Aenisguetzli, mailanderli, schweizer schenkeli, brazeli. The names of Swiss Christmas cookies don’t exactly trip off the tongues of most Americans and I doubt many have eaten them, either.
I grew up very ‘Murican–through and through. It wasn’t as if my family wouldn’t have enjoyed generational traditions, it’s just that our ancestors apparently took the whole “melting pot” thing to heart and dispensed with most of the dishes from the motherland. Except knipp. Of all things. And I won’t be spreading that one around (or eating it, actually.) There’s just something about a dish made of pigs head and oatmeal that doesn’t bring out the warm fuzzies in me.
My husband, on the other hand, had a much different childhood. His was very traditionally Swiss, reflecting the town where he grew up. His grandma was 100% Swiss and spoke both English and the Swiss dialect of German. She passed a whole range of Swiss dishes down through the family, including special Christmas recipes.
Why make them?
Like the rest of Swiss cuisine, the holiday recipes are simple. Aenisguetlzi is my favorite of Grandma Dorothy’s Swiss cookie recipes and is made of 3 basic ingredients–eggs, sugar, and flour–plus anise for flavoring. They’re humble, rustic, and a sharp contrast to modern holiday decadence. No sprinkles, no frosting, no chocolate, no glamour.
For all their simplicity, enjoying them once a year keeps them special. The recipe isn’t difficult and the dough is easy to work with but it is a 2 day process.
Letting them dry overnight and the lack of fat makes aenisguetzli quite hard. It makes them the ideal accompaniment to a drink, especially a hot one. A little dunk into tea, cider, or hot cocoa will soften them just enough to be perfect yet not soggy.
My mother-in-law bakes her batch in early to mid-December, but keeps them tucked away until Christmas Day and I’ve carried one that tradition. So for me, it’s become not only one of my favorite Christmas cookies, but a cozy treat that lasts after the new year and brightens up a long dark January.
- 5 eggs
- 2 ½ c. sugar
- 4 c. flour, einkorn or white all-purpose more if needed
- 1 ½ T. ground anise
- Combine eggs and sugar. Beat for a long time, until the mixture is fluffy and lightens in color.
- Roll ¼" thick on a floured board and use cookie cookies to make shapes. Let them set on wax paper overnight covered with a dish towel or plastic wrap.
- Grease pans or line with parchment paper and place soft side of cookies down to bake. You can place them close together, since the cookies will puff up, not spread out.
- Bake at 275 degrees until turning color. (Instead of watching the tops, I look at the bottoms and bake until they're golden brown and no longer soft. This can take 20 minutes or so.)