Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Cookies

This is my favorite time of the year because I get to bake some of my family's favorite cookies. Because most of them are seasonal, this is truly a special treat. The standard ones are Christmas trees, candy canes, mocha balls, Mexican wedding cakes, and chocolate mint layer cookies. Each year I try to audition a new recipe in the hopes of adding it to the traditional list. This year, Susan, at Food Blogga, put out a call for Christmas Cookies, so I easily have many potential candidates from which to choose.

My contribution is a cookie that is also one of my holiday standards: Soft Springerle. When I was a child, I loved anise/licorice flavor and I was intrigued by one of my Mother's rolling pins that had little pictures carved into it. I don't recall that my Mother actually made springerle cookies, so, when I left home, I asked for the rolling pin, fearing that it would be thrown away and knowing that I would use it myself someday. Over the years I searched for the perfect springerle recipe. Traditionally, these cookies require a period of mellowing, which transforms them from a very hard cookie to one that is more soft, usually a week or two. But who can wait that long! Now, there are times when I will buy a cookbook for only one recipe, and when I discovered a 'soft' springerle cookie recipe in Christmas Cookies & Candies by Barbara Myers (1979), I snatched it up. Maybe someday I'll try some of the other recipes, but, for now, this is the winner.

Soft Springerle
1/4 pound butter
1 pound confectioners' sugar (about 3 3/4 cups, unsifted)

4 eggs

2 teaspoons anise extract or 2 Tablespoons anise seed

Grated rind of 1/2 lemon

4 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt
  1. Cream the butter. Gradually beat in the sugar. (Mixture will be dry.) Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the anise extract (or seeds) and lemon rind.
  2. Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt; blend in to butter/sugar/egg mixture. Knead the dough briefly, add more flour if necessary to keep it from sticking to your hands. Chill until firm enough for rolling. (Note: you may not need either the extra flour or the chilling if the humidity is low.)
  3. On a lightly floured board, roll out small portions at a time to about 1/4-inch thickness.
  4. Flour a Springerle board or rolling pin and press or roll firmly into the dough. Cut the cookies between the designs with a floured knife. (A pizza cutter works nicely, too.)
  5. Set an inch apart on lightly greased baking sheets. Let stand at room temperature overnight to dry the tops and set the designs.
  6. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, or until pale yellow. Watch carefully so the bottoms don't get too brown.
Makes 3 to 6 dozen, depending on the size of the design.


Susan from Food Blogga said...

Hi Judy,
What a lovely story and unique cookie. I adore anise flavor and recently posted on my grandmother's pizzelle cookies (also made with anise). Your cookies will an ideal addition to Eat Christmas Cookies! Cheers, Susan

Finla said...

Wow what a beautiful cookies.

Deborah said...

They sound delicious! I've never had this kind of cookie, but now I want to try!