For as long as I can remember, these cookies have been a Christmas tradition in my family. My grandfather would make them and send them down to us every year. Eventually, my dad took over the tradition; pressing the cookies on the antique cast iron press which had been hand-made for his grandmother in Germany. It was one of the items she brought with her when they immigrated to the United States and it has been passed down through the generations, along with the hand-written recipe. Throughout my childhood, the smell of cinnamon and butter warming the air has always signaled that Christmas is coming.
When my dad passed away, my brother and I kept the tradition alive, making the batter and pressing the cookies the same way, three cookies at a time, over an open flame. We would work hard to make enough to send around to family and friends who had loved the cookies over the years, but it was always a challenge to make enough to go around.
I had always enjoyed sharing them with my close friends, and all those who tried the cookies had loved them. The dense waffle cookies have a unique texture that offers both a crunch and softness that cannot be found anywhere else. Year after year the holiday demand from family and friends gradually increased and in 2019 I decided to put my engineering background to work and started developing way to make them more efficiently without sacrificing any of the authenticity.
As this personal engineering project progressed, I became more and more intrigued with the origin of this family tradition. With some internet sleuthing and a German friend, I was able to narrow down the region in Germany where they originated. I learned they are indeed an old Christmas tradition, and can sometimes be found in the local Christmas Markets – I wanted to see for myself. So, in December of 2019, my now-fiancé and I packed our bags and headed for Germany. We visited 24 Christmas markets in 9 days, circling the region, scouring markets in small, sleepy villages and large cities alike for the zimtwafflen (cinnamon waffles). It was on day three when we finally found them and learned just how regional they are. It’s almost impossible to find them outside of the state of Saarland at Christmas – but I’m working to fix that.
I believe they’re too good to stay only a Saarland Christmas cookie, and instead should be enjoyed far and wide, any day of the year. With coffee in the morning or tea in the afternoon; pack them for a quick bite on a hike or stash them in your car for an on-the-go snack. However you choose to enjoy them, I hope they bring you a little bit of joy, year round.