During the holidays people renew traditions with a gusto unheard of at any other time of the year. I think. And then they wear themselves out until the next holiday season . . .
Traditional for my family are Springerle, or picture cookies, made with a soft anise-flavored dough, pressed with a special rolling pin until pictures are transferred, and then left to harden a bit before baking.
I bought this rolling pin from house on the hill several years ago, and love the pictures! (check out houseonthehill.net).
To start the cookies, beat four eggs until lightened and thickened, about 5 minutes.
Add 1 2/3 cups sugar and 1/2 teaspoon anise oil. I use anise oil rather than anise extract, but if you can’t find the oil, use 1 teaspoon of extract. Some people choose other flavorings such as lemon, orange, or bitter almond, although anise is traditional.
Beat until thickened, lightened, and until it rolls from beaters like fat ribbons.
Add 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, and 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour.
The dough should be somewhat soft. Pat the dough out on a flat surface that is dusted with flour. Then dust the top of the dough with flour, or brush flour on the rolling pin.
Dough should be about 5/8 inch when pressed with molds, leaving resulting cookie around 1/4 inch thick.
Cut each cookie out individually and set on cookie tray. Sprinkling the tray with anise seeds first heightens the anise flavor.
When you move cookies to the tray is the time to shape them if necessary.
Let cookies rest for 10-12 hours before baking (overnight) and then bake at 300 degrees for 15 or more minutes, until hardened but not browned.
Letting the cookies rest 10-12 hours on a cookie sheet leaves the bottom soft, but hardens the top so that the picture doesn’t distort during baking, so don’t skimp on their nap time.
The house on the hill link above has a video for making springerle cookies, and they also give a recipe using baking ammonia, or harthorn. My recipe is a lot simpler than theirs and doesn’t required harthorn, and has always worked very well. But I am curious . . . someday I’ll do a side by side taste-test, but not today.
Here they are — all baked. See how they puff up like little pillows?
After baking your cookies, keep them in a tin. Flavor is best around 4 weeks, but the cookies will be softer if you eat them earlier. If they get too hard, they are excellent dipped in coffee like biscotti . . .