In Germany when the first candle is lit on the Advent wreath is a signal that the plätzchen season may begin. For that reason I was invited to a hot chocolate and of course plätzchen tasting afternoon. When I entered Evelyn’s house I was immediately hit by the delicate fragrance of the cinnamon, clove, orange and ginger. However her cookie trays had already been loaded with different sort of plätzchen, Evelyn was still busy making more with full speed. Meanwhile we, others were having fun and also assisted for her in the kitchen, soon we realized that, that our conversation had diverted to old Christmases. So in this way I had learned that, that the plätzchen baking is such a big tradition in Germany and it creates a kind of competition between women. They want to know each year who can bake a superfine, delicious plätzchen in their neighborhood. And it’s also an excellent opportunity for sharing recipes, to reveal someone’s family secret etc.
The German word plätzchen originates from the Latin placental, means bread. The Germans took over this expression from the Romans, and in Germany still today all sort of bread which is made with yeast is called platz or with diminutive plätzchen.
In the 19th century in Germany, coffee and tea consumption with delicious, small cookies alongside were aproved by the church only on the red-letter’s day, otherwise during the year it was forbidden. Probably because they thought the high sugar content cakes didn’t make any good to people, but in wintertime, when it was very cold everyone needed calories so to consume the plätzchen was not a sin. Thus the cult had begun, baking cookies during Advent time, one month ahead of Christmas till Christmas Eve. Thanks to this tradition people found out many new recipes and in the course of the years the plätzchen had been enriched with new ingredients such as marzipan, chocolate, dried fruit, nuts, jam etc
About the origin of the biscuits: many early physicians believed that most medical problems were associated with digestion. Hence, for sustenance and health, eating a biscuit daily was considered good for one’s health. The bakers of the time made biscuits as hard as possible (so that it would stay intact for years if it was kept dry) as the biscuits would soften and be more palatable with time due to exposure to humidity and other weather elements.
To soften, it was often dunked in brine, coffee, wine or some other liquid or cooked into a skillet meal. For long voyages biscuits was baked four times, rather than the more common two, and prepared six months before sailing. The more refined so called Captain’s biscuit or English biscuit was made with finer flour and it was slightly sweetened but didn’t contain chocolate, or seeds than the plätzchen. In the 19th century a German business man was so fancied with the idea that he copied the English model and began to manufacture the biscuit on the German name “keks“.