As the holiday season warms up, North by Northwest is sharing a sweet holiday recipe and story from one of the show's favourite guests — Chef Marco Ropke, proprietor of the Pastry Training Centre of Vancouver.

In turn, Sheryl MacKay and the team at North by Northwest hope listeners will share their favourite holiday recipes with the show and other listners as well.

"We understand, and hope you do too, that many of these recipes are old family favourites, and they have original instructions that are not as detailed as cookbooks are today," said MacKay.

"But that's half the fun, immersing yourself in a recipe that has been made for generations, with lots of love, patience, ingenuity and possibly a bit of adlibbing."

Each week North by Northwest will compile the received recipes, and create another "chapter" of the Sweet Recipe Exchange, which will be offered to listeners.

Since this is a recipe exchange, listeners are asked to check their recipes for any typos and to make sure the ingredients and instructions are as accurate as possible, so others can recreate the recipe and enjoy it. 

Listeners can email their recipes and stories to nxnw@cbc.ca before midnight on Dec. 13. Please include the origin of the recipe if you know that as well.

Everyone who sends a recipe will be put into a contest to win new cookbooks.

Here is a recipe from the first chapter of the North by Northwest Sweet Recipe Exchange, from Chef Marco Ropke, proprietor of the Pastry Training Centre of Vancouver

Cinnamon Stars (Zimt Sterne)

Chef Ropke's story:

I think cinnamon stars must be one of the most famous traditional Christmas cookies in my native Germany. Same as most other families, one would have very fond memories of the Christmas season as a child as these seasonal cookies would be all about the scent of the spices, the usage of marzipan (almond paste) and all the beautiful nuts and almonds which would be in season. Once the aroma of roasted nuts and spices where wafting out of the kitchen windows we would know Christmas Eve would not be far off. For me personally, it would also mean endless hours helping out in the family Pastry Shop just on the outskirts of the Hamburg city line. Not a dozen, not hundreds, but thousands of these little cinnamon stars would be produced during November and December, without any fancy machines, all hand-crafted and cut out individually.

Eventually I left Hamburg and became a traveling Pastry Chef working in some of the top hotels in the world. After more than thirty years in pastry kitchens, I can`t even imagine how many cinnamon stars I have produced in my life. But I still look forward to enjoying them every year - luckily these days I only need a few dozen for friends and family!

Ingredients: 

Yield about 24 pieces:

  • 250 g marzipan (of the best quality, should consist of at least 60% almonds)
  • 40 g ground almonds
  • 10 g organic cake and pastry flour
  • 5 g cinnamon powder
  • 1 pc (30 g) egg white
  • 200 g icing sugar (approx.)
Method: 

Knead all together the marzipan, almond powder, cake flour and the cinnamon powder.  Roll out this dough until approx. 1 cm thick. Combine the icing sugar and the egg white together until it resembles a spreadable royal icing, this topping should be neither too dry (no shine) or too runny (too messy), adjust the consistency as you see fit with either more icing sugar or egg white.  Spread the icing thinly over the rolled out marzipan dough. Using a star shaped cutter (or round cutter to cut out half-moons), cut out the cinnamon stars and place them on a baking pan. It is common in Germany to purchase cinnamon star cookie cutters, which is a star shaped cutter which can be pulled apart for easy removal of the cookie. Without the proper cutter it can be a lttle bit tricky to ply the cookie out of the cutter, but dipping the cutter in cold water prior to cutting, should facilitate the removal and speedy cutting of the cookies. Bake the cinnamon stars at very low heat (300 F) for only about 7 – 9 min, no color on the top just a bit of drying of the icing and a slight firming of of the cookie edges.