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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Perfection Springerle Cookies
from House on the Hill
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.