You may hate me for what I am about to say, but … gingerbread cookies are overrated. Few years ago when I was doing my Christmas baking I was really excited to make this recipe and guess what – in the end they turned out the same as the Spekulatius that you get in every other Billa. Of course you can imagine that I was incredibly disappointed, but last year I found another recipy that was incredbile and so delictous that I could not share it with you. As you can imagine I made it once again this year and I made a double batch since with my family the cookies are never enough.
If we have to talk about the “shopping streets” of Vienna the big shopping streets like Kärtnerstrasse, Mariahilferstrasse and Kohlmarkt pop in your mind and they could be easily found in every tour guide as the best streets dedicated to shopping. I cannot agree most – if you want to go on a shopping spree and not go around a shopping mall the whole day – these are the right ones for you. But well really want to talk about one other street here in Vienna which maybe stays a bit in the shadows when it comes to famous paths in Vienna but it is totally worth visiting. It is situated very near to Stephansdom and it leads directly to Stadpark. You would find the famous Aida confectionary, Plachutta and Figlmüller where you can get yourself some delicious Schnitzels and many more. It is one of the oldest streets of the quarter and it sure is an interesting place.
I was there once by mistake because I took the wrong exit of the subway at the Stubentor station and maybe once more and that was it. Not until two weeks have I finally discovered the beauty of this small street. And now, especially around the Christmas holidays, when everything is decorated, I just feel this is one of the most magical streets in Vienna.
With its small boutiques or pastry shops I am more than sure that it will charm you out with its beauty. Two weeks ago I decided to go around Vienna and take some pictures of the Christmas decorations. I remembered this small street and decided to take a shortcut. It was around 6pm so it was already pretty dark and I was quite amused with all of the lights surrounding me. For a second I thought I was not in my charming Vienna but in a fairytale. I mostly sure it was a Sunday afternoon because everything was closed and it was very quiet and peaceful. Everything was closed (because that is very normal for Austria on Sundays) and there were just few people gazing at the windows just like me.
You can find a lot of things here. There are some bookstores, one or two organic markets for baking supplies, some pastry shops, two of which I completely felt in love with and many cutlery and home decoration stores. I don’t know what came into me but I was just so enchanted by all of that so I decided to go back there again next week.
A week after, on my way there, when my emotions were cooled down I thought – okay that’s just a regular street, it is nothing special. Guess what – all came back again to me. Of course not that strong because the surprise factor was missing but it was still just as magical as it was before and if not even more. I have to admit – I am sucker for Christmas things and I thought the whole street is dedicate to this holiday but I find nothing wrong with it – after all it is December, way to go Christmas spirit. So if you find yourself around the neighborhood around Christmas, make sure to check out this charming, inspiring street – I’m telling you, you’ll be surprised.
Every time around Christmas I am in the mood for baking. Once I am home everyone knows – the kitchen is off limits. I have to have my space! Jokes aside but I feel this time of the year is the most perfect one for making baked goods and just for cooking as a whole. I get such an inspiration from everything around me. Just imagine that – outside is snowing, you are home, cookies are baking in the oven while you are reading a book and sipping on some hot chocolate. Well if that is not a perfect picture I don’t know what is.
I will share my perfect recipe for Christmas cookies and no, I don’t mean gingerbread cookies – everyone is making them. I got this recipe from my grandmother and she probably took it from her mother and so on and so forth but I think these are the most amazing ones. They are very popular in the German-speaking world under the name Linzer cookies. They consist mainly of dough with cinnamon and lemon crust and apricot jam in the middle.
Since my grandmother passed away 15 years ago, no one has made them at home and they don’t really sell them in my home country. It is very funny how I rediscovered them but I am telling you know how it all happened. I think it was June or July and I was at home, already on my summer break and I had nothing to do. So I decided I would just bake something. I went and took out my grandmother’s recipe book and let me tell you that is not a real recipe book. It is mostly a notebook filled out with pages and pages with different recipes, many of which Austrian. I was skipping through the pages when I reached a cookie recipe. Since I was not very experienced in the kitchen I decided that would be an easier thing to begin with.
After I chose the recipe I started preparing all of the ingredients and mixing them according to the instructions. Once I got to the cinnamon I cannot describe the feeling that got into me. I was taken aback! The smell of the dough was so familiar but I haven’t smelled anything like that in the last 15 years – how could it be? I’ve completely forgotten about these cookies obviously and found them again by pure luck. There were like hundreds recipes in that recipe book – it was not a coincidence that I found exactly this one.
So I started making the dough and is not really complicated at all – you just have to have suitable cutter shapes for the cookies but that is a piece of cake – they sell them everywhere apparently. Once I cut the forms out I baked 4 or 5 trays with them. The most amazing thing happened when my father came back from work and the first thing he sensed was that smell. I think I almost saw tears in his eyes – the familiar sent brought him back to his childhood memories and reminded him of his mom. It was emotional and beautiful and ever since I try to make them at least twice per year.
And here you have the recipe which I think now has been in my family for more than 100 years.
280 gr flour
1 tsp baking powred
185 gr butter
70 g sugar
1 lemon’s zest
1-2 tsp cinnamon (I love it with more cinnamon)
½ jar of apricot jam
Mix in a big bowl all the ingredients except the jam and form dough from it. After you have the right consistency roll out the dough and make sure you put some flour on your rolling stick. You maybe want to have the thickness of 5 mm since for each cookie you need two parts. The cutting forms for a Linzer cookie are normally two – one which makes a whole cookie and one with a circle in the middle (so you can see the jam). Make sure to have equal number of the two halves – one whole and one with a circle. After that bake them in a preheated oven at 180oC until they are slightly brownish (depends on the oven – it takes around 15 minutes in mine). After that take them out and leave them to cool off. Once they are not hot use a knife and spread some jam on the whole cookie and put the one with the circle on top – it is that easy.
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year… ” or something like that. Yeat it is definetly the most wonderful time – there are Christimas lights everywhere, sparkles and glitter surround you, the smell of gingerbread cookies in the air – it is to die for.
Some people say they hate Christimas – I don’t get it. Yes maybe there is a bit more hustle around and the stores get crowded and you hear over and over again the same songs but let me tell you – that is just no reason to hate. Think of all that is around you – how beautiful it is and what a magical time is upon us.
Ever since I was a child we went to the church on the first advent Sunday and watched how they light up the first advent candle. I always loved this moment of the year because that meant that there was now less than a month before Christmas and we would decorate the house and start with the preparations. Ever since I don’t live at home I try to make my own traditions but there is one I have kept till this day – having an advent calender.
When I was a kid I would go with my parents shopping, I would pick an advent calendar and then each day before Christmas I would have a small piece of chocolate. That was quite recent after the soviet regime and such European traditions were not very popular. However, my grandmother was part Austrian so I grew up with the habit of having an advent calender, singing “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht”and baking Lebkuchen.
So till this day, one week before the 1st of December I go around on a hunt for the perfect advent calender. The variety of calenders is enormous and you can choose from a range between 3 euros as much as 25 euros for calender with chocolates inside it. I say that because you may know that there are different varieties – ones with beer, with fragrances and makeup inside and whatever you can think of. I stick with the traditional chocolate one and this year I chose the Kinder edition.
There is nothing better than a cup of Glühwein and a packet of Maroni to keep you warm and full while you wander around the Christmas markets. They are quite a big deal in Vienna and there are so many around the city that probably one day won’t be enough to cover all of them.
The biggest ones are the ones at Rathaus, Stephansplatz, Karlsplatz, Belvedre, Schönbrunn, Am Hof and Maria-Theresien-Platz. Of course there are many others as well such as the one in MQ or in Campus (Alters AKH). The smaller ones certainly make you feel cosier as they are preferred from the locals. If you want to stay away from the touristic crowds you should definitely skip the ones mentioned earlier and go for those which are not that popular.
If you want to be overwhelmed with Christmas spirit you should definitely go to the Christmas market at Rathaus. It is really magical with all of its decorations and stalls selling everything from Bretzels to small Indian figures. They have everything that you can think of and offer a great atmosphere. The only downfall to it is that it is very crowded especially around the weekend. That is more than normal but if you are a person that likes quieter places – that’s not the one for you.
If you are more in the mood for a royal stroll – choose one of the two markets situated in Belvedere and Schönbrunn. The second one is considered very preferable for tourists but it is very big and it normally has its own stage where they sing Christmas carols live. There are much more places where you can comfortably put your cup of Eierlikör and enjoy what is around you than in other bigger markets and that is why I like it. Also it has a huge Christmas tree in the middle of the court and I have to admit it really cheers up and puts you in a Christmas mood.
The smaller markets such as the one at Spittelberg and the one at the Campus could be seen in less than 30 minutes but their goal is not really to make a big profit from sales rather than offer you a warm beverage with some fries or chestnuts. I personally think it is very convenient for all of the students who have their lectures in the campus, because they can wind off after it with some friends over a cup of Glühwein.
All of the markets are decorated very beautifully so make sure to take a photo or two just to capture the magical moment. Normally the whole city is richly decorated and almost every street in the 1st district has some kind of decoration. I assure you it is a great place to visit around the Christmas holidays – the magic is in the air and even if you are the biggest Grinch on the planet you will definitely surrender to the magic of Vienna.