Swiss Mailänderli Cookies (Mailaenderli)

These cookies (pronounced ” ‘my-land-er-lee”) are one of the traditional Swiss Christmas cookies (along with Spitzbuben and Zitronmöndli), and are very similar to English and American sugar cookies, though they are less crumbly than the latter’s.

Mailänderli - Credit, Tagesanzeiger Newspaper

Mailänderli.  Image Credit: Tagesanzeiger, Swiss Newspaper

Swiss Mailaenderli

250 gr. whipped butter (9 oz.)
250 gr. Sugar (9 oz.)
3 eggs
3–4 Tbs. milk
1 pinch of salt
1 grated lemon peel
500 gr. Flour (18 oz.)

Mix together until smooth.
Roll dough to 3–4 mm thickness, cut out shapes with a cookie cutter.
Paint with the egg yolk. *
Before baking, place in a cool place for ~ 30 minutes–1 hour.**
Bake @ 200 °C for 10 minutes, bottom rack.

*They are brushed with egg yolk before baking to give them the typical golden top, and are usually served plain, without icing, though if you want to top them with icing, add a drop or two of milk or water to powdered sugar to make a fairly stiff icing, and spread a dab on the top of each with a spoon.

**This is traditionally recommended, to help them keep their shapes better. If you don’t have the time, you can chill them ~10 minutes, or just bake straight away, though they tend to spread more if they go in the oven warm.

En Guete!

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Swiss Zitronenmöndli (Little Lemon Moon) Cookies

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Swiss Zitronenmöndli is one of the traditional Christmas cookies here (along with Spitzbuben and Mailänderli).  In High German they are called “Zitronenmöndchen” ; both the -li and -chen are diminutive forms for nouns in the two different dialects (at least in the dialect used around here, in the Zürich area).  These cookies, as their name suggests, are usually cut into the shapes of moons, and glazed with a simple lemon glaze; the finely-ground almonds replace the need for flour.  Sometimes you’ll see them decorated with chopped pistachio nuts, though that is a more modern addition to the traditional recipe; you could also sprinkle lightly-roasted almond slivers over the glaze.

Left to right: Mailänderli; Zitronenmöndli; Spitzbuben

Left to right: Mailänderli; Zitronenmöndli; Spitzbuben

Swiss Zitronenmöndli

350 gr. ground almonds (12 oz.)
200 gr. Sugar (7 oz.)
1 pinch salt
2–3 lemons, peeling grated
1½ fresh egg whites, lightly beaten

Stir all together gradually & thoroughly. On a bit of powdered sugar, roll the dough out to 7 mm thick (¼”). Cut out various sized moons, spread out onto a baking papered tray. Let sit 5–6 hours or overnight at room temperature, to dry out [This step is traditional, but unnecessary in my experience; if the dough is stiff enough to cut neatly, it should hold its shape in the oven fairly well].

Bake in the middle of a 325°F preheated oven, 8–10 minutes. To decorate, brush still–warm cookies with the lemon glaze, then sprinkle a bit of the grated lemon peeling over the top of the glaze while still moist.

Lemon Glaze:

~2 tsp. Lemon juice
150 gr. Powdered sugar (5 oz.)

Stir together until the glaze reaches a thick consistency. Go easy on the liquid, or you’ll need a ton of sugar to get the right consistency!

Swiss Spitzbuben Cookies

Here in Switzerland, if you only bake one cookie around Christmas, this is likely to be the one!  Its name – Spitzbuben – roughly translated, means “Cheeky Boy”, and is taken from the word that originated in the 16th century meaning “trickster” or “con-man”.

My husband and I had a baking time together today, and this is one of three traditional cookies we made; I’ll share the others with you over the next two weeks.

Spitzbuben cuttersSpitzbuben dough needs to be rolled out fairly thin, because the final product will be double-layered; we rolled it out to 3mm.  Half of the cookies are then cut out whole, and half are cut out with a hole in the centre – a “window” to see the filling through.  There are special cutters for this procedure here, but you can simply use a larger and a smaller cutter, well-centred, if you don’t have such cutters available or on-hand.

Spitzbuben

250 gr. butter (9 oz)Spitzbuben
125 gr. sugar or powdered sugar (5 oz.)
2 tsp. vanilla sugar, or vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt
1 egg white
350 gr. flour (12 oz.)

FILLING

~ 200 gr. Clear jelly or jam (7 oz.)

Whip the butter until smooth, then add the sugar, vanilla & salt, & whip until the mixture is light. Beat the egg, & add to the mixture, & then slowly add the flour while stirring, until the mixture is light & smooth. Cover, & chill 1 hour.  About 10 minutes before rolling, remove from fridge. On a lightly-floured surface, roll dough flat (3 mm).  Cut with forms of Ø 4–5 cm. Half of the cookies should have a design cut out of their centres (for the top half of the cookies). Lay the cookies on a papered–tray. Bake @ 200°C ~ 6 – 8 minutes, cool for 15 minutes. (They should be fairly pale; it doesn’t take much for them to become too dark, as this dough doesn’t tend to go “golden brown”.)

The dough will rise slightly; turn the bottom halves over once they’re cooled, and they have created natural little “bowls ” to hold the jelly!  Spread a bit of the jelly (make sure it’s clear, without chunks of fruit in it) on the bottom half (~1 tsp.), and set aside.  When the top halves are ready, dust them with powdered sugar, and then place one top on each prepared base.

Serve with a glass of cold milk!

En Guete!

 

 

 

Swiss Wild Mushroom Fondue

Here in Switzerland, winter is cheese season – Raclette and cheese fondue are the most popular dishes; I stress “cheese” fondue (also known as Fondue Neuchateloise), because there are other varieties that have nothing to do with cheese, such as Fondue Bourguignonne (chunks of meat), Fondue Chinoise (thin slices of beef or pork cooked in bouillon), or Fondue Bacchus (thin slices of pork, veal or seafood cooked in white wine).  The earliest known recipe for modern cheese fondue comes from my neck of the woods, Zürich, Switzerland, in the year 1699, and we Swiss are wise enough to know that if it works, don’t change it!

 

This is the set we have.

This is the set we have.

Swiss Cheese Fondue

* You will need a fondue crock set.
Calculate 200 – 300 gr. cheese per person (see note below)

1 fresh clove garlic, whole

Kirsch

White Wine

cornstarch (start off with 1/2 Tbs. & increase as necessary)

A handful of mushrooms (see below)

Mouth-sized chunks of bread of your choice (we usually prefer a “brown” bread)

A variety of pickles (baby corn cobs, cucumbers, onions, garlic, etc.) as condiments

Chilled white wine, or hot tea as beverage (see warning below!)

 

  • Typical fondue cheeses are Gruyère, Appenzeller Rezent, or Tilsiter; if you can’t find those, you can substitute hard, sharp–tasting cheeses. Chop them into chunks, then throw them in the crock & melt it on the stove. [If you use gorgonzola, I would use ¼ to ½ gorgi, & ½ to ¾ harder cheeses.]

Take the crock, & rub the insides with either freshly sliced garlic, or a garlic paste; then chop the garlic, & add it to the cheese after it’s melted.

Once the cheese has begun to melt & is stirrable, pour in kirsch, & white wine (not too much, but enough to thin the cheese down).

You’ll need some kind of a sauce binder like cornstarch (that thickens sauces, neutral tasting); stir it in to the cheese well (I first mix a bit into kirsch, to dissolve it well).

At this stage you can add the garlic and mushrooms.

Morel (left), Porcini (right)

Morel (left), Porcini (right)

  • If the mushrooms you’re using are the dried varieties, soften in warm water and then slice into mouth-sized bites.  I use a combination of morel (Morchel) and porcini (Steinpilz) (I’ve put links to Wikipedia articles in case you are unfamiliar with the English or German names). Try to use aromatic mushrooms, and avoid using the bland button mushrooms!

While the cheese is still melting, prepare the rest of the ingredients (pickles, bread chunks, etc.); get it all ready to go, because once the cheese is on the table burner the meal is hectic for the first few minutes, trying to keep the cheese from burning on the bottom (by stirring a chunk of bread in it) and pouring the wine, etc.

I serve fondue with chunks of bread to dip, + side dishes of all kinds of mixed pickles, & chilled white wine.
We also serve one glass / bowl of kirsch, to dip the bread in prior to stirring in the cheese–it adds a nice bite to the bread.

  • If you don’t want alcohol, I would still recommend cooking wine in the stove stage; you can serve it with hot black tea. If you serve it with cold non–alcoholic beverages, the cheese tends to clump in the stomach, & can be uncomfortable!

En Guete!

Swiss Christmas “Samichlaus” Gift Bags

 

Swiss Samichlaus & Schmutzli

A Swiss Santa Claus and Schmutzli, in traditional costume.

Here in Switzerland, Santa has come and gone!  In Zürich alone, the Swiss Santas (“Samichlaus”) will make roughly 1,000 visits this year; within a few days around 6 December each year, just over 30 Santas, 50 Schmutzli and 50 drivers are underway.  Now I’m fairly certain most of my readers are familiar with Santa; but here in Switzerland, his helper is called Schmutzli.  Parents throughout the land book Samichlaus and his assistant, “Schmutzli”, and fill in a form for their children:  Names, ages, their favourite subject in school, and the most important questions:  What have the children improved in since the last visit by Samichlaus, and where do they need to improve?  Making their bed, cleaning their room, being nice to their siblings, or sharing more often?  The Samichlaus und his assistants (often two Schmutzli, who are the “coal” bearers, and often have blackened faces, and carry large baskets with some coal, a besom broom, and room for gifts given back to them by grateful parents!) go to the home at the appointed time, and sit down to speak with each child, reading from a great book they carry with them.  Each child is then given a “Samichlaus” bag, and perhaps a gift sponsored by the parents.

Thomas Fetz, local Schmutzli. Image Credit: Migrosmagazin

Thomas Fetz, local Schmutzli. Image Credit: Migrosmagazin

Since 6 December is the official Samichlaus Day, it is customary on that day to give “Samichlaussäckli” (Santa Claus Bags) to friends, family, neighbours and coworkers.  They are great winter gifts to take when visiting friends, and so I thought I would share it here with you, to spread Christmas cheer!

Swiss Samichlaus-Bag:Swiss Samichlaussäck

Peanuts in the shell (whole walnuts are also traditional, but optional)

Mandarin Oranges, apples

Individually wrapped chocolates

Homemade Christmas cookies, wrapped in clear plastic

Options:  Gingerbread men, marzipan fruits, or pralines

 

The traditional bag is made of burlap, though cloth or plastic will work well too.  Fill the bags, and put a note on them if you’re going to leave them at a neighbour’s door, or on a co-worker’s desk.  Enjoy the joy of giving!  And Merry Christmas!

Some bags I prepared for my husband's coworkers; the santa claus is a chocolate ornament hanging on our tree.

Some bags I prepared for my husband’s co-workers (mandarin oranges are hiding in there somewhere!); the Santa Claus is a chocolate ornament hanging on our tree.