Zimsterne means stars and these cookies, filled with the same spices that were often used in the Bisomim box during Havdalah, were served at the end of Shabbat representing the sweetness of Shabbat that should follow you into the coming week. These cookies are very similar to classic German Gingerbread cookies. Adapting this recipe to Jewish dietary laws, the dough was also used in Germany for Purim by Jewish cooks to make little Haman men whose heads would be bitten off to symbolically get rid of the wicked villain .
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup honey
5 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Confectioner’s sugar for rolling out dough
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons milk
- Cream the butter and the sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until mixture gets lighter in color. Beat in the honey.
- Combine the baking soda and spices with 1 cup of the flour. Set aside.
- With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the remaining 4 cups of flour, mixing well to form a thick dough. If your mixer is powerful, use it to add the reserved cup of flour and spices until well combined. If not, stir the remaining flour into the dough by hand. Make sure that the mixture is thoroughly combined.
- Pat dough into a flat round and place in a plastic storage bag. Seal and store in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until firm and easy to handle.
- Preheat the oven to 300F. Lightly dust a pastry board with some confectioner’s sugar. Roll the dough out on the board to ¼ inch thickness.
- Cut the dough into star shapes using a cookie cutter, and place on a cookie sheet line with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minute or until golden. Allow the cookies to cool for 5-10 minutes while you make the icing.
- To make the icing: Place the cup of confectioner’s sugar in a 1 quart mixing bowl. Whisk in the vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the milk until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, whisk in some more milk until the mixture resembles mayonnaise in consistency.
- Using a pastry brush, brush the icing over the tops of the warm cookies and let sit at room temperature until the cookies are cool and the icing is dry and no longer sticky. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, or freeze until later use.
- Yield: 4 or more dozen depending on size of cookie.
- Children love to cut out cookies and transfer them to the cookie sheet. A trick to prevent the dough from dragging on the spatula and losing its shape is to rub a scrap of dough on the spatula and then dip the spatula in some of the confectioner’s sugar before you transfer the cookie onto the baking sheet.
- Using a rolling pin is often challenging for young hands. However, rolling pin bands of varying thickness are sold that fit on the ends of the rolling pin to ensure the dough isn’t rolled unevenly.