The springerle is an anise-flavored, eggshell-white cookie that is said to have originated from German-speaking parts of Europe. Typically baked for the holidays, this cookie is best known for its beautiful embossed designs.
I have many fond memories of Christmasses spent with family, the adults relishing the springerles my mother had baked while the kids nibbled at less exotic treats. We kids all considered the springerle to be a stuffy, grownup cookie. “An acquired taste,” my mother would say. I remember how at these holiday gatherings the adult conversation would always turn to a debate over the best way to eat the springerles. Some would claim that they are best when they’re less than a week old and still soft. Others would swear that you should never eat them until at least two weeks had passed, until they are rock hard and require dipping in tea or soaking in rum in order to eat them without breaking a tooth. I didn’t care for them as a child, but the first time I tried one as an adult, I was hooked. Anyone who loves the flavor of licorice will love this cookie too.
Note: Some traditional springerle recipes call for a leavening agent, and commercial bakers are said to use ammonium bicarbonate to ensure the cookies rise significantly and gain their signature foot or base. My family has never used leavening in our springerle recipe, and they have always turned out just fine.
Makes 12-16 cookies
3 tablespoons anise seeds
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon anise extract
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Decorative wooden mold or rolling pin
1. Grease a cookie sheet and sprinkle with the anise seeds. Set aside.
2. Arrange a glass mixing bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Once the water begins to steam, remove the saucepan and mixing bowl from the heat. Beat eggs and sugar in the bowl with an electic mixer on high speed until the mixture thickens—about 4 minutes.
3. Remove the bowl from the pan of water. Add anise and vanilla extracts, and continue to beat on high speed for an additional 2 minutes.
4. Sift flour onto egg mixture and gently fold it in.
5. With lightly floured hands, shape the dough into a ball.
6. On a floured surface, roll dough to ½-inch thickness.
Dust the dough and the wooden mold with flour. Press the mold firmly into the dough and lift off carefully.
Cut the cookies apart, cleaning the knife between cuts. Brush any excess flour from the cookies. Place cookies 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheet.
7. Leave out to dry uncovered at room temperature for 15 to 24 hours. Don’t skip this step. Sufficient drying ensures that they will lose none of their detailed design in baking.
8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes or until bottoms turn a light brown.
9. Store cookies with the leftover toasted anise in an air-tight container.
The springerle mold pictured in this article is from House on the Hill. I have used it for several years, and I love it. It is so beautifully detailed that I display it on my kitchen wall year round.