It's cookie baking season at our home and we have been enjoying spending hours huddled in the kitchen in a cloud of flour, vanilla, cinnamon, icing sugar and everything nice.
Typical winter - the rain beats relentlessly against the windows and the wind howls through the tiny gaps. The world outside is wearing a grey veil, with traces of green speckled over the bare fields.
But this is not getting us down. We are in high spirits.
It's cosy, warm and inviting here. We're wearing our big smiles and our aprons are dotted with colorful leftovers of our baking escapades. Christmas music fills the air and nothing can dim our cheer. Because we're baking cookies. There is nothing more satisfying than getting the whole family together to bake old favorites or try our newly found cookie recipes.
One of my all time favorites is the crumbly and ever so elegant Austrian Vanilla Kipferl. It started a few years ago when I wanted to impress my, at the time new, mother-in-law. It was my first Christmas in the family and I wanted to do the whole shabang! We had invited them for Christmas Eve tea and later dinner and I decided that they were going to get the works. I dove right in and dug out many typical German recipes for duck, goose, vegetable sides, desserts and of course cookies. It was my project for weeks, fretting over this and that and in my perfectly organized manner wrote lists and planned everything to the last detail.
It was Tom and my number one topic throughout the whole month of December and to be honest I would not have blamed him if he had packed up his bags and ran back to mummy. How did he get involved with this Christmas crazed chick? The truth be told - it was to be my first self-planned, self-prepared and self-cooked Christmas dinner!
Well one of the things I baked for our tea was Vanilla Kipferl. These traditional Austrian specialties really epitomize Christmas cookies in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. You'll find them in every store, bakery and home during Christmas.
The small crescent shaped, nutty, butter tasting cookie has a strong flavor of vanilla. Usually the Kipferls are sprinkled in vanilla sugar after baking and when still warm. But they can also be baked with the flavoring of vanilla in the dough and then dipped only in powdered sugar.
What can I say - in Germany they have a saying "Love goes through the stomach" - and if it is true then I think my in-laws fell in love with me that Christmas. As for me - I was exhausted that evening, but Tom told me the next day I went to sleep with a smile on my face.
Ever since then we have been baking these Kipferls for Christmas commemorating that crazy time. Last year however, I was feeling a bit rebellious and skipped making them. Although both of us did not mention it, we had an empty space in the pit of our stomachs - definitely meant to be filled by the Kipferls ;-)
Over at the Daily Tiffin you might find my post about cookie baking with family and friends interesting. There are helpful tips, ideas and tricks and how to organize yourself prior to a big baking session. Read more about Christmas Baking - A Family Affair
Printable version of recipe here.
1 vanilla bean
210 g all-purpose flour
180 g butter - softened
50 g confectioners' sugar
Pinch of salt
70 g blanched almonds - finely ground. I sometimes coarsely grind them to add a new texture into the cookie.
2 egg yolks
60 g vanilla sugar - see below
Cut open the vanilla bean and scrape out the pith. Combine together the almonds with the flour, sugar, salt, vanilla pith, and butter. Using your fingers, work flour–nut mixture into butter until dough resembles coarse meal or breadcrumbs.
Mix in the egg yolks and knead to form a smooth dough. Wrap the dough in some plastic wrap and chill for approx. 30 minutes. This is an essential step, without the resting period, the dough will break when being formed into cookies.
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C.
After resting cut the dough into 1/2 inch slices and roll each slice into a 3 inches long piece with pointy tapering ends; bend these into crescents shapes. Place on a baking sheet and bake in the center of the oven until light golden, about 12 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through for even baking. The kipferls should not turn brown.
After baking dip the still hot cookies into powdered sugar and/or vanilla sugar.
Handle the cookies with care, as they break quite easily, especially after baking. The cookies will keep for at least two weeks is a air tight container or a sealed cookie tin.
My tip: Place the vanilla pod without the pith in the tin or container with the cookies. This gives the cookies an additional vanilla aroma.
Making vanilla sugar: Keep granulated sugar and a vanilla bean in an air tight jar, after a few weeks the sugar will taste of vanilla.
It's the mellow aroma of vanilla that makes us love these cookies. That and the wonderful flaky texture of the cookies when you sink your teeth into one. ´The way it crumbles onto the tongue opening up the vanilla and almond aromas is always pure joy.
Other Christmas specialties on WFLH:
Nougat Orange Treats
Rich Creamy Truffles
Persimmon Spice Cake
Cranberry Upside Downer
I'd like to send these favorites to the very lovely Susan of Food Blogga for her very fitting event Eat Christmas Cookies
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