Everyone has a special cookie or sweet that they look forward to during special holidays. At Christmas time one cookie that I look forward to making is German Springerle Cookies. They are a beautiful white biscuit embossed by using a special carved rolling pin that impresses the design onto the dough. You make them at least a month in advance of when you want to eat them because saved in a cookie tin, the flavor of the anise oil and seed enhances.
In doing a bit of research on the cookie's history I learned that 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.
These cookies are white, flavored with anise oil and seeds and are made with a very simple egg, flour and sugar dough.
Before I place my cookies on the buttered parchment paper before baking I sprinkle the buttered parchment paper-lined baking sheet with anise seed. This way, there is a slight addition of the anise seed to the cookie as well. The original recipe didn't call for the seed but I like just a touch and since it is on the bottom of the cookie it doesn't interfere with the design on top.
In my family my husband and one of my sons really like these and now Springerle Cookies have become a holiday tradition to have at least a few to share. Both times my son was deployed to Iraq I made sure that in his Christmas goodie boxes these cookies were included. They travel well. The are hard on the outside and soft inside. And best of all, they improve with age.
Here is the recipe I use. If you don't have the detailed rolling pin, don't worry. You can cut them into rectangle with a knife after you've rolled the dough.
German Springerle Cookies
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon anise oil
4 cups all-purpose flour
Prepare baking sheets with buttered parchment paper. Avoid using insulated cookie sheets as they will cause the springerle cookies to brown during baking. These cookies should remain white and only the bottom will brown very slightly.
In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs on high speed of your electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add sugar, butter and baking powder and beat at high speed for 15 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. (And YES I said 15 minutes! This is a time I'm ever so grateful for having a stand mixer that I can turn on and let run.)
Now add the anise oil and flour, just mixing the flour until the dough holds together in a ball.
On a lightly floured board, knead the dough a few times (the dough will be sticky at first so knead in just enough flour to make it manageable.
Roll out the dough with a standard rolling pin, into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Do NOT roll any thinner than 1/2 inch. This is important!
Next lightly flour your springerle special rolling pin and roll slowly and firmly over the dough to make a clear design impression. DO NOT roll it back and forth. You just want to impress the image into the top of the dough. Using a sharp knife cut the cookies apart and trim off the outside edges. Roll out scraps of dough in the same manner as before. BE SURE TO FLOUR THE ROLLING PIN AND BOARD BEFORE EACH PRESSING. THIS WILL INSURE THE DOUGH WILL NOT STICK.
Place cookies on your prepared baking sheets. Let the cookies stand, uncovered, overnight to dry. DRYING PRESERVES THE IMAGE DURING BAKING. I put my sheets in the refrigerator overnight to dry. This keeps unwelcomed fingers and perhaps a paw print or two away from cookies.
The next day PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees F. Place oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Bake one baking sheet at a time. Bake approximately 10 minutes or until slightly golden on the bottoms, but still white on top. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to wire racks until cooled. (let the cookies stand overnight to completely dry before storing.
Storage: Keep cookies in a tight container for 2 or 3 weeks before using to achieve the best flavor.
The number of cookies yielded will depend upon the size and thickness of your Springerle cookies. I usually get two cookie sheets full.