Do you love visiting the fairytale-like Christmas Markets in Europe? It seems like each city strives to outdo the next. Cities from Dublin, Ireland to St. Petersburg, Russia, put out their finest wares each year, lighting up the winter’s skies and filling up their people’s stomachs.
Musicians serenade the shoppers as they stroll through the stalls filled with crafts, clothes, toys, and, most importantly, food—tasty treats ranging from savory to sweet. My favorites are the cakes, candies, and cookies. Yes, I have a sweet tooth. These 9 irresistible holiday cookies, some of my favorites from all across Europe, are sure to bring up memories of those markets, or perhaps your grandmother’s kitchen.
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First up, Soft Molasses Cookies from the USA
Wait, the USA isn’t in Europe! True, but when the earliest settlers were nostalgic for their homelands, they prepared their favorite foods to remind them of home.
Molasses cookies are a ubiquitous American cookie, filled with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cloves, similar to the Pfeffernusse from Germany. It’s believed these irresistible holiday cookies were first made in the late 1800s by the folks in New England.
My recipe for Soft Molasses Cookies has been handed down in our family for four generations that I’m sure of. But since my Great Grandma was born in 1886, it’s likely the recipe originally came from her mom. That would make this a five-generation recipe!
Hopping Across The Pond to Scotland For Their Shortbread
Scottish Shortbread is a much older cookie, although they call them biscuits over there. Believed to date back as far as the 1200s, Scottish Shortbread made it’s way to the court of Queen Mary during her reign in the 1600s.
Once the Queen declared this treat her favorite, there was no stopping its fame. The best thing is how easy shortbread is to make. You don’t need to buy these cookies at the store. You can whip up a batch of shortbread at home in just minutes and serve them for tea-time.
Is A Madeleine A Cookie?
A madeleine, also known as “petite madeleine,” is not a cookie. It is a small cake made initially somewhere in the 1750s in the Lorraine region of France. From here, the Madeleine grew in popularity and made its way into literature via Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past.
The French are famous for their exceptional culinary skills with savories and sweets. But if you ask someone who is not French about their favorite French cookie, this simple butter cake with its unique shell shape is usually their answer.
Think about the last time you ordered a coffee or tea at your favorite shop. These little golden cakes were likely sitting near the cash register, saying, “don’t forget me!” The Madeleine is definitely famous, and you can make them at home anytime.
Germany Loves Its Cookies
You will find many sweets at the Christmas Markets throughout Germany. Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte (Blake Forest Cake), stollen, strudel, marzipan, and gummis. And German cookies are over the top and non-stop. You have gingersnaps, Linzer cookies, lebkuchen, and Mandelbrot. But, my favorite German cookies to bake at home are Pfeffernusse and Spritz.
Spritz cookies are named after the method they are produced. These cookies are “squirted” through a cookie press to form bite-sized Christmas trees, stars, and wreaths. We often add food coloring to amp up the fun and different flavorings from mint to chocolate to rum and almond.
Pfeffernusse, which translates to pepper nut, are spicy little bites of goodness covered in icing. Why pepper nut? Simple the cookies contain all the spices you usually think of for a gingerbread/spice cookie but have the addition of a bit of pepper. The nut part of the name comes from the size and shape. A well-formed pfeffernusse will be the size and shape of a large walnut.
Easy to make and easy to eat, these two irresistible holiday cookies from Germany belong on your holiday baking list.
Irresistible Holiday Cookies That Made Their Way Around The World
Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican Wedding Cakes, Greek Kourabiedes, and my Aunt Maxine’s Pecan Crescent Cookies have a lot in common. Basically, they are all the same cookie. The recipe calls for flour, butter, confectioner’s sugar (also known as powdered sugar), and nuts.
This irresistible holiday cookie got its start around the globe in the pastry capital of the world, Vienna, Austria. As the cookie moved from country to country, it changed its shape and nuts a bit to become part of the local culture, but the nature of this melt-in-your-mouth nugget stayed the same.
Czech Pernik Na Figurky – Wait What?
When we were in Prague a few years ago, we loved stopping at the shops and finding new and delicious things to eat. Pernik Na Figurky is Czech for gingerbread cookies in many shapes. These cookies, made with honey, rum, and lemon zest, are a holiday tradition for both Christmas and Easter!
What makes the Pernik irresistible holiday cookies is their attention to detail. Each crisp cookie is cut into a beautiful shape: stars, bells, and of course, little gingerbread people. The cookies are then hand decorated with icing and sprinkles or even just a light dusting of confectioners (powdered sugar). By the way, these cookies are fantastic with a cup of hot wine while you sit in the square and people watch!
Meringue Cookies – Airy Clouds Of Sugary Goodness
There is a lot of confusion as to where meringues come from. Some say they were invented in Meiringen’s Swiss village and then made even better by the Italian chef Gasparini in the late 17th century. But this is contested as meringue is a French word. I am on the Swiss side as these irresistible holiday cookies, in their simple shape, always remind me of the Swiss mountains covered in snow!
You can’t find a more simple cookie recipe than Meringues. Egg whites and sugar that’s pretty much all you need. However, almost no one ever leaves these cookies that simple. Adding flavorings is the most common adaptation. Vanilla is the most common, but peppermint and rum follow close behind. You can add little bits of nuts or mini chocolate chips or even both! Sprinkling the Meringues before baking with colored sugars is a great way to decorate these airy clouds of sugary goodness.
Italy’s Holiday Tribute to Almonds – Amaretti
Last but not least, a visit to one of my favorite countries, Italy. Almonds in all shapes and forms are found in Italian cuisine, from appetizers to desserts. And Italian holiday cookies are no exception. Amaretti, whether crispy or chewy, are found throughout the country.
Amaretti di Saronno, made famous around the world by the Lazzaroni company, represents the crunchy biscuits. You may find one of these alongside your espresso that you sip sit in a Piazza on a brilliant Italian afternoon. But the Amaretti Morbidi are soft, chewy cookies that are full of almond flavor are the ones that remind me of Venice.
Where Is Your Favorite Irresistible Holiday Cookie From?
These are 9 irresistible holiday cookies from all around Europe. But there are many countries and cookies not even listed here. I could go on for ages; who doesn’t like cookies? Do you have a favorite cookie? Is there a recipe that has been handed down in your family for generations? If you aren’t going anywhere for the holidays, maybe it’s time to get baking!