My introduction to these elegant oval cookies happened fairly recently, but it was love from first sight. When I saw these beauties while browsing a Christmas book, I knew I had to learn how to make them. I found out that I would need special molds in order to attempt to make these cookies, and that’s when my search for information has begun.
It turns out, these cookies came to us from Europe – Switzerland and Germany started making these about 400 years ago simply as a New Years postcard. The cookies were made in different sizes with different pictures, and people would exchange them when they would come for a visit. This makes such a special and a unique gift for any holiday. These cookies keep fresh for a long time – an astounding 6 months (if you can keep yourself from eating all of them in one sitting – yes, they’re that good!). And people say that they even get better with age (like a good wine) because of the added spices. Currently, we use vanilla extract, lemon, orange and even rose water, but the traditional Springerle cookie is made with anise.
I loved this story so I decided to try it myself. First I needed to buy the special molds, which wasn’t a simple task. The history of these molds is interesting as well – they were cut out from the pear tree, and there were special masters to carve them out. I found one company House on the Hill which has a great collection of these molds, but they don’t come cheap, so I only bought 2 so far. Of course, they are no longer made from the tree, but the pictures are the same as used 400 years ago 🙂
I hope you will fell in love with them as I did. Perfect gift for any Holiday.
Adapted from House on the Hill
These whisked-egg holiday cookies date back to at least the 1600s and are made in Bavaria, Switzerland and the Alsace area of France. For eating quality, ease, and quality of prints this recipe is just perfection!
- 1/2 teaspoon baker’s ammonia (Hartshorn) or baking powder, better to find baker’s ammonia
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 6 large eggs, room temperature
- 6 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened but not melted
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of anise (if substituting fruit flavored oils, use 3 teaspoons)
- 2 lb. box sifted cake flour (Swansdown or Softasilk), I use all-purpose flour, I like it better
- grated rind of orange or lemon – optional (enhances the flavor of the traditional anise or the citrus flavors)
- more flour as needed
Dissolve hartshorn in milk and set aside for about 30 minutes. 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 a stiff dough. Turn onto floured surface and knead in enough flour to make a good print without sticking.
Follow general directions from House on the Hill 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 the size of the 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 (depending on the size of the cookie).
The original recipe calls for the addition of cake flour, but I used regular white flour. I think the picture is more clear with this flour and doesn’t “bubbles” while baking.
I made these cookies a few days ago, but we went on a little weekend getaway, so I’m only now sharing this recipe. Our trip was planned a few weeks ago since we really wanted to see the beauty of autumn in the Pennsylvania mountains.
Imagine our surprise when we were awakened to a snow-covered landscape our first day there. The kids were excitedly jumping and running around, and it was like we woke up in a wonderful Christmas fairytale.
This place turned out to be a historical landmark, over 200 years old and it was built on the mineral springs and was recently renovated.
Enjoy my photo-reportage from our getaway.
“Bedford Springs Resort is truly an American original. With its growing list of wealthy clientèle, it gained a reputation as a luxury destination and was proclaimed as the Most Popular Resort in the United States.”
“The Native Americans first used the mineral springs for their curative properties, and in the late 1700’s they shared the powers of the springs with a doctor named John Anderson. In 1796, Dr. Anderson purchased the 2,200-acre property on which the resort now stands. He built a home on the property and as word spread of these unique waters, visitors arrived from around the globe to experience them. He housed the guests in tents and offered custom prescriptions for guests based on their needs.”
We had our “Afternoon tea” of course 🙂
This trip inspired me to bake more elegant desserts to reflect the spirit of the coming winter.