A Taste of Vienna’s Christkindlmarkt
Cloves. Citrus. Almonds. Hazelnuts. A hint of cinnamon. Those smells seem to come back to me every time I think of the Vienna Christkindlmarkt (literally translated, “Christ child market”). Despite being filled with thousands of other tourists and Austrians alike, the market imbues a feeling of calm, peacefulness almost a blanket of goodwill that speaks to the meaning of the holiday. The main market, at the Rathaus, or the Vienna’s town hall, packs food, handcrafts, and other assorted vendors within the hallways of the Gothic building and then more booths spill out into the steps all peppered with Christmas decorations and lights.
The Rathaus Christkindlmarkt is said to be the oldest, the one that started the tradition, with its “December market” dating back to 1294. I still recall visiting in 1995 and marveling at the festive spirit. A choir was performing while I walked among the various shops; I picked up samples of everything from Lebkuchen (similar to American gingerbread cookies, but spicier and fluffier) and marzipan-shaped goodies.
But my two favorite cookies were linzer—a thin, buttery sandwich cookie spiked with bits of hazelnuts and stamped with shapes then smeared with apricot or other fruit preserves inside and the kupferlin, which reminded me of Mexican wedding cookies, only in a crescent shaped and packed with chunks of almonds (of course my all-time favorite Christmas cookies are Shari’s Berries).
While the Rathuas Christmas Market is the most well-known I was always delighted to find small Christkindlmarkts tucked around various corners as your walked through the streets. I suspect today you could download an app and pinpoint each one, but in the pre-smart phone days, it added a sense of wonder to stumble on an unexpected market.
This recipe combines my two favorite Viennese cookies—using the spice and citrus elements of linzer cookies with the ease of the kupferlin.
Viennese Christmas Cookies
Prep time: 15 minutes + chill time + baking
Servings: About 30 cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon almond extract
2/3 cup finely ground almonds
1/3 cup almonds (or hazelnuts or a combination)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
¼ teaspoon lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon cloves (optional)
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar—whip until light.
Add in the egg and almond extract.
In a food processor pulse the whole almonds with the lemon and orange zest until they become small, pebble-sized. Set aside.
In another bowl, mix together the flour, ground almonds, and spices.
Turning the hand-held mixer onto low speed, add the dry ingredients into the creamed ingredients just until combined.
Stir the almond pieces into the batter and place onto a piece of waxed paper or parchment. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 4 hours, or preferably overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Form the cookies into 1-11/2 tablespoon balls and place on parchment-paper lined baking sheets. (You can also make these into crescents.)
Bake for 10 minutes or until just browned.
Allow the cookies to cool on the pan before removing and then coat with powdered sugar. (For a fun alternative, you could dip them into cocoa powder instead, they won’t be as sweet.)
Kristen J. Gough is the Global Cuisines & Kids Editor for Wandering
Educators. She shares her family's adventurous food experiences--and
All photos courtesy and copyright Kristen J. Gough, except feature photo
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