German Springerle-Making Day

I’ve seen wooden molds with delicate designs carved into them many times as I’ve browsed through antique shops and rummaged my way through flea markets. I never really knew what they were supposed to be used for. A neighbor once gave me the light colored rolling pin you can see in the photo above. She’d had it for years and wasn’t exactly sure if she’d ever used it, but she thought it would be a nice addition to the collection of old rolling pins I kept in an old wicker bike basket hanging on the wall in my kitchen. That was years ago. I’ve never used that carved rolling pin. Until last Sunday.

I was invited to join the Oja family in their spacious kitchen for their annual springerle-making day. Snowflakes were falling as another friend and I pulled into the long driveway leading to their house tucked into the countryside outside of Bemidji, Minnesota. As I stepped into the warm and cozy home, I was immediately hit with the aroma of mulling spices and cardamom. Beth Oja, our hostess, had prepared Finnish Pulla and mulled cider made from apples the family had picked from their trees and pressed themselves. I thought I might be in heaven. And, I knew this was going to be a great day.

Beth had already pulled out the tried-and-true springerle recipe that she had gotten many years ago from a German family she was friends with when she was growing up in Burlington, Iowa. For many Germans, the crunchy, biscuit-like springerles (an archaic German word meaning a springing or jumping horse) are a Christmas tradition.

Beth has a collection of springerle molds that she has gathered over the years, finding some old ones at flea markets and antique shops. She has some newer molds, too. She recommends anyone looking to buy a wooden mold or two to check out her favorite resource for springerle molds, House on the Hill in River Forest, Illinois. Beth keeps her molds out on display all year long.

Anise-flavored sweet dough, rich with butter and eggs is rolled out, stamped with wooden molds, and the embossed design air-dried before baking. In the heat of the oven, the imprinted dough puffs up like little pillows. They are almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.

In one bowl, Beth mixed sugar with egg yolks and butter until the mixture was light and creamy.

In another bowl, the egg whites were beaten until stiff. The beaten whites then got folded into the fluffy yolk mixture. Beth set the timer for 20 minutes and let the mixer go at medium speed.

An old-time leavening agent called Hartshorn, sometimes referred to as bakers ammonia, is used rather than baking powder to produce the fluffiest texture possible. Don’t stick your nose in the jar — the smell is awful. It could actually take your breath away — in a bad way. But once the dough is baked, hartshorn cannot be detected by smell or taste. It seems to disappear and the anise takes over, casting its strong licorice aroma throughout the kitchen.

Finally, the flour is incorporated into the batter and it’s ready to roll. Beth buys bleached flour only once a year, and that’s for the springerle. One five-pound bag is just enough for one batch of the dough. The bleached flour keeps the baked springerle almost as white as snow.

The counter is cleared to make way for the dough, the molds and plenty of flour for rolling.

The dough is rolled out to just the right thickness.

Springerle molds are brushed with flour before being pressed onto the dough.

The molds are pressed onto the dough, creating delicate designs.

Making springerle is a group effort.

It takes almost surgical precision to cut out each imprint.

Unbaked springerles are left out to dry overnight. Baking comes the next day.

The same dough can be used to make German pfeffernusse by adding chopped nuts, chopped dried fruitcake mixture and heavenly spices.

I discovered the Oja kitchen is never quiet. No sooner was the springerle dough off the work counter, the molds and rolling pins swept away, and out came some cracker dough.

A successful day of making springerle. I came home with two trays filled with beautifully embossed cookies. I left them out on the kitchen table overnight. In the morning, I was greeted with the wonderful fragrance of anise. I’ve left a few of my baked springerles out on the kitchen counter just to keep the house smelling like a German Christmas.

Beth’s Springerles by way of the Blaufuss family in Burlington, Iowa

  • 6 cups sugar
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) butter

Cream sugar, yolks and butter until smooth.

  • 12 egg whites

In another large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Add to egg yolk mixture and beat at medium speed for 20 minutes.

Add:

Beat at medium speed for 10 minutes.

Add:

  • 5 pounds bleached all-purpose flour

Mix well.

Roll out pieces of dough to 1/8-inch thickness on a floured surface. Press with springerle molds. Cut out each cookie. Dry springerle, uncovered, overnight.

Bake on parchment-lined baking sheet in 350-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Cooled springerle freeze well.


13 thoughts on “German Springerle-Making Day

  1. Pingback: The Culinary Mistress and Morning Roundup | The Heavy Table - Minneapolis-St. Paul and Upper Midwest Food Magazine and Blog

  2. MMMMMMMM Springerle cookies at Christmas were a specialty for my mom too. She was of Pennsylvania Dutch (German) decent via her own mother. One of my sisters got the hang of making the cookies too. Our mom only had a carved out rolling pin and cut the cookie edges straight with a shape knife. The smell of anise in the air let us know the Christmas baking season was underway. Thanks for bringing back those warm and tasty memories today. Jane

  3. Very nice pictures. My recipe only has eggs, sugar, flour and anise seeds. I might want to try your recipe this time. I too grew up in a German kitchen, my mom taught all us girls how to cook. love German food. Thanks , Steffie

  4. Pingback: answers — Les Petites Gourmettes

  5. My wife’s aunt Lodi came from Oberammergau, Germany. At Christmas she would make Springerle cookies. My wife inherited her molds from the 1800′s. She said your website brought back memories of when she was a child. Merry Christmas and may God bless.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>