Monday, September 29, 2008

Springerle season kick-off, 2008.

Yep, I'm at it again. With the turn of the seasons comes a desire to try and, again, perfect my springerle skillz and break-in my new mold, with visible success!

Those who were following my trials and tribulations last year, will remember my ongoing issue with big hollows forming in the cookies (pillowing, as I've dubbed it), and that I had to make some adjustments to the recipe. I think those adjustments have worked well, and I made another change by using extra large eggs, rather than just large eggs. I think the added moisture went a long way to help the dough stay "coherent," you might say. No large voids, no pillows, just a consistent cookie. And look, they grew perfect feet!

Now, the hardest part of all, allowing the springerle to ripen for a week before eating any more of them! ^_^;

Here's the recipe I've been using, along with my alterations...

Whole Egg Springerle
originally published by Sharon Hudgins
"Edible Art," The World and I Magazine, Dec. 2001

4 extra large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp anise extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar*
grated zest of 1 lemon
4 cups all purpose flour*
3/4 tsp. baking powder
Optional: 2 Tbsp. whole anise seed

* First sift, then measure by spooning gently into a measuring cup and
leveling off the top with a knife.

Beat eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed for 10 minutes, until they are very pale and thick. Reduce mixer speed to medium; add anise oil. Gradually add confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating continuously. After all the sugar has been added, beat on high speed for 10 minutes longer. Stir in grated lemon zest.

Sift flour and baking powder together into another bowl. Gradually stir into egg mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing with a large wooden spoon until dough is smooth. Transfer dough to a floured pastry board and knead by hand for 5 minutes, until dough is soft and smooth and doesn't stick to your hands. Wrap dough securely in Plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.

Lightly butter (or spray with PAM) two large cookie sheets (not the air insulated variety). Optional:Put anise seed into a small plastic bag and crush them lightly with a rolling pin. Sprinkle crushed anise seed evenly over the cookie sheets.

Lightly dust a pastry board with flour or confectioners' sugar. Break off one-fourth of the chilled dough, leaving the remainder tightly wrapped in plastic (at room temperature if you are working quickly, or return to refrigerator if you not). Working quickly, because it dries rapidly, roll out dough with a standard rolling pin to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Dust top of dough lightly with confectioners' sugar, flour, or cornstarch.

Dust the mold to be used with confectioners' sugar and shake off excess. If using flat Springerle boards, press them firmly into the dough, to stamp the designs on the dough. If using a Springerle rolling pin, roll it only once firmly across the sheet of dough. With a fluted pastry cutter, pizza cutter, or sharp knife, cut the imprinted dough into individual cookies, each with a separate design in the middle. (If you plan to use the cookies as ornaments, punch a hole in the top of each with a skewer or matchstick. After baking, put a ribbon or piece of yarn through the hole to hang cookies on the tree.)

Use a spatula to transfer Springerle cookies to the baking sheets, placing cookies 1/2 inch apart Roll, stamp, and cut the remaining dough, re-rolling any scraps, until all the dough has been used. Let unbaked cookies sit in the open air, uncovered, in a warm room (away from children and pets) for 12 to 24 hours to dry thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 275ºF. Bake cookies on the middle rack of the oven, one baking sheet at a time, for 20 to 25 minutes. Watch carefully; don't let them over bake. They should be white on the top and pale golden on the bottom. Immediately remove the cookies from the baking sheets and transfer them to wire racks to cool for at least 1 hour. Brush remaining anise seed (if used) into an airtight container to use for storing Springerle.

When they have cooled completely, put them into the container with half an apple or a slice of bread set on top of the cookies, to make the Springerle soften while their flavor is developing. Cover container tightly. Leave cookies in container for at least 1 week (and up to 4 weeks), changing the apple or bread every few days to prevent mold from growing.

After their flavor has been allowed to ripen, Springerle can be eaten or stored for longer periods in the freezer. Stack them in a plastic freezer container, with a piece of wax paper between each
layer of cookies. Serve Springerle with coffee, tea, or a glass of chilled, not-too-dry, Alsatian, Rhine, or Mosel white wine. Makes approximately 60 two-inch-square Springerle cookies. (yield will vary, depending on size of cookie molds used.)

Note: Springerle cookies can be left totally white, or the designs on them can be painted with edible coloring materials.

Monday, September 22, 2008

New springerle mold.

Readers who were following me last year know well of my struggles with trying to bake the perfect springerle, which yielded mixed results. This year, I intend to keep working on my springerle, and even ordered a second mold from Mr. Gene Wilson.

This time 'round I purchased a smaller mold (2.5" x 3.5") featuring a proud/prancing reindeer/stag. It's Christmassy, to be sure, but I can also see using it for a sort of St. Patrick's cookie, as in the White Stag of Celtic legend.

I'll keep you posted about my baking results. I think it's about time I got to practicing my springerle!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Gingerbread: A spicy, autumnal, kick in the face!

Do you feel it? Can you smell it? It's in the air, growing ever crisper. It's in the leaves, growing ever redder. And it in the cooking, which grows ever more warming. Autumn is upon us! I revel is all things autumnal; the changing leaves, the shortening days, wearing sweaters, the cool, crisp days, and the warm cooking and baking, especially. I love the flavors of autumn. Pumpkin, butternut squash, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, apples, oranges, pears, all of these flavors work in a way that, regardless of what goes on in your life and around the world, well...they make you feel happy.

One of my all-time favorite autumnal sweets (besides candy corn) is gingerbread. Not the cookies (though I love those, too), but the cake. However, I sometimes find it hard to find a suitable recipe. So many that I read extol the virtues of how there is "but a hint of spice," or "a touch of ginger," or "just a touch of molasses" to the flavor. Now, I don't know about you, but when I want gingerbread...I want gingerbread! None of this holding back of flavor. Give it to me full flavored and don't wimp out. I now think I've finally found a recipe that lives up to my demanding expectation, Gramercy Tavern's Gingerbread.

Another wonderful recipe from the folks at Gourmet Magazine, Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread is a dense, almost sticky cake that delivers a kick to the face, as spice and flavor goes. Hell, there's a heaping two tablespoons of ginger in this baby, plus an entire cup of dark molasses. You also get the pleasure of adding a cup of stout beer to the batter, and as we all know, beer makes food better.

I've used stouts in baking before, and yielded delicious results. I've used both Guinness and Sierra Nevada Stout, and both work. However, I have found that Guinness, though great when drunk straight up, does not deliver as much when used in baking. Therefor, I recommend Sierra Nevada Stout, here. It's got more chutzpah, which comes through well when added to a cake batter. You don't really taste the stout so much, but it helps to balance the three cups of sugar (1 cup each dark molasses, dark brown sugar, and white sugar) with some bitterness. It also adds richness to the gingerbread.

Hm...a second slice is looking good, right about now. ^_^;

Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread

1 cup oatmeal stout or Guinness Stout
1 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cardamom
3 large eggs
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Confectioners sugar for dusting

Special equipment: a 10-inch (10- to 12-cup) bundt pan

Accompaniment: unsweetened whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter bundt pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Bring stout and molasses to a boil in a large saucepan and remove from heat. Whisk in baking soda, then cool to room temperature.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs and sugars. Whisk in oil, then molasses mixture. Add to flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

Pour batter into bundt pan and rap pan sharply on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs adhering, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely.

Serve cake, dusted with confectioners sugar, with whipped cream.

Friday, September 12, 2008


A couple of weeks ago I went foraging for elderberries in the mountains in a couple of my usual foraging grounds, and met with little success, collecting a scant 2 cups of berries. This is not to say that I didn't find any berries, I just happened upon them before the vast majority were ripe and thus, inedible. (Unlike other berries, unripe elderberries are, in fact, toxic.) So I decided to give them a couple of weeks and was rewarded with a nice haul, today!

I ended up gathering about 12 cups of ripe berries, which are now chilling in the freezer as I decide what to do with them. Any thoughts? I've made jam before, and elderberry extract to treat friends and family who get the flu, but tonight I find myself without inspiration.

Although...elderberry liqueur is certainly an intriguing thought.