Advent Calendar 6 – “Little spaces make you big”

advent-7

Hello everyone,

and welcome to day 6 of our Advent Calendar, and after yesterday’s theory stuff it’s time for a little leisure.
I want to tell you a bit about something that belongs to the German Christmas season like the common cold belongs to winter – you’re lucky to make it through without it. Get ready for… oh no… please noooo

Stop it. Go away, song!
I want to talk about

Plätzchen

If you’ve been in Germany around Christmas, you’ll most likely know them. Plätzchen are basically little biscuits or cookies that are made during the advent season. They often have typical winter-related characteristics, like they’re spiced with cinnamon and almonds and come in the shape of stars and so on. There are countless versions ranging from the rock hard, flat pieces of sweet dough to little masterpieces with exotic spices and sophisticated Van Gogh frostings. The one thing that all good Plätzchen have in common, though, or at least I think so, is that they’re not perfect. Because Plätzchen aren’t really something you buy.
Plätzchen is something you make.
Plätzchen backen is one of THE most common family activities and kids really, really love it because they get to knead dough, eat dough and cut out trees, Santas and ponies from dough. In fact Plätzchen backen is actually so loved that people even do it with no kids around. Like… people in their 20s make Plätzchen-Back-Parties with gallons of Glühwein that slowly fades out the baking from the baking orgy. Oh boy, Plätzchen-Parties. Tinder is a monastery in comparison.

Seriously though, I think part of the reason why Plätzchen backen is such a big deal is that failure is completely okay. It’s okay if the Plätzchen are rock-hard and burned. What matters most is the process. It’s like drawing a mandala. Meditative.
I said earlier that Plätzchen is something you make… actually I should say Plätzchen is something you do.

And boy do people do it a lot. In fact, supply often exceeds demand by insane margins. According to the BS institute of statistics, there’s an over-production of 2.3 gazillion tons of Plätzchen in Berlin alone. Once Christmas is over, people simply throw their Plätzchen surplus out the window onto the streets where they pile up. Drifting dunes of crumbs roam the city blown about by the freezing cold winter breeze. Then the garbage collection company sweeps it up and it is burned in the Plätzchenheizkraftwerk, producing enough energy to shut down one Atomic power plant for an entire month thus making up more than double for what was spent for baking them. Plätzchen have a truly formidable heat value, especially the ones that are as dense as this paragraph and the best thing is: Plätzchen burn without emitting any green house gases.
They’re just that awesome ;).

Now you’re all like, “Emanuel, this is utter horseshit.” and I’m like “Yes, of course I have a recipe for you.”
As I said before, there are as many Plätzchen as there are snowflakes but here’s a pretty nice video that shows the variety a bit. And it has captions. And she’s really good at it.
Oh, and it’s called “Weihnachtskekse backen” and not “Plätzchen backen” because #ironic.

Have you noticed how soothing the lady talks at the end? It’s like a meditation instruction video. As I said… Plätzchen isn’t something you make, it’s something you do :).

So now we’re left with one question: why are they called Plätzchen? Well, one theory says the name essentially means “little spots/places”. But another theory makes just as much sense to me… they’re called Plätzchen because they might make you platzen.

I’ll leave it up to you to look that up. What’s your Plätzchen story? Do you bake these kinds of cookies in your country? Have colleagues or friends brought Plätzchen? Did you like them? And do you know ways to say that you did (like them, I mean) even though you didn’t?
Let me know in the comments below and win maybe today’s give-away (I’ll reveal what it is, I promise :).
Hope you had a little fun today. Schönen Tag euch und bis morgen.

Oh… here’s another video, because… why not. This one shows even better how much effort Germans put into their Plätzchen.

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Dave M.
Dave M.
5 years ago
berlingrabers
5 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

That’s definitely an American accent. Sounds a bit Appalachian to me, maybe, but I’m no expert. I know a lot of people with similar accents, at any rate. :)

I know these as “no-bake” cookies, by the way. That could be a Yankee-ism…

Dave M.
Dave M.
5 years ago

I think in the US ( at least in my family) we roll out and cut sugar cookie dough. Its similar to this but the finished product is usually a bit softer ( not crispy or crunchy). Also it is not Christmas without a few dozen chocolate chip cookies and at least one batch of Preacher Cookies. I will go ahead and assume you don’t know what a Preacher Cookie is and link a video.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToeuKXQ

The story is ( have no idea if its true) that they are called Preacher cookies because he in the South (yee-haw rebel yell etc LOL) preachers used to expect to be fed if they stopped by your home to check on you. And (according to the story) the cookies could be made so fast that you could make them before the preacher made it from the car to your door.

Happy Holidays! and thanks for all the great content you provide.

cam147147
cam147147
5 years ago

soothing? …….or creepy? :)

Raquel Lima
5 years ago

I’m loving this Advent calendar. Thanks for doing it!!!! ^ – ^

parisbongi
parisbongi
5 years ago

Sorry, aber vanillekipferl sind die besten!!

Anomenschkind
Anomenschkind
5 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

Kommt drauf was für n Rezept du verwendest ;)

Ich habe dieses aus einem heftigen deutschen Rezeptbuch gelernt, geht so-:

200g Butter
250g Mehl
100g gemahlene Mandeln
150g Vanille Zucker

Schritte:
Verrühre alles zusammen, aber nur 1/2 des Zuckers. Knete alles durch, in Klarsichtfolie einlegen & im Tiefkühlkost 15 Minutenlang einlassen. Nimm das raus & Falte es. Daraus, mach Kipferl Formen, leg auf den Blech & im Ofen vorgeheizt 180°C 12 Minutenlang kochen lassen.

Wenn sie raus & bisschen hart sind, Rolle jede Keks in den Zucker . Dann Iss!

(Hier gibt es kein Ei, aber ist mir noch besser, meine Freunde können das Essen. Viel Spaß beim backen ^^)

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

How beautiful. Thank you for sharing

Mary Sova
Mary Sova
5 years ago

We had an exchange student, Manfred. At Christmas, Manfred’s mother mailed Plaetzchen. They were utterly amazing and I wanted to eat the whole shipment. She sent a lot!! They were exquisitely beautiful and delicious. It inspired me to bake my own though the years.

ronaldoserio
ronaldoserio
5 years ago

Danke schoen !

Steve Powell
Steve Powell
5 years ago

From the West Coast of America, this does sound a lot like the Pfeffernuse we had a Christmas, except for the burning part. Similar tradition here are cookie decorating parties, where the kids vie with the grownups to see who can make the prettiest cookie with out eating them immediately.

Paul E Ramoni Jr
Paul E Ramoni Jr
5 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

Yes, the small round cookies with the white icing–that’s Pfeffernüsse–the only name I*ve known them by. My family is from the west coast, a small farming community south of the Bay Area. The dark color comes from using ”old honey”–it must be at least 1 year old. ”New” honey isn’t dark enough. The flavor is from toasted and finely ground almonds, with finely chopped citron and candied lemon peel. and the spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and allspice. The dough is kneaded two to three times a day for 3 days, then the leavening agent is added.

berlingrabers
5 years ago

My dad’s side of the family is from the Midwest (South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas) and I know them as Pfeffernuss in English too.

berlingrabers
5 years ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

Although now I’m trying to remember if I know them from that side of the family more or from my maternal grandmother, who was half Pennsylvania Dutch (i.e. not Dutch but German).

Paul E Ramoni Jr
Paul E Ramoni Jr
5 years ago

We make pfeffernuse [the receipe written by my late Father uses u not ü]. He was a baker and got the receipe from his first partner in business who was from Switzerland. We make them small, bite size–and they are addictive with coffee in the morning.

tohaklim
5 years ago

Ich finde die Lebkuhen besser, aber Ich kann sie nicht machen ;(

Lori
Lori
5 years ago

The ubiquitous holiday cookie in the US is the ‘cutout’–a sugar cookie made with various shapes of cookie cutters pressed into rolled dough. Often it’s the kids who decorate the baked cookies–usually overloaded with colorful frosting and encrusted with sugars and sprinkles. The adults in the room avoid these at all costs and reach for another rum ball…

berlingrabers
5 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

I’d say it’s close, but probably much more a kid thing to do.

billkamm
billkamm
5 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

my mom and now my wife make this sugar cookies every Christmas. It is very popular for kids to help. I’ve never heard of cookie baking parties here though although they might exist. I have a feeling they are probably just as common in the U.S. as in Germany. At least where I live in Pittsburgh, PA. We do have a large population of people with German ancestry here though.

marionhaftel
5 years ago

A way to say something pleasant about something you do not like without lying is to say they are “tasty” As in Ummm. These are tasty!” You are not saying what they taste like. You are Welcome!

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Guten Tag, Emanuel! Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas I enjoy the foods and the sights of the holiday and I especially enjoy reading your daily advent calendar posts. Love your blog, keep up the great work !!! :-)

Maria
Maria
5 years ago

Danke! Es war eine ganze schöne Nikolausüberraschung.

Niamhor
Niamhor
5 years ago

Well, if the Christmas, sorry, Holiday cookie has marzipan on it, what’s not to like?

Niamhor
Niamhor
5 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

I don’t “hate Christmas”. It’s just that Christians aren’t the only people who make cookies during the holidays, so “holiday cookies” seems more inclusive. I make it a practice not to hate anyone.

5 years ago

Beautiful video. I do not think I could get as far as the baking process, I would have eaten them all by then.

The commentary showed how pleasant the language can sound.
But it was a little depressing, showing me how little German I actually understand.

Brightstar
Brightstar
5 years ago
Reply to 

Your comment makes me feel more normal, thank you.