The Countdown to Christmas
With the first advent weekend upon us and the first snow on the ground, the countdown to Christmas has truly begun. Christmas is a magical time of year around the world, but in Mayrhofen in the Ziller Valley the atmosphere is something very special. The excitement of the start of the ski season grips locals and visitors alike, the opening of the enchanting forest Advent Market brings people together to toast a mulled wine next to an open fire and the streets sparkle with fresh snow, white fairy lights and colourful advent displays in the shop windows.
In Mayrhofen homes the excitement is also building with Christmas trees being decorated, advent wreaths being lit and children expecting their first present from St Nikolaus on the 6th December. Another special tradition is the baking of special Christmas biscuits with which to welcome visitors in the run up to Christmas. From delicate, buttery treats to spiced “Lebkuchen”, a type of gingerbread which can be decorated by children and even hung on the Christmas tree, a true Mayrhofen home is never without a selection of home-baked biscuits to celebrate the season of indulgence and get everyone in the spirit of Christmas.
So that you too can conjure up a taste of Ziller Valley Christmas in your kitchen, here are some of my favourite recipes:
These easy-to-bake biscuits are fantastic for baking with young children. Simply mix the ingredients into a smooth dough, leave to rest for half a day, cut into Christmas shapes, brush with egg and bake at 180ºC until light brown – approx. 12mins (don’t overbake – they should still be quite soft). When they have cooled, have fun glazing them with icing sugar and sprinkles.
- 600g flour
- 500g sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- ½ tbsp clove powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- approx. 1 expresso cup black coffee
My personal favourites. These melt in the mouth biscuits are very moreish! Mix the biscuit ingredients together and knead to a smooth dough. Cover in cling film and leave to rest for 2 hours. Divide the dough into small balls of about 1.5cm diameter and form into small half-moon/ croissant shapes. Bake at 180ºC for approx. 15mins. Immediately after baking, dust the biscuits with a mixture of icing sugar and vanilla sugar.
- 280g flour
- 200g butter (room temperature)
- 100g ground walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds
- 80g icing sugar (plus extra to dust)
- 1 packet (approx. 20g) of vanilla sugar (plus extra to dust)
A sophisticated version of a jam sandwich biscuit. Mix together the flour and the butter to a breadcrumb consistency. Add the icing sugar and vanilla sugar. Make a well in the mixture and add the egg yolks. Mix to a smooth dough. Leave to rest for ½ hour. Cut out circular biscuits. Make a decorative design of three small holes in half of the biscuits. Bake at 180ºC until golden brown. Leave to cool and then sandwich together one whole biscuit (base) with one biscuit with holes (top) using the jam. Dust with icing sugar.
- 300g flour
- 100g icing sugar
- 200g butter
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 packet of vanilla sugar (approx. 20g)
- zest of 1 lemon
- Jam (redcurrant or cherry)
Not technically a biscuit but these chocolates definitely deliver a taste of Christmas cheer! Warm the chocolate in a Bain Marie until melted. Add the hazelnuts, rum, coffee and cocoa. Leave to cool slightly until a gooey paste forms. Mix the butter and sugar until smooth and add to the chocolate mixture. Using the palm of your hand, roll the chocolates into small balls and then roll in the chocolate, coconut or pistachio sprinkles. Cool in the refrigerator.
- 125g butter
- 125g icing sugar
- 1 tsp coffee (instant)
- 1 tsp cocoa
- 4 tsp rum
- 200g ground hazelnuts
- 350g dark chocolate (or milk chocolate if preferred)
- 200g chocolate or coconut sprinkles or chopped pistachios.