I spent the last two days baking Springerle, traditional German anise seed biscuits. They do not only look beautiful, in a delicate and old-fashioned way, they also taste delightful, especially when served with a cup of tea or hot chocolate.
Springerle are traditional feast day treats in the south of Germany, the oldest molds date back to the 14th century, often with religious symbols or flowers and animals. Traditionally, the molds or rolling pins were made from carved wood and each family had their own unique hand-carved molds. On feast days, it was a common practice to exchange Springerle just like nowadays greetings cards for Christmas and Easter.
Springerle take some time to make, but are very worthy the effort. I made several batches this year to give away to neighbours and friends as a small Christmas gift. The cookies store well and taste even better when they are a couple of weeks old. I have old and new molds, but have chosen a floral heart this year as well as some vintage lace for the leftovers (see instructions below).
For the dough:
- 4-5 eggs = 210 gr (weigh only egg yolks and whites, not the shell)
- 500 gr icing sugar
- 500 gr plain white flour, sieved
- 2 tbsp. anise seeds, crushed
- 1 tsp. fruit schnaps/ cherry brandy
- 1 pinch of ammonium bicarbonate/ hartshorn salt
You will need:
- cookie sheets lined with parchment paper
- Springerle molds, cookie stamps, wooden henna stamps or doilies – whatever leaves a nice design
- rolling pin, knife
- optional: dough sticks/ strips of wood, 0.7 – 1 cm in height, for the rolling pin
- in a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with an electrical mixer until light and fluffy
- add the icing sugar, little by little, beat at high speed until the mixture is thick and pale
- gradually add floor and mix well
- dissolve the ammonium bicarbonate in the cherry brandy, add to the dough
- knead the dough for five minutes until smooth, add a bit of floor if still too sticky
- divide dough into four, form a ball and cover all four with clingfilm
- let rest for 15 minutes
Prepare a surface dusted with flour. Take one dough ball, place on your working surface and roll into a rectangle, about 0.7 cm in height. Press your mold on the dough, cut out with a matching cookie cutter (if you have traditional molds) or use a knife to cut the cookies apart.
Note: keep the scraps of dough and cover with clingfilm. See further down in this post how I use the leftovers.
Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
To preserve the embossed design during baking, the cookies have to dry. Let stand uncovered in room temperature for 24 (!) hours.
The next day, preheat the oven at 160ºC. Dampen a clean tea towel and place on your working surface. Place the springerle cookies with the bottom on the damp cloth, just for a few seconds. In the meantime, sprinkle the crushed anise seeds on the cookie sheet/ parchment paper. Place the springerle back on the cookie sheet.
Bake on the middle oven rack at 160ºC for 12-14 minutes. The cookies should still have a white surface, the bottom should be golden. After five, six minutes in the oven, you will see the cookies start to rise. This is why they are called Spingerle in German, little jumpers.
Remove from oven and place the cookies on a wire cooling rack to cool. Keep in an air-tight container, they taste best after a couple of weeks, crispy on the outside, soft inside…
From the scraps of the dough, you can either make simple anise seed cookies or roll out and try different stamps or materials. I love the pretty look of vintage doilies and lace, the thicker the material, the better. I then use an ordinary round cookie cutter and let the small cookies dry for 24 hours, just like their bigger cousins above.
Basically, you can try any molds, pastry wheels, butter stamps or whatever makes a nice pattern. If you are lucky, you can make quite some finds on Etsy or Dawanda, especially in spring or summer when people usually don’t bake springerle. I dream of having my own ornamental pattern in a mold one fine day, and it will probably be a house on a hill, under birches, just like Björkåsa.
Now I am off making myself a cheese sandwich because really, baking Christmas cookies makes me crave for something savoury…