I continue with my series on German Christmas biscuits and want to tell you about the most famous cookie in Schwaben or Schwabia, the area in which my in-laws, Karl and Leni, live. Any housewife who has any self-respect whatsoever puts a lot of effort into her Springerle and it is a highly talked about cookie. As always, the recipe is to be found at the end of this post.
The cookie has aniseed in it so it has a licorice flavor, so if you like Ouzo or Raki you’ll like these. Once baked they get a little “foot” – the bottoms are bigger than the face/picture side (sounds like a description of me), but this is how they are meant to be. The picture must also be clearly visible for it to be considered a “good” cookie (as opposed to a naughty cookie?).
I found some interesting bits and bobs on other sites so I have copied them for you to enjoy too. Oh yes, one last thing: the original recipe uses hartshorn which is made from deer horns of all things, and this is readily available in Germany, but can readily be replaced with a dash of baking powder. (PS: Bambi said to say thanks…)
Ah, the Cookie Christmases of Childhood
A Christmas tradition: our springerle cakes...
What a nice impression this quaint cookie makes!
Dainty and white, embossed "picture pillows,"
An anise-hartshorn aroma billows...
As our sweet German recipe slowly bakes.
Grandma's recipe may still be the best...
With oil of anise - or with orange zest!
Springerle doughs are quite simple mixtures,
Their crowning glory is in their PICTURES!
Shaping springerle cookies - as we should,
We "imprint" the dough with a mold of wood.
Their beautiful designs are truly a delight
Baked in the oven - after drying overnight.
Ah, the "Cookie Christmases" of childhood.
- a rhyme by Gene Wilson, 2007
• Springerle is a type of German biscuit (cookie) with an embossed design made by pressing a mold onto rolled dough and allowing the impression to dry before cooking. Drying before baking preserves the detail of the surface pattern. They are most commonly seen during the Christmas season.
The major ingredients are eggs, white (wheat) flour, and very fine or powdered sugar. The cookies are traditionally anise-flavored, although the anise is not usually mixed into the dough; instead it is dusted onto the baking sheets so that the cookie sits on top of the crushed anise seeds.
They are also unusual in that they may use hartshorn (ammonium carbonate, or baker's ammonia) as a leavening agent, though many recipes omit it in favor of modern leavening agents. Very cold dough is rolled thin and pressed into a mold, or impressed by a specialized, carved rolling pin. The dough is unmolded and then left to dry for about 24 hours before being baked at a low temperature on greased, anise-dusted baking sheets.
The leavening causes the cookie to at least double in height during baking. This "pop-up" effect may be the source of the name in German, and produces the characteristic "foot" along the edges, below the molded surface.
Raw springerle dough, just out of the wooden wedding-carriage mold (shown below).
Springerle dough after drying for a day.
Baked springerle, showing typical "foot".
The baked cookies are hard, and are packed away to ripen for two or three weeks. During this time, they become tender.
Molds are traditionally carved from wood, although plastic and pottery molds are also available. Pear wood is prized for its density and durability. Older handmade molds are folk art and are typically unsigned and undated.
The name springerle means "little jumper" or "little knight". Their origin can be traced back to at least the 14th century in southeastern Germany and surrounding areas.
The stamping technique may be derived from the molds used in some Christian traditions to mark sacramental bread, and the earliest molds featured religious motifs, including scenes from Bible stories and Christian symbols. Later, in the 17th and 18th century, heraldic themes of knights and fashionably dressed ladies became popular. Themes of happiness, love, weddings, and fertility remained popular through the 19th century.
Springerle mold from the Landesmuseum Württemberg
This mold shows a wedding carriage and many figures.
The back side of the same mold, showing more figures.
Seems the pictures aren't coming up, so you'll just have to go to Wikipedia's website to see them!
(Makes about 30-60 cookies)
500g fine sugar
Zest of ½ a lemon
1 knifepoint hartshorn (Hirschhornsalz) OR ½ tsp baking powder
Anise (aniseed), for the baking tray
1. Separate the eggs and beat the whites to stiff peaks. Mix in the egg yolks and the sugar till well combined. Then mix in the flour, zest and rising agent.
2. Knead the dough till it is smooth and elastic and then rest it in the fridge for 1 hour. Roll the dough out thinly. Flour the mould lightly and then press it into the dough. Remove the mould and cut out the cookies. Spread a baking tray with aniseed and put the cookies on top.
3. Leave the cookies overnight to dry. NOTE: This is a very important step so don’t leave it out! It affects the shape and texture of the cookies.
4. Preheat the oven to 160C and bake the cookies for 20 minutes with the oven door ajar. Close the oven door for about 10 more minutes – the tops must still be white but the bottoms can be slightly brown.
Leave the biscuits out for a day for them to become soft.
Enjoy (with or without a glass of Ouzo)!