Heidesand or heath sand cookies are traditional German shortcrust cookies rolled in sugar, sliced, and baked. Really simple but really good.
Heidesand cookies were probably the first cookies I had many years ago when I first came to Germany and had my first Christmas here. My husband’s grandmother, who still lived in the house, used to make lots of different but all very traditional German Cookies every December. She would pack them in tins and keep them all through the holiday season; we would still get to eat some in January.
Why will you love this recipe?
- Traditional: You will get a taste of Germany, a country famous for its baked goods. And while you’re at it, try the Black Forest Cake as well; it can hardly get more German than that when it comes to baking.
- Original: Just the way Oma used to make Heidesand cookies.
- Easy: Stir a few ingredients, slice, and bake.
What do you need?
- Butter: use unsalted butter.
- All-purpose flour: make sure you measure it correctly.
- Sugar: Two kinds of sugar: icing sugar for the dough and granulated sugar for the coating. You can sub the granulated sugar with pearl sugar if you can get it.
- Marzipan paste: a small amount, about the size of a walnut. I love the flavor they add to the heidesand cookies. And not only taste, but it also makes the dough stable and easier to work with.
- Vanilla: Typically, you would use vanilla sugar, which is very common in Germany, it comes in small packets, and it costs almost nothing. However, if it’s not available where you live, replace it with ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.
- Lemon: You will need some of the zest for flavoring the dough. Make sure you use an organic, unwaxed, and well-washed lemon.
How to make the cookies?
- Dough: Beat soft butter, icing sugar, grated marzipan, vanilla sugar or extract, and lemon zest until creamy (1,2).
- Sieve the flour over the mixture and combine (3).
- Roll: Form a long pastry roll, about 4 cm/ 1.6 inch thick. Halve the roll, wrap each half in plastic foil and refrigerate for several hours or overnight (4).
- Preheat the oven before you start slicing the heidesand cookies. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Coat: Beat the egg yolk in a small bowl. Place the sugar on a small plate. Brush the dough rolls with the egg yolk (5) and turn them into granulated sugar to coat all over (6).
- Slice into 0.2 inch/ ½ cm pieces. Place on the prepared baking tray (7).
- Bake for about 10-15 minutes until the cookies are golden (8).
Expert Tips and FAQ
Best tip: Baking is a science, and it requires precise measurements. Measuring by volume can produce such different results, especially when it comes to flour and butter. And if you use those inaccurate amounts, you’re more likely to get inaccurate results. A kitchen scale will give you the most precise measure ensuring the best bake possible (Amazon affiliate link).
Shape: The dough rolls will flatten slightly while they rest in the refrigerator. To help them be as round as possible, roll them carefully on the working surface again before unwrapping them. Don’t press them too much; just do it gently to help them get in shape again.
Vanilla sugar: You can also make vanilla sugar yourself; read the instructions found in this post for Vanillekipferl Cookies.
Many Heidesand recipes use brown butter. Of course, the cookies will be delicious, but I prefer this version. I think the flavor is better and making the cookies is less of a hassle if you don’t have to brown the butter.
You can make the dough 2-3 days in advance and keep it well wrapped in the fridge.
The German Heidesand cookies themselves can be made in advance as well; they will keep well for at least a week.
Room temperature: Keep in airtight containers (cookie tins). As mentioned above, they will keep for at least one week.
Freezer: You can also freeze them for 3-6 months, but I never bothered. This is a relatively small batch, and they will be gone before you know it.
More traditional German cookie recipes:
- German Butter Cookies
- German Hazelnut Macaroons
- Classic Thumbprint Cookies
- Double Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
- Coconut Cookie Recipe
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German Heidesand Cookies
- 100 g soft unsalted butter 3.5 oz/ scant ½ cup (Note 1)
- 50 g icing sugar 1.7 oz/ ½ cup
- 25 g marzipan paste 0.8 oz/ ¼ cup (grated and loosely packed)
- 1 sachet vanilla sugar or 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (Note 2)
- 1 organic lemon only the zest
- 125 g all-purpose flour 4.4 oz/ 1 cup
- 1 egg yolk
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Pastry: Mix the soft butter, icing sugar, grated marzipan paste, vanilla sugar, or extract and grated lemon zest using a handheld mixer. The mixture should get creamy. Sieve the flour over this mixture and incorporate it. Form a long pastry roll, about 4 cm/ 1.6 inch thick. Halve the roll, wrap each half in plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius/ 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
- Cut cookies: Whisk the egg yolk with a fork and brush the pastry rolls all over. Place the granulated sugar on a plate and toss the roll to coat in sugar. Cut the rolls into ½ cm/ 0.2 inch slices. Place the pastry slices on the prepared baking trays.
- Bake for about 10-15 minutes until the cookies are golden.
- Always use a digital kitchen scale in baking; it ensures the best results (Amazon affiliate link).
- Typically you would use vanilla sugar, which is very common in Germany. However, if it’s not available where you live, replace it with ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.