We visited Michael’s Grandparents in Great Bend Kansas for part of our Christmas vacation and my it was cold! Michael’s Grandma, Beverly, has carried on many of the family Christmas traditions originating in Austria and a good chunk of these traditions are tasty ones. There are three specific traditions I have experienced so far: no meat on Christmas Eve, Strietzel, and Springerles. I welcomed Strietzel into my belly soon after Michael and I started dating. It’s kind of like fruit cake in bread form and I love it. It’s weird with those candied fruit bits and dense – but delicious slightly chilled with a thin schmear of butter. It’s also the one item Michael and I agree is fantastic. Grandpa eats this bread on Christmas Eve accompanied by shrimp cocktail and the infamous cheese ball and crackers (and pretty much every day for breakfast until it disappears). The tradition Michael loves most is a little cookie called a Springerle. Michael just ran out of his stash in early January, savoring them as long as humanly possible. They are not nearly as good when they’re crisp but Michael may argue that.
Last Christmas Grandma gave the entire family a lesson in Springerle Craft. She is an amazing woman and I hope you can find some time to watch the video we made. The recipe is incredibly simple with few ingredients, but tricky indeed. I’m especially grateful we have this video because the Springerle is one tradition I’d like to carry on, and I have a feeling I’ll need as much help from Grandma as possible. YouTube is a good second runner-up to teleportation.
Over the past ten years, I’ve grown to like Springerles. I must confess I detested the first bite of Springerle I tried and Michael probably thought “more for me”. If there is one thing I learned over the years is the Springerle inspires sneaking and taunting. All in good spirits mind you. The cookies also inspire a love/hate relationship and I’m finally beginning to love them. There is a Great Townsend Divide when it comes to who likes them and who doesn’t. I prefer them less Anise-y. The texture is incredible; they are crisp on the outside and perfectly chewy on the inside. I have a feeling I’ll really like them when I make my own, but I’ll have to make two batches because Michael will not be happy with my wimpy cookies.
We have an assortment of antique cookie cutters from Grandma and Michael got the special rabbit shape in his stocking this year. Rabbits are the best because they are the biggest. I finally I bought everything I need to make a batch and I’m hoping all baking ammonia is created equal because I bought mine from Amazon. I think I’ll practice a few batches before May so I’ve mastered them by Michael’s 30th birthday! Hurray for Springerles and Happy Family Traditions!
Emilie Peschka Komarek
4 large eggs
1 lb powdered sugar
4 drops anise oil (Grandma Bev uses 6-8)
baking ammonia on the tip of a knife
flour, about 4 cups
Beat the eggs until thick, about 10 minutes. Add powdered sugar gradually and continue to beat for several more minutes. Drop the 4 (or more) drops anise oil during this process. If the baking ammonia is not finely pulverized, grind it between two spoons and mix it in with the first flour added. Add more flour until the dough is firm and well mixed. Shape in a ball, roll out about ¼” thick. Smooth with back of hand. Cut into shapes with cutters.
Place on a lightly floured surface to dry for about 8 hours. Cover lightly if desired.
Heat oven to 325˚F. Place cookie sheets in oven until hot. Remove and “grease” them with paraffin. Dust cookies [remove as much flour as possible] and place on cooled sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly brown on the bottom. The cookies will not spread but double in height. Time will depend on thickness and size. Cool completely on a wire rack. Store tightly covered. Flavor will develop after about 2 days. If not covered the cookies will become very hard!
Notes from Grandma Bev:
Baking ammonia was available in drugstores but is now available in specialty shops (like the spice merchant in Wichita). [I got mine from Amazon.]
The “tip of the knife” I translated to a scant ¼ tsp. 1 tsp baking powder may be substituted, but we purist think the ammonia is better. It is also called hartshorn.
If a Springerle rolling pin or press is used, the dough should be rolled thicker to accommodate. Grandma Komarek did not use a press, only cutters. These cookies were always baked for Christmas, and I am sure that Cecilia Komarek Goetzel Miller baked them as well although I never knew her.