Every Christmas I go a little crazy baking cookies. I am pretty sure that I am trying to recreate memories of baking Christmas cookies with my mom. This year it was quite clear that my baking ventured down memory lane. My mother (baby in the wicker buggy), grew up in a flat above her father's (man with the mustache) bakery on Michigan Ave in Chicago. My grandfather was pastry chef who trained in Germany then immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1890's. The picture below was probably taken around 1915. Unfortunately my grandfather died when my mother was a teenager so I never knew him and she always regretted not having the opportunity to gather recipes and learn his baking secrets. When I baked with my mother at Christmas, she often tried to create holiday breads, cakes and cookies she remembered her father baking. This was before the internet and finding recipes was more difficult.
This year I was excited to discover Luisa Weiss' new book Classic German Baking: The Very Best Recipes for Traditional Favorites from Pfeffernusse to Streuselkuchen. The book devotes an entire chapter to Christmas cookies. According to Luisa, baking cookies at Christmas became very popular in Germany during the 1890's. In the weeks before Christmas, friends would visit each others home and it was traditional to serve the bunter Teller "color plate" which was a plate showing off a wide variety of cookies as well as holiday breads. According to Luisa, the minimum variety to aspire to was ten. Cookies were often smaller than usual so people could be comfortable trying many samples. While I only baked five varieties. I am pretty sure my mother achieved the requisite ten in her baking efforts. Here are the pictures of my German Christmas cookie baking adventure. I hope my relatives enjoyed their cookie gift boxes.