zimtserne star cookies break fast
Photo credit Sheri Silver

Zimtsterne: Star Cookies for Yom Kippur Break-Fast

When people deny themselves food for an extended period of time they’re usually ravenously hungry and find themselves thinking about consuming huge amounts of food. But it’s not a good idea to pack it in too quickly. It’s too hard on your digestive system.

So when Yom Kippur comes to a close, I make it easier for my family and friends, and follow the age-old wisdom of transitioning from the fast to the main meal by offering my guests a light nibble as they come into my home after synagogue. I serve sliced apples and honey, hummus and pita wedges and, for those who prefer something sweet, zimtsterne cookies.

The German word zimtsterne translates as “cinnamon stars.” These star-shaped cut-out cookies are actually a German Christmas specialty. It might go without saying that when these cookies are served for Christmas they are not in the shape of a Star of David.

But for observant Jews, they are also traditional for Yom Kippur, when they are known as erste sternen, or “first stars,” because they are a reminder that before you can break the fast, you must be able to see the first evening stars that appear in the sky after sundown.

There are endless variations on this cookie; I make one version with flour and honey, which is more like a traditional gingerbread cookie. But the more popular recipes, like this one, are basically warmly spiced nut-meringues with meringue frosting. They are compellingly crispy at first bite, then ever-so-slightly chewy; the cinnamon-clove fragrance is spellbinding. You are also free to get creative with your cookie shapes! And here’s the bonus: Zimtsterne are gluten-free.

If you have never tasted zimtsterne, consider adding these cookies to your holiday menu. They also make a delightful gift to bring if you’re invited to a Break-the-Fast.

Notes:

  • This recipe makes about 19 cookies using a 3-inch-wide cookie cutter.
  • You can make these cookies as much as a week ahead. Keep them tightly sealed so they’ll stay crispy.
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zimtsterne star cookies cinnamon break fast
Photo credit Sheri Silver

Zimtsterne Cookies

These star cookies are perfect for breaking your fast! 

  • Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
  • Yield: 19 cookies

Ingredients

Units
  • 2 ½ cups finely ground almonds or almond meal
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp grated fresh lemon peel
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

  1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the almonds, cinnamon, cloves, salt and lemon peel in a bowl, whisk to blend the ingredients and set aside.
  3. Beat the egg whites in an electric mixer starting at low, then increasing the speed to medium-high for 1-2 minutes or until bubbly. Pour in the lemon juice and beat at medium-high for another 2 minutes or until soft peaks form. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat at high speed for 4-5 minutes or until stiff and glossy.
  4. Remove about ⅓ of this egg mixture to a bowl and set aside.
  5. Add the almond mixture to the remaining (⅔) mixture and stir to mix the ingredients thoroughly.
  6. Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper to ¼-inch thickness. Place on a baking sheet and freeze for 30 minutes. 
  7. Preheat the oven to 300°F. 
  8. Use a star-shaped cookie cutter (we used a 3-inch cutter) to cut out the cookies, and place on your prepared baking sheet. Gather the trimmings, re-roll and cut until all of the dough is used up. 
  9. Spoon the reserved ⅓ egg white mixture atop each of the cookies, and use a small spoon or pastry brush to spread evenly to the edges. 
  10. Bake for about 12-15 minutes.

Notes

  1. This recipe makes about 19 cookies using a 3-inch-wide cookie cutter.
  2. You can make these cookies as much as a week ahead. Keep them tightly sealed so they’ll stay crispy.
  • Author: Ronnie Fein
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes + 1 hour resting
  • Cook Time: 12-15 minutes
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Holiday

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