Today, we’re making Springerle!
Springerle are traditional Christmas cookies from southwestern Germany with embossed tops and light feet. They are butter-free and crisp yet airy cookies flavoured with lemon and aniseed. Leavened with baker’s ammonia, Springerle rise like French macarons at the base. Mold them either with an embossed rolling pin, by pressing them onto individual wooden Springerle molds, or by imprinting them with cookie stamps. Though, mooncake molds, modern press-top embossing cookie cutters, or plain cookie cut-outs will also work.
Springerle require a bit of hands-off time. You leave the embossed cookies out to “dry” on a tray of parchment littered with aniseed for 24 hours before baking. This ensures that the imprinted image retains its shape. After baking, I enjoy the cookies right off the cooling rack. But Springerle are even better when stored in a tin for several days or weeks. The flavours amplify, and they become more crisp, perfect for dipping into coffee or tea. This is why we’re making them at the beginning of Advent!
A few notes or, Skip to the Recipe
MOLDS AND STAMPS
Traditional wooden Springerle molds are available from The House on the Hill [with many vendors in the states, and How Sweet is That in Canada], Simons, and Amazon [though there may be shipping delays]. While I have a few wooden Springerle molds, I recently purchased these Nordic Ware Cast Aluminum Cookie Stamps and I have to say, I’m a convert! They come in several patterns, require little to no flouring, and impress a sharp image every time. It’s a good idea to have a plain, 3-inch circular cutter around to trim the edges after stamping your balls of dough, but a sharp knife will do just as well. The Springerle photographed here are made with those stamps. [Please note, this is not a sponsored post!]
ANISE AND ALTERNATIVES
While I think the anise flavour of Springerle is marvellous, it may not be for everyone. This can still be your cookie! If you truly need to substitute, I’d suggest adding a bit of pure citrus extract, like lemon extract, in addition to the vanilla and the zest. Then, you might leave the bases of the cookies “naked” or use round sprinkles/decor in place of the aniseed that coats the bottoms. Though, if you use decors, you’ll need to be careful when moistening the bases as described in the recipe, below. The colours will likely bleed. But the sprinkles taste lovely and are a fun swap for the aniseeds! Just store them in a separate tin from any anise cookies you make! [I’ve tried culinary lavender in place of the aniseed, by the way, and it’s a no, y’all!]
Wondering where to find Baker’s Ammonia, also known as Hartshorn, Ammonium Carbonate, or Ammonium Bicarbonate? In Toronto, I’ve found it in the baking section of the large, downtown Loblaws grocery [former Maple Leaf Gardens] and in the grocery section of Serano Bakery on Pape Avenue. Serano also offers online shopping and shipping. You can also orderfrom Amazon, but you really shouldn’t have to pay more than $4 for a small bottle if you can avoid it. Do note that you shouldn’t taste raw dough containing Baker’s Ammonia, and that the ammonia can have a powerful smell, both before and during cooking. Of course, it bakes off, leaving you with delightful Springerle. I have not tested this recipe with baking power as a substitute, though it’s probably your best option.
My recipe is a combination of techniques from several German baking books, relying most heavily on Anja Dunk’s wonderful Advent: Festive German Bakes to Celebrate the Coming of Christmas and Luisa Weiss’ outstanding Classic German Baking. If you’re interested in German baking, you should definitely buy these books! If you’re looking for a butter-based Springerle, try The House on the Hill’s well-loved Perfection Springerle. [I’m pretty sure Martha Stewart just reprinted her recipe! So if you need Springerle with butter, go to!]
- Handled cookie stamps [preferably cast aluminum] and a circular 3-inch cookie cutter, pastry wheel, or knife
- OR Wooden Springerle cookie molds and a rectangular cookie cutter, pastry wheel, or knife
- OR Springerle Rolling Pin and cookie cutters, a pastry wheel, or knife
- OR Cookie Cutters [preferably with Press-Top Impressions]
- 1/4 tsp baker's ammonia [aka Hirschhornsaltz, Hartshorn, Ammonium Carbonate, or Ammonium Bicarbonate]
- 1 tsp water, milk, Kirsch or Cointreau [I don't like Kirsch, so I used Cointreau to maintain the citrus flavour]
- 2.5 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 tbsp lemon zest [approx one lemon]
- 1 tsp vanilla extract [Additions may include: 1/2 – 1 tsp lemon extract or 1/8-1/2 tsp anise extract, the latter, added by the drop. I don't use either.]
- 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for preparing the cut-outs
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2-3 tbs whole anise seeds [Possible substitution: hard coloured sprinkles/round decors.]
- In a pinch-bowl, stir together the baker's ammonia and the water, milk, Kirsch or Cointreau, and allow it to sit as you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- In a food processor, pulse the sugar a few times to make it finer.
- Combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk.
- Whisk on medium until the ingredients are well-incorporated.
- Raise the speed to high and whisk for 7-10 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. [That's right, 7-10 minutes!]
- Quickly whisk in the grated peel and vanilla extract.
- Turn the stand-mixer back down to medium and gently incorporate 3 1/4 cups of the flour and all of the salt.
- Add the wet baker's ammonia mixture to the bowl and mix to incorporate.
- Do not taste the raw dough! It now contains ammonia!
- Gently incorporate the remainder of the flour with the mixer or with a spatula.
- Scrape down the bowl. Cover. And refrigerate for an hour.
- Line three baking trays with parchment paper.
- Sprinkle the sheets evenly with anise-seeds or sprinkles/decors. [Can also be left plain.]
- FOR COOKIE STAMPSRemove the dough from the refrigerator and separate into about two dozen small balls, returning all but one back in the bowl to the refrigerator.Flour your work surface. Roll the ball in your hands until just smooth. Pat the dough ball out flat with your hand, or roll with a flat rolling pin, to about 1/4 inch thickness, sized just larger than your stamp.Dust the flattened dough with flour.Firmly Press the stamp into the disc of dough.Remove the stamp from the embossed dough and trim the edges of the shape with a cookie cutter sized to your stamp, a pastry cutter, or a knife, returning the off-cuts to the bowl of dough for reuse.Place the individual Springerle on the prepared baking sheet, pressing the cookies gently into the aniseeds or decors, leaving about 1 inch between each cookie, repeating until you have used all of the dough.
- FOR WOODEN SPRINGERLE MOLDS: Remove the dough from the refrigerator and separate into about two dozen small balls, returning all but one back in the bowl to the refrigerator.Flour your work surface. Roll the ball in your hands until just smooth. Pat the dough ball out flat with your hand, or roll with a flat rolling pin, to about 1/4 inch thickness, sized just larger than your mold.Dust both the mold and the flattened dough well with flour.Place the dough on top of the mold pattern and press it in gently.Then, flip the mold and dough down onto the work surface and press firmly.Remove the mold from the embossed dough and trim the edges of the shape with a cookie cutter sized to your Springerle mold, a pastry cutter, or a knife, returning the off-cuts to the bowl of dough for reuse.Place the individual Springerle on the prepared baking sheet, pressing the cookies gently into the aniseeds or decors, leaving about 1 inch between each cookie, repeating until you have used all of the dough.
- FOR A SPRINGERLE ROLLING PIN Divide the dough into 2 or 3 batches, working each into a smooth ball with your hands. With a plain rolling pin, roll the dough in sheets about 1/4 inch thick. Dust the decorative pin and rolled dough with flour. Roll the decorative pin over top and use a knife, pastry cutter, or cookie cutter to separate into individual cookies. Place each Springerle on the prepared baking sheet 1 inch apart, pressing the cookies gently into the aniseeds or decors, and repeat until you have used all the dough.
- FOR COOKIE CUTTERS [with or without press-top impressions]Divide the dough into 2 or 3 batches, working each into a smooth ball with your hands. With a plain rolling pin, roll the dough in sheets about 1/4 inch thick. Cut with floured cookie cutters, engaging the press-top impression if available. Place each Springerle on the prepared baking sheet 1 inch apart, pressing the cookies gently into the seeds or decors, and repeat, re-rolling the dough as necessary, until you have used all the dough.
- FOR ALL…Leave the cookies out to dry on their baking sheets at room temperature for at least 18 to 24 hours. They should be dry when you touch them. Larger cookies may take longer to dry!
- When the Springerle are dry, preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Either wet a clean dishcloth, wring it out, and place the cookies on it for five minutes before returning them to the aniseed or decor sprinkled pans. If you are using decors, the colours may bleed on the cookies and onto your cloth!OR One at a time, brush a small bit of water onto the bottom of each cookie, [sprinkle that wet bottom with additional aniseed or decor if desired], and return it to the aniseed or decor sprinkled pan. If you're doing this with sprinkles/decors, be very sparing with the water, as the colours can bleed!This gentle moisturizing process allows for even baking.
- Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for about 25 minutes. Good Springerle remain white and spring up or rise like French macarons so that they have spongy-looking feet. So, check after 15 minutes to make sure they are not beginning to brown on top. if they are browning, cover with a layer of parchment for the remaining bake. Your kitchen may smell like ammonia, as it bakes off, though the aniseed may cover that!
- Remove the cookies from the oven and cool them on the pan for just a few minutes. Then, cool the cookies completely on a wire rack.
- Store the Springerle in a cookie tin or airtight container for up to 2 months. Their flavours will amplify and they will harden over time. But they're just as good, if not better, crisp, especially when served with a cup of tea or espresso.