I am not a baker. I think I’ve mentioned that before. I much prefer cooking, where you have a great deal of leniency in what and how you can cook. Errors can be caught and fixed before the dish goes on the table. Don’t have a specific ingredient? No worries, just substitute something similar.
Baking… baking involves MATH. It involves a great number of ratios and exact ingredients. And after you’ve committed your batch to the oven, it’s like peering into the core of a nuclear reactor: if anything goes wrong, too bad! You have to wait for it to finish. And if you totally screwed up, there’s no fixing it.
So I when I bake, it’s for specific reasons or with very tried and tested recipes. And Christmas is one of those specific reasons where I really get the urge to bake: to satiate my nostalgia.
Among all of the cookies that my family traditionally made was the springerle. Springerles are a German cookie flavoured with anise. Traditionally the flavouring came from scattering anise seed on the cookie sheet, but my mother’s recipe calls for anise oil. After mixing, the dough, which is very stiff, is decorated using a stamp or a roller with traditional designs. (I use a rolling pin. Also, after I noticed that one of the designs looks like a dick, it’s something that I simply cannot unsee. My inner 10 year old salutes you.) After cutting the cookies apart, they have to stand and dry for a day or so before baking.
Because of the chilling and drying time, these aren’t cookies that you can just whip up in an hour or so. That, combined with my reluctance to bake, means that I don’t get around to making these every Christmas.
However, this year I had the time and the inclination, and so I made springerles. That means on Christmas Eve we’ll be able to sip steaming mugs of hot chocolate and dip springerles into them as we watch the cats disassemble the Christmas tree.
- 4 eggs
- 1 lb. powdered sugar
- 4 ½ cups sifted cake flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp anise oil (to taste; make sure it’s anise oil, not extract)
- Using a whisk attachment on your stand mixer, beat the eggs until light (about five to ten minutes). Add the sugar slowly and beat until very light (another five to ten minutes). Add the anise oil and mix until incorporated.
- Switch to a flat beater. Sift the baking powder into the flour, then add to the batter slowly. Mix thoroughly (the dough will be quite stiff.)
- Chill covered for about an hour (or if you live in Winnipeg, place on your back porch for about 20 minutes). Roll the rough to approximately ½ inch thickness. Roll or press designs into the dough, then cut apart and arrange on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper or a Silpat.
- Leave exposed overnight, or until the designs on the top are dry. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake cookies for about 30 minutes. Watch them carefully so that they do not brown.
- Transfer to a cooling rack. When completely cool, store in a sealed tin. As they age they will become tender. Makes 30-40 cookies.