Everything about Christmas excites me: the lusciously decorated tree in our living room, the dreamy Christmas markets when it's cold and snowy outside, and, especially, my weekend baking sessions throughout December.
I'm like a child at this time of the year: I start writing long lists of all the cookies I want to bake in early November.
It includes both traditional recipes from my German family that have been with me for decades and American and Maltese recipes from my boyfriend's family.
There's a lot of baking going on in my kitchen as I also want to try out new creations, and time is tight: only four weeks to fill the cookie boxes and empty them again. But thanks to family and friends, this has never been a problem.
One of my favorites are Maltese lemon cookies, a Christmas classic. They are thin and crunchy, a little flaky, and quite buttery, with a strong aroma of lemon and vanilla. The recipe is from my boyfriend's Maltese mother, Jenny, who uses the most fragrant lemons from her little Mediterranean garden for the dough.
Many recipes, both sweet and savory, from the archipelago south of Sicily feature citrus fruit. As soon as she pulls the first batch of the cookies out of the oven, Jenny's house fills with the most tantalizing fragrance of lemon and butter. For my boyfriend, this is the smell of childhood and Christmas, and to me, it's the smell of Malta and of beautiful gatherings in the Mediterranean.
This is a relatively easy recipe, but the dough has to be frozen for around half an hour as it's packed with butter, which makes it quite soft. It creates wonderfully rich cookies; they're not as easy to cut out as more dry and floury dough, but the result is delicious.
In our family, these Maltese lemon cookies are covered with colorful sprinkles but you could also use a little lemon zest instead if you prefer a more elegant look.
- 1 1/4 cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (120 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 vanilla pod, split and scraped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
- 1 egg
- Sprinkles, for the topping