Springerle are probably one of the most decorative biscuits: the delicately carved molds which are pressed onto the dough to leave the most intricate imprints have been around since the Middle Ages. Their subtle aniseed flavour makes them the perfect Christmas biscuit. In southern Germany in particular, Christmas cookies are an important part of the year, with every family baking around 6 to 10 different biscuits, often using closely-guarded family recipes. They are offered to visitors during Advent, the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, less to nourish them than to impress them with your baking skills.
Springerle are one of the most difficult to make, but thanks to the hard work of my Mum and my Granny we have come up with a fail-safe formula to impress your visitors!
Springerle are popular in Switzerland and in southern Germany, where they are called Springerle: in the Swabian dialect it means 'little jumpers,' in reference to the cookies 'jumping' up, leaving the much-desired little 'foot' at the bottom of the biscuit.
We make these biscuits are the end of November and store them in a tin, taking out a few at a time. They might take a few days to soften, but the cookies will keep until Christmas!
The biscuits take time and patience: they need to dry overnight and only time will tell whether they rise and soften - the latter can take up to a week! If you succeed, however, you are left with an amazing piece of baking history, as well as an impressive little cookie. And if they're too dry, simply use them to decorate your Christmas tree while giving it another go. —Ginger
Grease two large baking sheets with butter and sprinkle with flour and the aniseed.
Mix the icing sugar and eggs with an electric mixer at a high speed until the mix becomes light and creamy. Using a sieve, gradually add the flour and the pinch of baking powder, and finally the lemon zest. Using your hands, knead it well until it is smooth.
It is best to roll it out in small portions, to a thickness of around 1 cm or 1/2 inch. Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough and press your mold gently and evenly into it. Remove carefully and cut, using a knife or a cookie cutter of the required shape. Place the biscuits on the tray - you don't need to leave much space in between the biscuits as they will not expand.
Leave to dry for 24 hours in a cool room, such as a bedroom.
The next day, heat the oven to 120C. In a cup, mix 1 tsp caster sugar with 1 tsp water and paint the bottom of each of the biscuits with the sugar water - avoid spillage as it will ruin the surface of the biscuits. Place them back on the greased trays and remove any remaining flour from the patterned surface with a clean and dry brush.
Bake on the middle shelf for ca. 20 minutes - under no circumstances open the oven as it will prevent them from rising! After 20 minutes, cover the biscuits with baking parchment and bake them for an further 6 minutes. They need to remain white on top, but with little feet at the bottom. Leave to cool for a little before removing them from the oven tray.
Store in tin - they might be quite hard at the start, but after a few days they will have softened. If not, bite off a corner and blow into the biscuit to soften it. Believe me, that's how we professionals do it.