For as long as I can remember my mom has made cookies at Christmas time. My most favorite are Sand Tarts (a really thin, buttery, sugar cookie cut-out) and Springerle. Springerle are easily my favorite cookie of all time. Very few people even know about them. So I'm here to hopefully create a new favorite for you.
You can read a bit about the Germanic history behind springerle and why the cookies have pictures on them. I don't yet own a springerle rolling pin. I think this is the year I'm going to buy one. They're not that expensive and they look so pretty. And they tell a story. What could be better for a writer/cook?
I want to say you should be a fan of licorice before you start this recipe. But the anise gives the cookie a much more subtle flavor than licorice. It is distinct and, at least to me, perfect with a cup of hot steamed milk.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from my family to yours.
Mom's Springerle Recipe
1 lb. box of confectioner's sugar (4 cups)
1 teaspoon Anise Extract
4 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Anise seed (available in the spice section of the supermarket, especially during the holidays)
Beat eggs until light. Gradually add sugar and beat on high until it's like a soft meringue. Add anise extract. Sift together the flour and baking soda. Blend into egg mixture on low. Cover bowl and let stand 15 minutes.
Divide dough in thirds. On lightly floured surface roll, with a regular rolling pin, each piece into an 8" square, a little more than 1/4" thick. Let stand 1 minute.
With a floured springerle rolling pin roll across the dough firmly to create the imprints. Cut cookies into squares with a sharp knife. Cover cookies with a towel and leave overnight. This dries the cookie and helps retain the picture, and helps make the cookies cake-like when baked. My mom would clear the dining room table, lay down a sheet, place the cookies on top, and then another sheet on top of the cookies, and the house would smell awesome! *nostalgia* oh, right, back to the recipe.
The next day, grease a baking sheet, sprinkle with anise seed. Rub the underside of each cookie with a bit of water. My mom would keep a cup near the pan to dip her fingers. This helps the seeds to stick to the cookie.
Bake at 300° for 20 minutes until a light straw color. Do not allow them to brown. These cookies should be yellowish when done and when they cool the tops are almost white.
These cookies keep well in an air tight container for weeks, although I eat them pretty quickly. They do get pretty hard after a while... definitely a dunking cookie by the end of the week. Great with cocoa too.
If you don't have a springerle pin, or the anise seed, the cookies will still turn out awesome!