.
11. Gribochky (Russia)
Hands down, gribochky, aka Russian mushroom cookies have got to be the cutest Christmas cookies out there! Its mushroom shape, eye-catching red colour and creamy Dulche de Leche filling certainly makes it a joyous addition to the festive treats.
Lusikkaleivat is the ultimate taste of Christmas. Also known as Finnish Spoon Cookies, they are crispy and held together by raspberry, strawberry, or the most Finnish filling of all -cloudberry jam.