Bethmännchen are classic Christmas cookies from Frankfurt/Germany. The delicious cookies are not only very popular at Christmas time, but can also be found all year round in fine confectioneries. With this authentic recipe, you can bake the Hessian marzipan specialty at home with ease.
Origin of the Bethmännchen
The traditional pastry from Frankfurt was named after the influential Bethmann family. According to legend, the Parisian pastry chef Jean Jacques Gautenier, who was a chef in the house of banker and councilman Simon Moritz von Bethmann, created the delicious pastry in 1838.
Jean Jacques Gautenier had left Paris at the end of the 18th century and settled in Friedrichsdorf in the Taunus Mountains near Frankfurt before being hired as a chef by the prestigious Frankfurt banker. Gautenier shaped small balls from the heavy, sweet pastry for the Brenten, which were already considered a Frankfurt specialty at the time.
What does Bethmännchen mean in German
Bethke, Beth, Bethmann is the Low German short form for the given name Bertram (more rarely Bertold). Bethmännchen is kind of a nickname version of the name like you would use Johnny for John or Jenny for Jennifer.
How to pronounce Bethmännchen in German?
Marzipan is the superior form of almond paste and you will not be able to make authentic delicious Bethmännchen using commercially produced almond paste. It is best to use high-grade marzipan that you can order online or you can make your own marzipan way cheaper at home. With this easy recipe you can make your homemade marzipan in no time. Tip! Make a double batch and use it to bake some more German Christmas goodies like stollen or chocolate truffles.
Rosenwasser - Rose Water
Rose water for baking may sound unusual at first. Many of us know its use rather in cosmetics or as a room fragrance or perfume. But rose water gives also a distinctive note to the dishes when baking with the luxurious liquid.
In Germany you can buy rose water usually in pharmacies. In the United States you can find it in online shops or Moroccan delis. Alternatively you can use Amaretto. Not the original Bethmännchen classic but very tasty.
The delicious cookies are traditionally decorated with the halves of peeled almonds. Peeled almonds are usually more expensive than unpeeled almonds. But you can easily peel your almonds with very little effort at home. You can find directions to do so here: How to blanche and peel almonds.
To please the Bethmann family, he decorated the sweets with four almonds each, one for each of the four sons, Moritz, Karl, Alexander and Heinrich. When Heinrich died in 1845 at the age of 24, the "Bethmännchen" were decorated with only three almonds. The confectioners have not broken with this tradition to this day.
Authentic Frankfurt Bethmännchen Recipe (Original Rezept)
The perfect Christmas recipe for marzipan lovers. These delicious Frankfurt Bethmännchen taste like fresh from the Christmas market.
- 10 oz. marzipan paste
- ¾ cup ground almonds
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 4 tbsp. rose water
- 1 egg white
- 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour optional
- 120 peeled almond halves about 2.5-3 oz. whole almonds
- 1 tbsp. powdered sugar
- 4 tbsp. milk
- 1 egg yolk
- Knead marzipan paste with powdered sugar and ground almonds until well combined.
- Add rose water and egg white to the mixture and knead to a smooth consistency. If dough is to soft incorporate 1 tbsp. of flour.
- Roll the dough into 40 small balls and shape them carefully into the traditional cone shape.
- Brush the Bethmännchen with rose water and decorate them with three almonds halves.
- Traditionally the tip shows upwards. (see picture above)
- Allow the Bethmännchen to dry overnight in a cool space but not the refrigerator.
- Mix the powdered sugar, egg yolk and milk until smooth and brush the cookies carefully with the mixture.
- Bake on a with parchment lined baking sheet at about 350°F for 15 minutes or until the tops are lightly brown.
- Allow to cool completely and store in an airtight container.