Oma's Hazelnut Cookies

Sunday, December 09, 2007
It wouldn't be the holidays without Oma's -- my grandmother's -- hazelnut cookies. They've been a staple in my family's Christmas cookie repertoire for as long as I've known Christmas.

When I was a kid, the making of these cookies always started the same way. Dad would take a bagful of hazelnuts -- nutcracker in one hand, a couple of empty bowls in the other. He'd sit in his comfortable living room chair and, one by one, he'd crack each nut, reserving the whole ones in one bowl, the broken ones in another.

Meanwhile, mom would help us kids set up the nut grinder -- an old-fashioned metal contraption that we clamped down to the end of a spare and somewhat wobbly table. Once the nuts were all cracked, it was on to the grinding operation. We dropped a few nuts at a time into the hopper, followed by a snug-fitting wooden block that we used to push them down to the grinder wheel. One hand pressed on the block while the other gave a few cranks of the handle... squeak, rattle, squeak, rattle... and out came the fine dust of ground nuts. (I'll bet mom and dad still have that old nut grinder tucked away in a closet somewhere. It's now a family heirloom.)

To the kitchen mom went to mix the ground hazelnuts into a batter. My next task was to add a dollop of cinnamon-scented meringue to the top of each cookie, followed by one of the unbroken hazelnuts my dad set aside. Then into the oven they went, filling our house with the fragrance of Christmas as they baked.

In recent years, my mom told me she often uses almonds in these cookies now. Almonds are more readily available in shelled form, and they give the cookies an equally wonderful flavor. Always, though, they are topped with whole hazelnuts. It's the tradition!

Oma's Hazelnut Cookies

1/2 pound hazelnuts or almonds (or a combination of the two), finely ground
1/2 pound confectioners' sugar
3 egg whites at room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 "Messerspitze" of cinnamon (about a 1/2 teaspoon)

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Beat egg whites while adding sugar a little at a time. Beat until the batter is soft like marshmallow. Stir in vanilla and cinnamon. Set aside 1/2 cup of the meringue. Mix in ground nuts by hand. Place by spoonfuls on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Top with a dab of the reserved meringue. Push a whole hazelnut into the meringue to top each cookie. Bake for about 20 minutes until they're light brown. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

This recipe is my contribution to the 2007 Festive Food Fair, hosted by Anna at Morsels & Musings. This blogging event, now in its second year, celebrates holiday food traditions from all over the world. Last year, Anna collected 67 mouthwatering recipes!
Related post: Pfeffernusse Cookies


Blogger Muum said...

these look wonderful, I'll have to try them out.

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity, was your grandmother's real name Oma, or was that just your word for grandmother? I ask because my gramma's birth name was Oma, and it's very unusual!

11:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chigiy at Gardener’s Anonymous said:

These cookies look delicious.
I have several friends with celiacs disease. These would be great Christmas cookies for them.

2:09 AM  
Blogger Sisah said...

Thank you for your friendly remarks on my blog. Paying you another visit you show us some delicious looking photos of one of my favorite recipes for“Weihnachtsplätzchen” , btw they were the first ones I made when I was a little girl at school.
These were called “Haselnusskugeln” and looked ecactly like those you made.And the recipe of your Pfeffernüsse is even weekend I will start to bake them! Brings back memories, because I haven't made them for ages!
Is it possible there you had some german ancestors? 'Oma' is the german version of 'granny' , I used to call my father´s mother 'Oma' and my mother´s mother 'Omi'....also ages ago!

6:58 AM  
Blogger said...

Christa, those sound like and Look wonderful. One thing I love about all the European recipes is that they aren't so cloyingly sweet. I'll have to buy some nuts and give this a try. Thanks!

Diane, Sand to Glass

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know the nut grinder of which you speak! It's of my prized possessions from my grandmother's kitchen. Depending on which direction you crank, you get a different grind. The year before she passed away, my grandma confided that she used the fine grind to sneak nuts into cookies (my grandfather would eat them, all the while announcing he'd never eat nuts). Ah, the subterfuge of immigrant grandmothers.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Hazelnut is my favorite flavor! I make a chocolate cookie with hazelnuts in it, but the pure hazelnut experience sounds wonderful. I'm going to give your recipe a try.

11:29 AM  
Blogger pam said...

Gorgeous cookies! And they sound so good.

4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this! Not only was it a lovely post that shares one of your holiday traditions, but it's a delicious-sounding recipe too. When I was a little girl my mother and I used to start baking cookies right after Thanksgiving and would continue until Christmas. Teachers, doctors, dentists, the mailman, the milkman (yes, we had one of those when I was little), all would get plates of cookies. And there were still some left for us. Thanks for bringing back such lovely memories!

5:29 PM  
Blogger My Chutney Garden said...

What a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe and the gorgeous pictures with us.
What is there that is so comforting about the baking of cookies?

7:58 PM  
Blogger Shady Gardener said...

Thank you so much for sharing not only your warm family memories but also the beautiful (and yummy looking) photos of the cookies themselves! (I'm excited to try the recipe!) :-)

11:24 PM  
Blogger Matron said...

That is wonderful! I just love baking, I am going to try these out for a party next week! yum!

8:34 AM  
Blogger Christa said...

Oma is the German word for grandma. She and my grandfather -- and my dad when he was growing up -- lived in the southern part of Germany. My family always makes a lot of "Weihnactsplatzchen" for the holidays to keep the traditions going.

My dad has celiacs disease. He loves these flourless cookies. Mom makes a double batch for him! :-)

I agree with you completely about European recipes being less sweet. I think they are much more satisfying that way too.

All, thank you for your nice comments. Enjoy the cookies if you try them!

8:35 AM  
Blogger David (Snappy) said...

I will have to try the Recipie as it sounds delicious.Mouth wateringly nice.I love cookies and hazelnuts (usually have them in yoghurt).
Great way of carrying on the tradition :)

6:59 PM  
Blogger joey said...

Yum ... Oma's cookies look mouth-watering. Treasured recipes are priceless. A lovely post and tribute, Christa.

11:54 PM  
Blogger Digital Flower Pictures said...

Thanks for sharing the tradition with us. I am not so good at baking but am a fabulous cookie eater.

5:16 PM  
Blogger kathy said...

Even your photos of the eggs are beautiful!

12:28 AM  
Blogger Laurie Constantino said...

I love your story and the cookies look great too. Plus they are a wonderful way to use up all the extra egg whites I inevitably end up with during this time of year.

3:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful photography, the cookies look delicious I love anything nutty so I'll definately try these out over the hols. I really like your blog but i have difficulty posting comments on any Blogger sites as they force me to post anonymously/Pseudonyme and default to French as I am based in France at the moment. You can see where i live on my homesite Mas Du Diable about growing and cooking our own food.

6:50 PM  

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