Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Brief History of Springerle


"Springerle (SPRING-uhr-lee) - These have been and still are traditional Christmas cookies in Bavaria and Austria for centuries. Springerle are white, anise-flavored cookies, made from a simple egg-flour-sugar dough. Usually rectangular or circular in shape, they have a picture or design stamped on the top. The images are imprinted with specially carved rolling pins or flat molds (Springerle presses, or boards). After the cookies are baked, the designs are sometimes enhanced with edible food colors--or with tempera or acrylic paints, if the cookies are to be used as decorations. Hartshorn is the traditional leavening (it is an ammonia compound).

The name Springerle comes from an old German dialect and means "little knight" or "jumping horse." Historians trace these cookies back to the Julfest, a midwinter celebration of pagan Germanic tribes. Julfest ceremonies included the sacrificing of animals to the gods, in hope that such offerings would bring a mild winter and an early spring. Poor people who could not afford to kill any of their animals gave token sacrifices in the form of animal-shaped breads and cookies. Vestiges of these pagan practices survive in the baking of shaped-and-stamped German Christmas cookies such as Lebkuchen, Spekulatius, Frankfurter Brenten, and Springerle."

Springerle are my favorite holiday cookie. The texture is quite complex, develops over time, and is adjustable. The Flavor is more gown up than a plain sugar cookie. I like to use anise oil as well as seeds, and lemon zest which cuts the sweetness of the sugar. The whole process takes two days to complete, letting the cut and pressed cookies set overnight, seeing the baked cookie raise, and settle back on itself with this perfect image set on top. It’s a very romantic process, even a cave man could produce countless dozen drop cookies. I have my great-grandmothers springerle rolling pin, which makes these cookies even that more special.

Here is the recipie I’m using this year.

4 eggs
2 cups Sugar
2 tablespoons butter
beat this mixture for 15 minutes

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
2 drops anise oil
1 lemons zest
add dry ingredients and mix just to combine

Roll the chilled dough out to ½ inch thickness, press in the images, cut and lay on a sheet pan dusted with crushed anise seeds. Let these cookies sit out overnight, then bake at 325 for about 40 minutes, they shouldn’t brown, but they do puff up a bit and cook evenly.

1 comment:

Diana said...

I can't wait to eat them, so be sure to make a lot of them Michael.