Here’s a little history lesson: Springerle comes from an old German word meaning “jumping horse.” In pagan times, germanic tribes would hold a midwinter festival that included animal sacrifice to the gods for prosperity in the coming months. Families that couldn’t afford to sacrifice their precious livestock would offer up a special cookie, printed with a picture of the animal, instead.
Alas, the cover has disappeared, so we are not sure where it came from, but the recipe itself is very traditional. It calls for hartshorn, which is also known as Baker’s ammonia. If you can’t find it locally (I couldn’t), just substitute baking powder.
Oh, and since I’m handing out free advice, here’s another tip: read the entire recipe before you begin. The first time I made these cookies I started at 8:00 pm, and when I got to the part about “let stand and dry for 10 hours,” I was just a little gobsmacked. Whoops. Oh, and you’re going to need this little do-hickey:When you roll out the cookies, you’ll need this special rolling pin to create the traditional Springerle design. Do you have to use this? Of course not, just use a regular cookie cutter if you’d like.
1 cup sugar
1 tsp hartshorn (or baking powder)
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp anise extract
1. Beat eggs in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and then beat again.
2. Add baking powder and stir until dissolved.
3. Add flour, salt, and anise extract. If dough is exceptionally sticky, add another 1/4 cup of flour and mix in.
4. Roll out to 1/8″-1/4″. With a special Springerle rolling pin, print the design on the dough. Cut into squares and place on greased cookie sheets. Cover with a towel and let stand to dry for 10 hours.
5. Bake at 325° for 15-20 minutes, until very lightly browned.
I realize you’ve just put in a lot of work for a cookie. But these have such a uniquely springy texture and rich anise taste, I promise it will be worth it!