Grain-free Christmas: Butter Tarts and Cinnamon Stars

I love hearing Kevin talk about his childhood in Germany, especially the memories he has of Christmas. The traditions his family created during the holidays are so different from my own. The Christmas markets that one could visit for hours, visits from Christkind, children being kept from seeing the Christmas tree until the very last moment, it’s all so different, wonderful and magical.

Now that we have our own home together we get to combine our traditions into something that resonates with both of us. I share my stories, he shares his and we make new memories together.

One thing that we have always agreed on was the necessity to have Christmas goodies in the house. Germany has quite the selection of Christmas desserts I tell ya. From mandelspritzgebck to vanillekipferln, marzepan to dominosteine. They’re all so delicious and amazingly many of them are gluten-free, too!

When Divya from Divya Yadava Magazine invited me to share some of my favorite Christmas recipes in her Winter 2012 issue I thought making two recipes; one from my Canadian Christmas memories and the other from Kevin’s German Christmas traditions, would be a fun approach.

I chose to make butter tarts for the Canadian recipe, one of my all-time favorites as a child, and cinnamon stars for the German recipe – Kevin’s Mom always sends us a batch in the mail every year around this time!

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Grain-free Butter Tarts
Recipe type: Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Refined sugar-free, Yeast-free, Corn-free, Grain-free
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
Butter tarts are unique to Canada and a staple at every family function we have whether it be Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter or otherwise. Traditionally, butter tarts consist of pastry shells that are filled with a sweet mixture of butter (dairy), and brown sugar or corn syrup (refined sugar). Not so friendly for those with allergies!
  • ¼ cup coconut nectar, honey or raw agave
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons full-fat coconut milk
  • ¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. With a hand or stand mixer, combine flours, egg, coconut nectar, coconut oil and sea salt in a medium sized bowl. Continue to mix for 1 minute until mix is crumbly.
  3. Press dough into a non-stick, four dish, 4-inch tartlett pan.
  4. Place the pan in the fridge while you make the tart filling.
  5. Place coconut nectar, egg, coconut oil, coconut milk and vanilla in a small bowl. Whisk until all ingredients are combined.
  6. Divide raisins amongst the four tarts and pour prepared filling overtop.
  7. Place the tartlett pan in the 325F oven for a total of 30-35 minutes, until filling has set and edges are golden. After 10 minutes of being in the oven, cover the tarlett pan with loose fitting foil to avoid the edges from burning.
  8. Once complete, remove from the oven and allow to sit for 30 minutes before serving.
  9. Serve with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon.

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You’ll have to head on over to Divya Yadava Magazine (pg. 52) for the cinnamon star recipe!

What Christmas traditions do you and your loved ones share?

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  1. OMG cinnamon stars! They sound awesome because as you know, I’m a cinnamon-a-holic!! We have a recipe for Christmas cookies that came from one of my childhood’s friend’s mothers. She was of German heritage and she gave us this amazing Christmas cookie recipe that we’ve made every year for as long as I can remember. It’s kind of like gingerbread, but without molasses (more mild, but still spiced). I love it and the dough is even better than the baked cookies!

    • The Germans know where it’s at with their Christmas treats, right? I can’t believe how many amazing recipes Kevin’s Mom has under her sleeve. Having her over for Christmas is one of my favorite things ever! I know exactly which cookie you’re talking about, too. I’ll ask her for the recipe!

  2. These both sound amazing! I’m having company for dinner tonight and would love to make some treats. Unfortunately I can’t have eggs, have you tried any substitutes?
    Thanks for everything you do!

  3. You mention that traditional tarts with dairy, refined sugar and eggs are a problem for those with allergies-and rightly so- but tree nuts are also one of the top 8 allergens! So many healthy recipes use almonds in one way or another but for those of us with tree nut allergies we’re still out of luck. What do you recommend for a grain free crust that is also almond free? And by the way, butter tarts are one of my favorite Christmas memories;)

    • Hi Kika – I wish I could make all of my recipes 100% free of all allergens, that would be fantastic! I’ve had success in using seed flours in place of almond flour if the recipe isn’t 100% almond flour based. In the case of this recipe, because it’s combining almond and coconut flours, I bet you could get away with using ground sunflower seeds or sesame seeds. Hope that helps!

  4. Am I missing something – where is the recipe for the cinnamon stars? Would love to try it!!

  5. How exiting, I didn’t know Kevin was from Germany! Do you know what region? We have ZImtstern recipes as well in Switzerland, although they look slightly different. top left in the picture is the Swiss Cinnamom Star aka Zimtstern :)
    I am goijg to look the german version up, just wish I could take like all of December off to bake Christmas cookies. Time is so short, sigh

    • I sure do! He grew up in Nuremberg mostly, moved to Canada when he was a teenager, then moved back to Germany for work when he graduated. Your cinnamon stars look so similar. I love that they have icing on them, so cute. I could live on German baking, for real. I’d love to learn more about Swiss baking, sounds just as amazing. Thanks for sharing that picture, I especially like the Basler Brunsli recipe!

    • You know what, I didn’t think of using agar… I bet that would work! If you do give it a try, I’d love to know how it works for you.

  6. It’s fun to read about Kevin’s Christmas traditions, as I currently live in Germany! We’re headed to a Christmas market today, in fact. :)
    I’m so glad I clicked on the link to Divya’s magazine… It’s beautiful, with some great looking recipes!
    Keep up the good work, Leanne!

    • Oh I’m so glad! You have to check out the warmed wine. He talks about it ALL the time!

  7. Wow the pic those cinnamon stars gave me a major flashback moment. I remember when I was a little kid sitting in preschool and someone ran into me and we were both holding cookies in the shape of stars and ours hit the ground. When we got up we were so worried because we didn’t know who’s cookie was whose so we snapped each one in half and gave each other a half so we both had two halves of a different cookie. I have no idea why I remember that but that was definitely interesting how that brought that on. And I was like 3 or 4 when that happened so that is definitely odd that I remember that far back ha ha. Anyways, enough of my rambling, beautiful recipe and photographs as usual. Also do you know how long that crust will hold up for in the fridge once its made? Might make a few ahead of time to fill up later with something fun.

    • Cool memory, Joshua! What a great way to solve the conundrum. Awesome that this brought it on.

      You know, that’s a good question. I don’t see why you couldn’t just make the crust and freeze for later. Should be okay!

  8. Hi Leanne
    Those cinnamon stars were a great hit! What an easy, sweet biscuit recipe! They’ll definitely be a regular feature in the school lunch box this year. NB they also passed the freezer test (highly essential for my weekend baking!), although lost a little bit of their crunch (not that they’re overly crunchy to start with, but still delicious!). Thanks!

    • Hi Toni – so great that you enjoyed the cookies and that they store well in the freezer! Next time, if you want them a bit crunchy, just leave them in a cooled oven for awhile (with the door closed). They’ll crunch up in no time!

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