It’s time for my first Christmas cookie post of the season! I’m having a few friends over for dinner next weekend, and I can’t wait to serve up some Christmas goodies. Today’s recipe – Cinnamon Stars from Robin on Allrecipes.com – is a special project because one of my friends doesn’t eat wheat or dairy. She would never ask anyone to plan around her dietary restrictions, but I enjoy the challenge of coming up with something tasty that *everyone* at the party can enjoy. I made these Cinnamon Stars last night and then brought some to her over lunch today… They most certainly passed the test. (And she asked for the recipe!)
First, I processed approximately 2 2/3 cups of raw almonds in the food processor until they were finely ground. (I was able to get a finer grind by processing them in small batches, about 1 – 2 handfuls at a time.) I say “approximately” because I didn’t actually measure the whole almonds; I just kept processing handfuls until I had 2 2/3 cups of *ground* almonds.
Once I had the almonds ground, I placed them in a medium bowl and whisked in 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest.
In the bowl of my electric mixer, I beat 1/3 cup of egg whites and 1/8 teaspoon of salt until soft peaks formed. With the mixer running, I gradually added 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, continuing to beat until the mixture was stiff. (It probably took 3 – 4 minutes on high speed to achieve the consistency I wanted.) I set aside 1/3 cup of the egg white mixture for the glaze and then folded my almond mixture into the rest of the egg white mixture.
I lined 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Working with about 1/3 of the dough at a time, I rolled it out to 1/4-inch thickness between two sheets of parchment paper. (I dusted the bottom one with powdered sugar to help prevent sticking.) Using a 2 1/2-inch star cookie cutter, I cut the cookies, re-rolled the scraps, and kept cutting until I had a dozen cookies on each baking sheet.
To make the glaze, I added 1 3/4 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice to the reserved egg white mixture and stirred until the mixture was smooth. (My glaze dried out just a bit as time passed, so I ended up adding another 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon after a few minutes.) I used a pastry brush to lightly coat the cookies with the glaze. Glazing took a few minutes, so I actually put the first batch in once it was glazed and then moved on to glazing the other cookies.
The recipe said to bake the cookies at 325F for 20 – 25 minutes… No way. I took my first batch out after 12 minutes and the bottoms were really misshapen. It was like the centers exploded and oozed out or something. I got perfect results – a light-brown, soft, yet completely-cooked-through cookie – with only 8 minutes in the oven. I let the cookies rest on the baking sheets for 5 minutes and then cooled them completely on cooling racks.
I’ll admit the wheat and dairy eater in me prefers a nice butter-and-flour-laden traditional sugar cookie, but these are pretty tasty. They have a really nice texture… They’re not “bendable soft,” but they’re not crispy either. I think “tender” is the right word. The lemon and cinnamon flavors really sing. I also *loved* that they held their shape beautifully. No butter = no spreading.
My friend really seemed to enjoy them, so I’m going to put them on my “best bets” list for anyone looking for a good gluten-free and dairy-free Christmas treat. They’ll be on my table again next weekend!
TIPS: I used packaged, pasteurized egg whites for this recipe because it’s a heck of a lot easier to pour 1/3 cup of egg whites out of a carton than it is to measure fresh egg whites. Just make sure whatever you buy is 100% egg whites. (Ham and cheese Egg Beaters won’t cut it!)
Recipe link: Cinnamon Stars