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I’ve Almost Got it!




For the last few years I’ve been trying to make a cookie that my paternal Grandmother used to make every year during the holidays.  It’s a very traditional German cookie called springerle.  And in fact you’ll find it in several European countries in addition to Germany; for instance it’s also common in the Scandinavian countries. 
I’ve had varied success over the last few years.  The cookie is very interesting because the only liquid comes from 4 eggs, yet about 8 cups of dry ingredients get mixed into the eggs.  So it’s super important to beat the eggs thoroughly to get them very light and full of air so that all the dry ingredients can be incorporated (something I’ve learned through trial and error).  Since my grandmother passed away over 30 years ago I haven’t been able to seek her advice as what the proper techniques are and the recipe instructions are pretty sparse so there have been lots of fits and starts.  There are "newer" recipes for this traditional cookie available and I’m sure they are much easier as they incorporate milk and butter but I’ve really been wanting to master my Grandmother’s recipe.   
The other challenge with these cookies has been the tools needed.  They are a molded cookie and my Grandmother had plaques (or stamps or blocks), pieces of wood cut with traditional designs that were pressed into the dough to create designs on the top of the cookies.  I don’t know who got her plaques when she died and I have a feeling I’ll never be able to track them down which is very disappointing.  I had the bright idea when I started this project to see if anyone happened to be selling some on eBay or online.  Little did I know that they have become collector’s items over the years and the prices are pretty amazing. 
So I have resigned myself to buying newer versions – normally replicas of the old wooden blocks – that are made from a composite material or some are faced with aluminum, but most of them do not have as deep of a design as my Grandmother’s did.  Since the dough is very stiff getting the design firmly and cleanly imprinted has been a bit challenging at times, too. 
Well, in preparation for my upcoming baking frenzy I decided to do a test run this weekend, partially motivated by a new mold I bought on Friday.  And I am very excited as I think I just about have it mastered!! 
Two things I need to try for my next batch:  I think the dough should be rolled a little bit thinner and I still need to work on getting better imprints, although I have a new idea that I think will be just the ticket!  As I was, uhm, "testing" them this morning I started thinking that these cookies are probably sort of an acquired taste.  They are flavored with lemon peel and anise but the texture is crunchy on the outside and dense and chewy on the inside.  They are sort of a dry cookie, meant to be consumed with tea or coffee, but in today’s world of big, soft, barely-baked cookies I’m not sure people new to them would really understand my dedication to them.  Oh well, that just means more for me! 

  1. Styln permalink
    28-Oct-2007 8:48 am

    Sounds like springerle cookies are very delicious and they look like a work of art.

  2. Susan A. permalink
    01-Nov-2007 1:44 pm

    The cookies are lovely — I\’m impressed that you managed to work out the recipe.  It was my mother\’s tradition for many years to bake a beautiful black walnut cake from scratch every Christmas.  It signaled the start of holidays for me, and I never dreamed there\’d be a Christmas without one.  My mother passed away some 16 years ago, and I never had the foresight to get her recipe.  Unfortunately no one else in the family did either, so I\’m still looking!  Good job. ~ Anita

  3. Daniel permalink
    07-Nov-2007 7:44 pm

    These cookies sound fabulous the lemon and anise reminds me of a bread that my mother used to make using both the anise and the lemon. Just a thought about your trek to find the molds, have you thought about getting a rolling pin carved with the designs into it. I know they have something like that for rolling out ravioli so maybe it will work for you.

  4. Culinary permalink
    12-Nov-2007 5:51 pm

    Thanks, styln!
    Anita:  I\’m lucky in that my dad actually had the list of ingredents and I\’ve been saving it for years.  But the working out how to actually make them come together was some trial and error…. I plan to make another batch this weekend and we\’ll see if I can do it again…. :-)
    cheftobelurch:  I have seen the carved rolling pins but have so far not purchased.  The one thing I do remember is that my grandmother preferred the blocks (or molds) as she thought the rolling pins were a bit hard to get even pressure (and therefore patterns).  My sister just picked one up at a garage sale for a couple bucks (lucky schmuck!) and maybe I\’ll borrow it to see what happens… 

  5. Jennifer permalink
    14-Nov-2007 6:10 am

    Wonderful dedication to your grandmother\’s artisan lemon anise delights.Good for you!-jenj

  6. Culinary permalink
    14-Nov-2007 7:41 am

    Thanks, jenj!

  7. JosieO permalink
    03-Jan-2014 5:44 am

    I had these during my 10yr German trek. I would love to make these or just eat them again. I would love your recipe and where you get your tools if you find it works for you. Good luck and I wish I had started a tradition with my daughter before she left for adulthood. Being a busy working mom really gets in the way … :p Cheers and Good Luck!

    • 03-Jan-2014 7:29 am

      Hi Josie:
      You can find the recipe with my notes here: The one thing I’m doing a little differently is I’m rolling the dough a little thinner – maybe 1/3″ – and this year I tried using smaller molds, which seem to work even better than the larger ones, pictured here and in the linked post. I bought mine through Sur la Table, although I don’t think they are carrying them anymore.

      The company is House on the Hill: I tried picking some up on Ebay but the old molds are collector items and those that caught my interest were too expensive.

      My molds mostly have fairly shallow imprints. I found that really working the dough into the mold with my fingers gave me the best designs. I’ve been looking at the House on the Hill site and think I may try some of the others that look like they may have deeper imprints.

      Also, you can find newer recipes online that incorporate milk and butter which would make the dough much easier to work with. I prefer to stick with my grandma’s recipe but I’m a little stubborn that way. ;-)

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