Springerle Biscuits – a Christmas tradition

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Peter and our nephew Nick are ready to pounce on my sister Kerry’s long anticipated cheese rolls. For the recipe go to “Southern Sushi” 
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Merry Christmas from Fat Weka Farm.  Christmas is full of family food traditions, whether that tradition is 30 years old like our family’s cheese rolls on Christmas morning or centuries old like Springerle biscuits.  We all love ritual and its now the second year that my friend Lea and I have done Christmas baking.

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This year she got from the US a special patterned rolling pin to make biscuits her Mom used to make every Christmas.

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Springerle (SPRING-uhr-lee) biscuit moulds have been found in Switzerland dating back to the 14th Century and the word translates to”jumping horse”. Historians trace these cookies back to Julfest, a midwinter celebration of Germanic tribes when animals were sacrificed to the gods in the hope of a mild winter and early spring. Poor people who could not afford to kill any of their animals, instead gave token sacrifices in the form of animal-shaped breads and biscuits.  Today many varieties of shaped biscuits remain a Christmas tradition.

Springerle Biscuits

(makes 50-60 aniseed flavoured biscuits that are the perfect dunking biscuit).

4 eggs

2 cups of sugar (beaten together for 15 minuites!)

Add ¼ cup of anise seeds

Add approx 4 cups of plain flour

Bake for 20 minutes at  160ºC or 325ºF

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You really need a beater for the first part of the job.   Beat the eggs, adding the sugar slowly and beat for 15 minutes . It’s this beating that makes the biscuit set like a very hard meringue.

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Next add the anise seed.  Anise you will need to source from a gourmet store.  Ground aniseed is more easily found but there is something really good about that zing of seed (takes me back to aniseed balls from my childhood).  If you don’t like the flavour of aniseed you can replace it with lemon zest and vanilla – or indeed any Christmas spice combination.

 

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Now mix in the flour – keeping one cup aside to add if required to make a dough that will easily roll out.

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Gently knead the dough to create a rough rectangle to then roll out to about 2cm ideally wide enough to fit the rolling pin width.

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You can make these with cutters or just cut into squares if you don’t have this special rolling pin but roll them out to 1cm if not using the roller.

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To avoid the dough sticking into the indentations rub over a combination of 1 Tbsp of icing sugar with ¼ cup of flour.

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Lea hadn’t made these cookies herself before so the first roll was a little tentative. You need to put as much pressure as you can onto the rolling pin to flatten out the dough and imprint the image.  We found that it better to apply pressure on the rolling pin itself rather than just the handles as Lea did first time round.

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After rolling cut away any of the biscuits that didn’t come out well from the rolling mould. Shape and roll this dough ready for another run.

20171219_170442Cut in between the biscuit lines to create the small square biscuits.  Place on a tray with baking paper. Ideally leave covered with a tea towel to set for 12-24 hours before baking.  We left one tray to sit for an hour before baking. The second tray I waited until the next day as per her Mom’s instructions before baking but the outcome was not a lot different from the ones we baked after one hour’s setting.

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If you can get your hands on a Springerle rolling pin then also try with gingerbread and shortbread.

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I tried the rolling pin out at Penguin Cafe using our regular gingerbread dough and they worked perfectly.

The Springerle biscuits will easily keep for a couple of weeks in an airtight jar and they tend to continue to harden over the next couple of days.

20171225_091528 Today Peter and I decided to walk the circuit around Fat Weka Farm with Lexie our dog…and because it was Christmas Day we took a flask of coffee and a slice of Christmas cake.  It was such a lovely way to start the day I think this too will become a tradition in a day already full of established traditions.

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