Lemon Springerle Cookies

Springerle cookies are, as readers know, some of my favorite holiday cookies to make and to give away as gifts. They are a pleasure to eat too. Traditionally they are a German Christmas cookie, flavored with anise, but I wanted to make them for Easter. Citrus peel can be used to complement the anise seed and extract in the traditional recipe, but I decided to use strictly lemon extract and lemon peel in the cookie dough, to provide the cookies with a flavor perfect for the Easter holiday.

Follow the basic Springerle dough recipe from House on the Hill (Recipe follows).
In place of anise extract in the recipe, use 4 teaspoons of pure lemon extract. Add the peel and rind from one lemon. I did not use any additional flavors.

Baking time will vary depending on humidity, temperature, and cookie size. The ammonia scent from the hartshorn/bakers ammonia will disappear in baking. Use additional powdered sugar to add to the dough to give it enough density to roll and mold properly.  Make Springerle dough and stamp the cookies the night before you plan to bake them as they'll need to dry out overnight. For more helpful tips, you can review my previous posts on Springerle. Molds can be found at House on the Hill or the
Springerle House in Strasburg PA.

Painting Springerle: Use pure lemon extract and various colors of luster dust. Luster dust can be found at a cake supplier or in the baking section of Michaels or ACMoore. Mix colors in a glass dish or metal pan. Use only a small amount of colored dust and a very small amount of lemon extract to mix them together. Use a paint brush typically used for watercolor with soft bristles. I often use two different sizes depending on the intricacy of the mold. The extract and dust mixture will evaporate quickly. Paint cookies only once they have completely cooled.

Perfection Springerle Cookies
These whisked-egg holiday cookies date back to at least the 1600’s and are made in Bavaria, Switzerland and the Alsace area of France. For eating quality, ease and quality of prints this recipe is just perfection!
What you’ll need:
  • 1/2 teaspoon baker’s ammonia (Hartshorn) or baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 6 cups powdered sugar (1 – 1 1/2 #)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened but not melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of anise (if substituting fruit flavored oils, use 3 teaspoons)
  • 2 lb. box sifted cake flour (Swansdown or Softasilk)
  • grated rind of orange or lemon – optional (enhances flavor of the traditional anise or the citrus flavors)
  • more flour as needed
Dissolve hartshorn in milk and set aside. Beat eggs till thick and lemon-colored (10-20 minutes). Slowly beat in the powdered sugar, then the softened butter. Add the hartshorn and milk, salt, preferred flavoring, and grated rind of lemon or orange, if desired. Gradually beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer, then stir in the remainder of the 2 lbs. of flour to make stiff dough. Turn onto floured surface and knead in enough flour to make a good print without sticking. Follow general directions for imprinting and drying cookies (Instructions follow).
Bake on greased or baker’s parchment-lined cookie sheets at 255° to 325° till barely golden on the bottom, 10-15 minutes or more, depending on size of cookie.
Store in airtight containers or in zipper bags in the freezer. They keep for months, and improve with age. Yield 3 to 12 dozen.

General Directions for Printing Cookies
Size and liquidity of eggs, flour, and weather can affect your dough. Use your senses to decide if the dough will print well without sticking. You may need to use less or more flour than the recipe states.
To Prevent Sticking
Method #1
Brush confectioner’s sugar or flour (use flour for cookies and confectioner’s sugar for candy) over mold with a clean, dry pastry brush to prevent sticking.
Method #2
In some instances you may prefer to spray mold with non-stick spray or lightly coat with cooking oil (wiping with a paper towel); for example, to avoid a “floury” look on dark gingerbread, fondant or marzipan. Do not grease and flour molds, as flour plugs the details.
Printing Cookies
Method #1 – For most cookies...
Dough will be rolled approximately 3/8” to 5/8” thick, like pie crust (deeper molds need thicker dough). Brush confectioner’s sugar or flour on the mold image, then imprint with your press (mold), cut out shape with knife or pastry wheel, dry and bake. Remember to “press and cut, press and cut” so that adjacent images are not distorted.
Method #2 – For very deep or large cookies...
Roll out dough to desired thickness and, using a dry, clean pastry brush, apply flour or sugar and cut a piece of dough the approximate size needed for the mold. Press dough into the mold with fingers, working from center outward. You may lightly roll the back side of the cookie to smooth before turning out of the mold. Trim, dry and bake. To check your print, use light from the side – daylight or light from a floor lamp – so the shadows let you see if your prints are good.
Most printed cookies are dried 2-24 hours before baking (depending on your schedule, humidity, etc.) Drying preserves the image during baking.
Test bake one cookie first! It saves grief!
Baking Temperatures
Ovens vary widely! If your test cookie “over puffs” or tilts, reduce heat, put an empty cookie sheet on bottom oven shelf, or prop the oven door slightly ajar with handle of a wooden spoon to wick off heat. For tiny cookies, you may need the temperature set as low as 200 degrees. In general, the smaller the cookie, the lower the temperature. The larger the cookie the higher the temperature.
Flat areas of larger cookies are vulnerable to “bubbles” while baking. Simply press then down manually and finish baking.
Hartshorn (Ammonium Carbonate or Baker’s Ammonia)
Hartshorn is an old-time leavening unexcelled for any cookies and produces an especially light, delicate texture. Hartshorn can be substituted for baking powder proportionately one-to-one in cookie or cracker recipes. Hartshorn is not affected by age, but it will evaporate. Doughs made with hartshorn store well, as its leavening action is only triggered by heat, not moisture. There will be an ammonia smell during baking, but it will be baked out of your cookies. (It used to come in a form like rock salt, so old recipes instructed “crush with a rolling pin” then dissolve in liquid.) Purchase Hartshorn.
Flavoring Oils
Don’t be alarmed if the flavoring oils crystallize or congeal. Place the bottle in warm water until it is liquefied and shake. Purchase Flavoring Oils.

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