I hate to bring up Christmas cookies, just as you are brushing out the crumbs and packing away the tins, but I added a new cookie to my repertoire this year and I want to report on them to you. I have always been fascinated with ethnic cookies because 1) I think they taste better than the average American cookie and 2) I love the history behind most ethnic cookies.
Springerle are an old German cookie and it is said that folks used to pass out Springerle the way we pass out Christmas cards. Each family had their own unique style and recipe. The word "springerle" means "jumping horse" an image which was apparently a popular one to use for the molds.
Last year for Christmas, my husband gave me a springerle mold, which was very specifically a Christmas mold, with images of candy canes, bells, a Christmas tree and holly leaves. I was anxious to use the mold for Christmas, and though I only made four types of cookies this year, Springerle were one of them. As it turns out, it was one of my children's favorites, funny little Germans that they are. They love my pizzelles, and with their anise flavor, the Springerle were very similar in flavor. Their texture, however, was very different. The Springerle are dense, and slightly crisp. The recipe I used stated that they are better two weeks after they are baked. Sadly mine did not last that long, but next year I will plan ahead.
The preparation and baking of these cookies takes a little planning, as well, and a little room. In order to give the image it's best chance at remaining on the cookie after it is baked, the molded and cut cookies sit out for 24 hours before baking, and then to achieve the right texture in the baked cookie, the baked cookies sit out for 24 hours as well. I didn't test to see what would happen if I baked or stored them too soon. I just followed the recipe.
The recipe I used came from, ironically, What's Cooking America, and it was easy and fool-proof for me, so I'll not mess with a good thing. It did offer the choice of using anise extract or anise oil and I used the extract, so I am recording as such here.
4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 T. butter, room temperature
1 t. baking powder
1 t. anise extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Avoid insulated cookie sheets as they will cause the Springerle cookies to brown during baking (Springerles are supposed to be white).
In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs on high speed of your electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add sugar, butter, and baking powder; beat at high speed for 15 minutes (yes, minutes), scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in anise oil or extract. Gradually beat in flour until well mixed.
Lightly flour your springerle rolling pin; set aside.
On a lightly floured board, knead the dough a few time (the dough will be sticky at first, so knead in just enough flour to make it manageable.) Using a standard rolling pin, roll into a rectangle about 1/2-inch thick.
Using your well-floured Springerle mold, press into the dough firmly.
Using a sharp knife, cut cookies apart and trim off outside edges. Place cookies on your prepared cookie sheets.
Roll out scraps of dough and repeat. NOTE: 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 cookie sheets. Let cookies stand, uncovered, overnight to dry.
When ready to bake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place oven rack in middle of oven.
Bake one baking sheet at a time only. Bake approximately 10 minutes until slightly golden on bottoms, but white on top. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to wire cooling rack to cool (let cookies stand overnight to completely dry before storing).
Keep cookies in a tight container for 2 or 3 weeks before using to achieve the best flavor.