Vanilla Sticks

Gluten Free Christmas Cookies - Vanilla Sticks

While whipping up a batch of pecan Mexican wedding cookies last weekend, Michael and I were both reminded of the holiday treats we’d bake with our grandmothers as children. As kids, we both preferred anything sugary, sprinkled or iced, but this year, our rediscovery of certain nut-based cookies (sometimes with that glorious icing) has us beaming with holiday cheer. As I recounted these holiday baking memories with my mother, she reminded me of a family recipe she loved baking as a young girl with her grandmother – vanilla sticks.

While they may not win any awards for the best looking holiday treats, these chewy almond cookies are so good and dangerously easy to make. The meringue icing adds a sweet crunchiness, and could definitely be used on any number of cookie bases, and the fact that they’re gluten free is just another bonus, making them a fantastic cookie to add to your holiday repertoire if you’re baking for a wide array of friends. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do did!

Vanilla Sticks

1 lb. shelled almonds
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 egg whites
1 lb. powdered sugar, plus more for rolling
small handful of flour (gluten-free or all-purpose) for rolling

Grind almonds to a fine consistency using a food processor and set aside. Beat egg whites on high to a stiff froth, about 10 minutes. Add powdered sugar and vanilla to the egg whites and beat for another 15 minutes on medium-high. Set half of this sugar-egg mixture aside and mix the other half with the ground almonds, rolling out on a flour-powdered sugar mixture. Cut dough into 1″x3″ strips and lay on a greased cookie sheet. Ice each strip with the sugar-egg mixture and bake at 325 for 12-15 minutes.

If you’re really wanting to treat yourself, enjoy these with a holiday milk punch – it’s what we refer to as grown-up milk & cookies! Adulthood, for the win.

Gluten Free Christmas Cookies - Vanilla Sticks

Gluten Free Christmas Cookies - Vanilla Sticks

Gluten Free Christmas Cookies - Vanilla Sticks

Gluten Free Christmas Cookies - Vanilla Sticks

All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.

29 thoughts on “Vanilla Sticks

  1. Do you know the history behind this recipe? We have a very similar recipe in my family. A (now closed) German bakery in Columbus, Ohio used to make these, the 70+ yr old owner said it was her mother’s recipe, making it come from around the 30’s or 40’s. A “lost recipe” article in one of the America’s Test Kitchen franchise publications was asking for the recipe, saying they grew up eating these “holiday cookies” in the 50’s. A few old newspaper articles, all from Ohio in the 1940’s-1960’s list these cookies as being from German grandmothers/neighbors. None of my German acquaintances have ever heard of anything like this in Germany. I’m very interested in the origin of these as it seems to be such a rare recipe. Your site is one of two that I have found any mention of these wonderful little cookies.

    1. We’re a bakery in Columbus Ohio! The Original Goodie Shop! And we still make these. I was trying to look up the history of them and came across your post.

    2. I’m in Columbus, Ohio (12/19/22) and just stopped by Resch’s Bakery on Livingston Avenue, Whitehall, Ohio. They have the most delicious vanilla sticks that I have ever tasted. Just awesome. They may be very similar to the cookies you had as a child.

    3. Both of my grandmothers were german. My paternal grandmother was 1st generation american. They both made these cookies at Christmas.

  2. We are also from columbus. Reisches bakery had them! My brother would crawl through broken glass for a dozen!

    1. Originally from Columbus as well. My mother used to get them in the 60s/70s from Resch’s in German Village before her passing. They made German, French and European pastries. So this recipe could be from one of the three. They sold the business to Thurns and Planks family on S High Street ran it until they sold it out to a another bakery. It was close to the book loft. Resch’s was the best bakery ever. There’s one on Livingston Avenue, not sure if they have them or if its the original owner (family). The address is 4061 E Livingston Ave Columbus, OH 43227. Either in Whitehall or close to it. Its in a little strip mall. I always got Resch’s bakery mixed up with another one on 4th Street (I think Juergens). Hopefully some of the info will help, we used to live about 10 min away from it and would go there after Church (St Mary’s)

    2. They still sell them. I live in Columbus and my relatives lived in German Village. My grandfather then my Mother made beautiful Vanilla Sticks. I am continuing the tradition, but mine aren’t nearly as nice as my Mother’s.

    3. My father in law who is now in his late 70s is also from Columbus OHIO and these are a recipe passed down through his family from his mother. We make them every year…they are amazing. I do feel like I’m cheating when I make them because my husbands grandmother used to crack and grind each almond by hand and I just buy a bag of ground almonds.

  3. What a wonderful back story on these cookies! I, too, am from Columbus and grew up in the 50s enjoying these cookies and Reische’s Bakery treats. I’ve lived in Oregon in for decades and came upon this site and was looking for clarification on my mother’s recipe card. I plan to make these tomorrow with my grandson who carries the baking tradition in my family.

  4. I have been attempting to master this recipe for 4 years now. I always fail. I cannot get the dough to the right consistency to roll out and cut well. While they always taste great, they look like terrible blobs of mis-shapen cookies.

    1. I had the same problem for years. Make sure your eggs are room temperature and your mixing bowl too. When rolling the dough make sure when rolling the dough they are only 1/4 of and inch thick and no more than 2 inches in length. I also beat my egg whites for 15 minutes before adding my nuts. Cook in a slow oven at 300. See if that helps.

  5. There are many mentions of Columbus, Ohio above. My grandmother lived there for many years (including the 1930’s through 1950’s. She would send vanilla sticks to us when I was a boy in the 1940’s. My wife has had extreme problems attempting to make these. Perhaps she will be able to have greater success after reading this article. I am curious as to whether any of those who posted above remember Edna (Pugh) Fancher or Fancher’s Drug store in Columbus. I suspect that my grandmother had some German heritage.

  6. Taught by my grandmother in law from Columbus Ohio you can’t make on a rainy day or your frosting will not puff properly.

    1. If that is true, Jubal, then you can’t make them in Columbus. It seems like it is always a rainy day here.That probably explains a lot! It is fun reading every ones comments. These are a favorite of mine as well–puffy or not.

  7. To you all, My Grandmother living in Columbus made them and my Mother made them to perfection. My Mom just passed away at 98 and she used to hide them before Christmas but my brother and I used to find them, we would search the WHOLE house. What a wonderful set of memories to you all!

  8. My mother used to make these and got the recipe from her mother who was of German decent. She was from Dayton but they did live in the Columbus area in the mid 30’s to mid 40’s. There is nobody left who can tell me the origin of the recipe but I used to love these! My mom would add a drop of green food coloring to the ‘frosting’ to make them more ‘Christmas’y.

  9. I’m from Columbus Ohio. I’ve been making these for almost 20 years. My mother-in-law made them from her mother-in-law’s recipe We never tweeted the recipe, but we rolled out the dough, cut sticks with a pizza cutter then iced them with a pastry bag.

  10. My mother, who is of German decent and grew up in German Village, Columbus, Ohio made these every Christmas. I also grew up in the mid 50s in Columbus. Thanks for the helpful hints, Gretchen. I’ll remember room temp eggs and beating 15 minutes!!!

  11. I grew up in Cincinnati and my mom (who was of German decent) made these along with another German cookie she called Cinnamon Stars. These were star cutouts with the same meringue type topping. Great memories!

  12. Never have made these but remember them from growing up in Columbus and living just blocks away from Resch’s Bakery. My family would get our special occasion cakes there. Dad would stop after work when Mom made spaghetti for dinner and get their Italian rolls. Their best sweet treat was the grandma roll – like a cinnamon roll.
    My sister worked at Resch’s during her high school years and would bring home leftover goodies. I was so jealous because by then I was away attending college.

  13. Wonderful to read of all those who grew up in Columbus! I had never been to any of the bakeries named here but the first time I tasted these was from The Ohio State School of the Deaf cookie exchange. My mother was second shift head nurse at the hospital and would bring home some of the items she liked from their bakery or kitchen. That would have been the 1960’s. An aside is a relative, named Christian Heyl, was an original founder of Franklinton, which I believe, was around German Village. He owned a stage coach stop, bar, restaurant and hotel combo. Franklinton was later incorporated into Columbus but certainly placed Christian near German Village. Heyl Ave. is named for his family and the area where my father grew up. Lot of history in Columbus!

  14. The Vanilla Stick recipe may have originally come from a village near Dresden, Germany. Many German immigrants sailed to America in the early 1900’s from that area and settled in German Village. I could not find any reference to the recipe in old German cookbooks at the Bexley library. Springerle and vanilla sticks should not be made on a humid day because the whipped egg whites will not dry properly.

  15. I grew up in Columbus, Ohio in German Village and our neighbor used to make these. This was when i was in 1st grade to the 8th grade, Miss Rost was a retired telephone operator {the old old manual switch board kind where you had to actually plug one phone line into the phone number the person was calling}. I don’t know when she retired but when she made these wonderful cookies for me it was from 1950-1958.

  16. I live in Atlanta, but grew up in Columbus. My mom made these every Christmas. I’ve made them, but the dough is really sticky and hard to roll out. We always ground our almonds, but I was wondering if almond flour would work?

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