Christmas cookies from the Black Forest Inn


December is here, and that means holiday treats. As a society, food is as traditional as it comes, provoking the digital onslaught of latke recipes, how to cook a turkey in 2,341 different ways, and of course, holiday cookies. Being a traditionalist, I bake the same cookies my mother baked, many (if not all) of which came from my great-grandmother, all of which are published in Festive Foods from the Milwaukee Gas Light Company (where my great-grandmother worked in their test kitchen). I'm not sure peanut butter blossoms and Mexican Christmas cookies speak true to our German heritage, but the cookies I was gifted by the kind folks at Black Forest Inn certainly do.


I love trying the traditional foods surrounding holidays, and these cookies were overflowing with authenticity. The Mixed Dozen Plus box ($15) that I received was filled with cookies of all sorts, half of which speak to the authentic spicy and coffee-ready German tradition, others to please the Americanized palate that prefers a cookie more buttery and chewy.

The traditional cookies options are comprised of lebkuchen, pfeffernuss, springerle, and linzer. Lebkuchen, or life bread, is a dense and spicy bar, from which today's gingerbread can trace its roots. Dusted with powdered sugar and dipped in chocolate with a mild sweetness, any left over would easily double as an on-the-go breakfast. I think pfeffernuss are the basis for the phrase "one tough cookie." "Aged" to perfection, these cookies are meant to last, and they go perfectly with an after-meal cup of coffee. The linzer was the most American-friendly, with a chewy texture and sweet raspberry jam flowing through the basket weave. The spingerle is what one could consider an acquired taste, but they complete the plate with their decorative face made from traditional molds. How can you not love this pig surrounded by sausages?

The "Americanized" cookies (or Holiday Favorite, as the Black Forest Inn calls them) are a bit more friendly for the kids, with a black-and-white holiday spritz that sang with dark chocolate (black) and almond (white) notes. Ginger thins and sugar cookies are perfect for the kids and adults with a sweet tooth, and the Russian tea cakes are traditional in their own way. The marzipan orange was a cute (and flavorful) touch, but without additional pieces shaped like lemons and pears, it took prior knowledge to recognize the little orange-colored orb as a miniature piece of fruit.


The Mixed Dozen Plus, and individual dozens of holiday cookies, are available through the rest of the holiday season at the Black Forest Inn. Call ahead to assure access to your favorite German holiday treats.