Honey Zimsterne “Star” Cookies


Holiday zimsterne cookiesFood pathways show the influence on recipes from region to region and neighbor to neighbor. In Germany, a recipe for gingerbread men was adapted and adopted by Eastern European Jews to make Zimsterne, or “star” cookies to be served at the end of Shabbat after Havdalah services. Containing the spices found in the Bisomim box used during the close of Shabbat service, the symbolism was to take the sweetness of Shabbat with you into the coming week.

With the holiday season coming up and relatives visiting, this cookie is the perfect bridge between Jewish tradition and Christmas cookie baking. Everyone will enjoy the treat and you can share two celebrations with all family members at one time. Best of all, everyone can help make these soft spice cookies or, you can make them in advance. They keep very well in an airtight container and their flavor gets better, as all spice cookies do, with age.

Happy holidays!




Zimsterne Cookies

Makes 4 or more dozen depending on size of cookie


ingredients4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup honey

5 cups all purpose flour

3/4 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. ground cloves

½ tsp. ground ginger

Confectioner’s sugar for rolling out dough

Decorative Icing:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

¼ teaspoon vanilla

1-2 Tbsp. milk


1.   Cream the butter and the sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until mixture gets lighter in color. Beat in the honey.

2.  Combine the baking soda and spices with 1 cup of the flour. Set aside.

3.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the remaining 4 cups of flour, mixing well to form a thick dough. If your mixer is powerful, use it to add the reserved cup of flour and spices until well combined. If not, stir the remaining flour into the dough by hand. Make sure that the mixture is thoroughly combined.

4.  Pat dough into a flat round and place in a plastic storage bag or airtight container. Seal and store in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until firm and easy to handle.

Cutting cookies

star cookie cutter5.  Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly dust a pastry board with some confectioner’s sugar. Roll the dough out on the board to ¼ inch thickness.

6.  Cut the dough into star shapes using a cookie cutter, and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool for 5-10 minutes while you make the icing.


To make the icing:

How to make icing

1.  Place the cup of confectioner’s sugar in a 1-quart mixing bowl. Whisk in the vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the milk until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, whisk in some more milk until the mixture resembles mayonnaise in consistency.

Iced zimsterne cookies2.  Using a pastry brush, brush the icing over the tops of the warm cookies and let sit at room temperature until the cookies are cool and the icing is dry and no longer sticky. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, or freeze until later use.

Tina’s Tidbits:

  • Children love to cut out cookies and transfer them to the cookie sheet. A trick to prevent the dough from dragging on the spatula and losing its shape is to rub a scrap of dough on the spatula and then dip the spatula in some of the confectioner’s sugar before you transfer the cookie onto the baking sheet.


  • Using a rolling pin is often challenging for young hands. However, rolling pin bands of varying thickness are sold that fit on the ends of the rolling pin to ensure the dough isn’t rolled unevenly.



It’s Not a Dilemma When it Comes to December Dinners


Sweet potato latkes

Growing up, latkes were always the purview of my dad and my grandma, but now that they’ve both passed away, the baton has been passed to me. Their latkes were the totally traditional, no frills, hand-grated style and they were served alongside my mom’s Corn Flake Chicken, a family friend’s homemade applesauce and my Great Aunt Shirley’s sweet and sour meatballs at our annual family and friends Hanukkah party.

The times have changed, however, and now our family is more spread out with the grandparents retired to Florida and siblings and cousins flung far and wide. While we’ll be celebrating Hanukkah in our house, we’ll also be traveling to Connecticut for Christmas with my sister-in-law, her husband, my nephew and their three fat cats. My in-laws will be up from Florida as well, and this is our only opportunity to celebrate any of the December holidays together, so, we’re doing it all at once!

For some families this is a time of tension, figuring out how to combine multiple faith traditions, but I think when it comes to food, eating together can only bring us together. I love traditional Jewish food, and will make my family’s latkes at some point during the holiday, but for our Hanukkah/Christmas in Connecticut, I’ll be bringing along these delicious baked sweet potato latkes which you need no prior latke-making experience to perfect!

Uncooked latkes

Latkes can get baked as easily as fried

At Hanukkah we usually eat foods that are fried—in memory of the oil that lasted for eight days—which is why latkes and sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts) are often on the menu, but, when you’re cooking in someone else’s house, you might want to steer clear from the frying, lest you leave their whole house smelling of latkes until New Year’s. This recipe is really the best of both worlds, as it employs oil in the recipe, but they are not deep fried. They still come out incredibly crispy thanks to the finely-grated potatoes and onions and the help of the baking powder.

This recipe is incredibly versatile and once you learn the technique you can tweak it to include the spices you like the most. It pairs well with chicken, beef or fish, or could be served as an appetizer, topped with crème fraiche or a mango chutney. While my dad and grandma may have disapproved, I really need to take the help wherever I can get it during busy holiday dinners, so I’ll be taking advantage of my food processor when preparing these. Another tool that is a huge help in this recipe is a microplane to grate the fresh ginger.

Perfectly Crisp Baked Sweet Potato Latkes

Latke ingredientsIngredients
Makes about 12 latkes

  • 2 cups grated sweet potato
  • ½ cup grated onion
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • ½ tsp. ginger powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder



Step by step
Fresh ginger, grated sweet potato and grated, strained onion
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Peel and grate sweet potatoes (easiest to use grating disk on food processor, then squeeze out any liquid)
  3. Grate onion (using grating disk on food processor, then drain in fine mesh strainer, pushing liquid through with a spatula)
Mixed ingredients

Mix all of your bright ingredients together

4.    Combine all ingredients
5.    Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, form patties, place on greased cookie sheet, flatten down patties with a fork in a criss-cross pattern. (Alternatively, you could cook this as one LARGE pancake in a cast iron pan or a pie pan, and then cut it in slices to serve.)
6.    Bake for 25 minutes, flip and bake for 15 more minutes until crisp and slightly brown

Wishing you all the best as you celebrate this joyous time of year with your family or friends! Let us know how the cooking goes in the comments section below and for more Hanukkah recipes, click here.

Here are some links to my favorite products to use in this recipe, which could also be great holiday gifts for the foodie on your list:








Sarah Ruderman WilenskySarah Ruderman Wilensky is the founder of JewFood through which she teachers about Jewish values, culture, history and holidays through cooking and eating, because–what’s more Jewish than food? Sarah has been in the field of Jewish Education for over a decade, with experience in synagogues, camps and universities and currently works as the Jewish Educator at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Boston. Sarah has an undergraduate degree from Muhlenberg College in Theater Arts and studied in the MARE program at Hebrew Union College in New York.  She is also a StorahTelling trained Educator, has been a member of the National Association of Temple Educators, Hazon’s Jewish Food Educators Network and CJP’s Families with Young Children Community of Practice. Sarah lives near Boston with her husband, two young children and cat, Brisket.