Hallo Deutschland / Welcome to Germany!

Today’s recipe: German Christmas cookies / Vanilla crescents / Vanillenkipferl
A photo of a plate of German Christmas cookies.

Today I send you greetings from Germany where I will be spending the next 5 weeks and where I hope (WILL) to catch up on this blog. The last couple of months have been so hectic and I have neglected my beloved blog something terrible. But all that is bad history and the future holds all things good – including German Christmas cookies/biscuits. My mother-in-law makes 10 to 20 different types each year and each one is a little masterpiece.

As always, the recipe is to be found at the end of this post, BUT WAIT! All types of exciting things may (or may not) happen on the way there, so stick with me and you’ll soon be laughing (or crying…). Sunday we drove 1300km all the way from France to Germany in 14 hours with our 2 cats in the car with us. Man, was I glad to finally get to my in-laws. This year the cats were a dream compared to the nightmare of last year…

We somehow always manage to set off in the pouring rain – I can manage to do this in the Sahara – but it is something I don’t recommend you try to emulate. Trying to get the car loaded up with clothes for a year (one never knows what might happen and so I always pack about 11 months more clothing than I actually need), presents, groceries (one never knows if the shops will actually have foodstuff tomorrow so I always pack more than I, or some third world countries, will need in 11 months) and toiletries (one never knows…) – get the message? And then there are 2 rather unwilling cats that need to be caught and dragged, scratching and indignant, into the car.

Minutes after setting off last year, Buddha decided to use the kitty litter tray which is placed between Joerg and me in the front of the car. He made the biggest pile of diarrhea (sorry folks for all the sharing) I have ever seen, and also the smelliest pile I have ever had the misfortune of bearing witness to. Then I remembered that the little bags were at the back of the car…I did have a piece of paper towel though so I made a brave grab for the offending mess and tried to throw it out of the window before it ran down my arm. My success rate was about 65%...

Shortly thereafter, I took a turn at the wheel and both cats decided to help with the driving. There being precious little space between me and the wheel, we immediately ran into a space problem which the cats/tigers decided to sort out with a bit of aggression. Driving rain, oodles of disco traffic (the all-nighters were all liquored up and in a serious rush to get home before anyone noticed that it was 5am) and two screaming cats. And 13 ½ hours to Germany…

A photo of our cat Puss Puss.

After about an hour of crying – Puss Puss is a Siamese and cries like a baby – they both decided that the purpose of our trip was not certain death, so they lay down and slept (like good babies), mostly in our arms (as reward/punishment for taking them along on the ride.) This year, Buddha’s poo was firm and I had baggies upfront, first cat on the lap only hissed rather than bit its rival, and Puss Puss limited her crying to a very decent 15 minutes. So all in all a sheer joy – if you forget the rain and 14 hours…

But now we are in the fatherland – isn’t it strange that in Germany we say fatherland and elsewhere it’s your mother country – and are enjoying great German food and hospitality. So without further ado, let me share some of my mother-in-laws Christmas cookie recipes.

A photo of vanilla crescents.

(Makes about 50)

The German-Austrian-Bohemian word is VANILLEKIPFERL, but it is not known in which country they originated from. Not knowing this does however not affect the taste so eat and enjoy!

There are many recipes for these cookies and some insist that you ONLY use the vanilla from a vanilla pod/bean – in a perfect world, this would be true, but if you happen not to have a pod, then vanilla sugar or vanilla essence work just as well. If you are using a vanilla pod, scrape the vanilla from the bean and mix it with the sugar for 3 days before using it in the recipe.

Most recipes call for almonds, but you could also use walnuts or hazelnuts.

250g flour
125g sugar
1 pkt of vanilla sugar OR 1 tsp of vanilla essence OR the vanilla from the bean as above
3 egg yolks
200g butter or margarine, cold
125g ground almonds

20g powdered sugar
1 pkt vanilla sugar OR ½ tsp vanilla essence

1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 375F. Sift the flour onto your work surface and make a well in the middle and add the sugar, vanilla and egg yolks. Mix all and then cut the butter in pieces and add along with the ground almonds.

2. Knead quickly to a smooth dough and then cool for 30 minutes to overnight. Don’t worry if the dough is a little sticky – the cooling takes care of this. Remove the dough and roll into a sausage about the thickness of your thumb.

3. Cut into 2cm pieces and then roll them into about 5cm lengths with the ends slightly thinner than the middle. Shape into half moons or crescents, put them onto a baking tray and bake for 12minutes.

4. Remove from the oven and gently roll in the sugar vanilla mix while the cookies are still warm. Enjoy!!

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fantastic recipe, thanks!

Thank you for the recipe - I just finished one batch and there's still lots of dough left in the refrigerator. They are really special cookies and well worth the extra effort.
From following your instructions on shaping the crescents, they are small - like a bent forefinger, yes?
Also, I blanched and skinned the almonds before grinding in the food processor, but from the close-up picture it looks like there are brown specks. Does your family use whole-almond meal with the brown skins?

Keep the German Christmas recipes and stories coming - am enjoying reading your entries!
--Rena in California, USA

Thanks for the comments!

Hi Rena!

Thank you for the lovely comments. What's the weather like in California this Christmas day? You're probably enjoying the beach while we shiver in the cold!
You're quite right about the biscuits - they are about the size of a forefinger. And we do use the whole-almond meal in this recipe. Well spotted - I am new at writing up recipes and am learning to give better information, so thank you.

Have a wonderful Christmas.

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