springerle cookies: lasting impressions

January 15th, 2012 § 7

Just before Christmas, I stumbled across a Springerle cookie recipe, and was immediately drawn to this fascinating and intricate edible art. Using a mould or rolling pin, these edible confections have been made for hundreds of years and have a fascinating history. Historians have traced the origin of Springerle cookies back to an pagan German festival called Julfest, celebrated in midwinter. Part of the festival included sacrificing animals to the gods in the hope of a short winter and early spring. Those who could not afford to do so gave tokens in the forms of breads and cookies shaped like animals. The tradition survived over time and Springerle cookies are often seen at Christmas time.

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Anise oil gives these cookies incredible flavour.

The variety of stories you can find depicted in Springerle moulds is truly fascinating. Dating back as far as the 14th century, you can see family histories, biblical scenes, stories from daily life as well as holidays like Christmas. By the 18th and 19th centuries, these cookies were used as birth and wedding announcements, to mark important holidays, to send messages of love, and even depicted news of the day and political satire.

cookiemolds.wordpress.com

This historical Springerle carving shows Bishops suggestive of Saint Nicholas using a donkey to carry apples that were given out to children (the jester). Source: cookiemolds.wordpress.com

The "Show Stopper" rolling pin from House on the Hill.

The "Show Stopper" rolling pin from House on the Hill.

A couple things to note here for best results. If you can get your hands on baker’s ammonia, (baking powder will work if you can’t), it will help give you a more defined cookie impression and will also help make very light cookies. I used cake flour and baker’s ammonia, and was surprised at the amazingly light texture of the cookie.

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Another trick is to make sure that the dough is of a very even thickness before pressing the mould onto the dough. When making the impression, you need very even pressure, and a steady speed of motion as you roll. House on the Hill has a great primer video for these cookies.

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House on The Hill is a great resource for Springerle moulds or rolling pins, and they carry everything else you need to make these cookies. They are actually quite simple to make, it just takes a careful hand and a little practice. Not only are these cookies incredibly beautiful, they are like a delicious piece of history, just waiting to be eaten.

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Perfection Springerle Cookies

from House on the Hill

  • 1/2 teaspoon baker’s ammonia (Hartshorn) or baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 6 cups powdered sugar (1 – 1 1/2 #)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened but not melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of anise (if substituting fruit flavored oils, use 3 teaspoons)
  • 2 lb. box sifted cake flour (Swansdown or Softasilk)
  • grated rind of orange or lemon – optional (enhances flavor of the traditional anise or the citrus flavors)
  • more flour as needed

Dissolve hartshorn in milk and set aside. Beat eggs till thick and lemon-colored (10-20 minutes). Slowly beat in the powdered sugar, then the softened butter. Add the hartshorn and milk, salt, preferred flavoring, and grated rind of lemon or orange, if desired. Gradually beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer, then stir in the remainder of the 2 lbs. of flour to make stiff dough. Turn onto floured surface and knead in enough flour to make a good print without sticking. Follow general directions for imprinting and drying cookies.

Bake on greased or baker’s parchment-lined cookie sheets at 255° to 325° till barely golden on the bottom, 10-15 minutes or more, depending on size of cookie.

Store in airtight containers or in zipper bags in the freezer. They keep for months, and improve with age. Yield 3 to 12 dozen.

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§ 7 Responses to “springerle cookies: lasting impressions”

  • My mother used to make these with the molds. I like them when they get a touch brown. Absolutely gorgeous photos!! (And clever use of the anise oil)

  • Wow, those are real show stoppers. Just stunning. And a fun food lesson to boot.

  • Michael says:

    great memories! I recall seeing those moulds in my grandmother’s kitchen. I never was a fan of the cookies though, I did not (still don’t) like the anise taste!

  • Rob says:

    Hey Laura & Michael – It’s cool to hear your mom and grandmother made these. I was not sure what to expect of the cookie, but the texture is great! There are lots of other flavours that can be used if you don’t like anise. Cinnamon is common as are lemon and orange. I even ordered wintergreen, but I’m not sure I’m daring enough to try that one.

  • Victor says:

    Wow – those cookies are so gorgeous!

    I made Springerle, or a similar cookie, according to a recipe from the Joy of Cooking back when I was in highschool. I didn’t have those kinds of moulds, and actually it was liquid dough based on a lot of egg yolks, so they were very plain looking or even ugly. I also wasn’t ready to admit to myself that I didn’t particularly like the anise flavour. I like the idea of using lemon, cinnamon, or other flavours. I’ve also been intrigued by those various German cookie recipes that call for ammonia. You mention these cookies are very light. Otherwise how is the texture: hard? soft? crumbly? I imagine something like social tea biscuits?

  • Victor says:

    (PS, is your blog’s time-stamp an hour off or is that something on my end?)

  • Rob says:

    Victor, the texture is indeed surprising. Before you bake the cookie, you let it dry for 24 hours to ensure better detail on the design on top. This makes the outside a little more firm. But the inside was more moist than I expected, not dry at all. The cookie had risen quite a bit making it feel light. It was a little like the firm part a meringue on the inside. Quite interesting. BTW, do not smell the baker’s ammonia. It’s the real thing and could knock you off your feet if you get too good a whiff.