Because Germany doesn’t really have Thanksgiving like we do in the US, stores here focus on Christmas and have had Christmas items available since early October. I haven’t been ready to start thinking about Christmas, but as we begin planning our gift shopping for our family, I’m easing my way in to the holidays. We will have a small Thanksgiving feast for just the four of us the Saturday after Thanksgiving happens in the US, as David does not get the day off. But celebrating Thanksgiving here is not really the same. I’m extra eager to celebrate Christmas in the States with our family because we miss out on Thanksgiving (and, of course, everyone will get to meet Superdude for the first time!).
Today was a cold, rainy and snowy day; a perfect day for baking. In thinking about the holidays, I decided to make a traditional German Christmas cookie, called Vanillekipferl in German. I’ve seen them called Viennese Crescent Cookies, Kifles or Kiflings in English. In case you’re wondering what a Kipferl, Kifle or Kifling is, this article explains in German – basically, the word designates a baked good in the shape of a crescent.
These cookies are one of my favorite German Christmas treats. They’re similar to Mexican Wedding Cakes, in that they’re very buttery and have ground nuts as part of the cookie dough. Vanillekipferl are not too sweet, either, making them a nice tea cookie.
The recipe I use doesn’t have eggs in it, and the cookies come out especially tender.
adapted from: The Joy of Cooking Christmas Cookies, by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker.
8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter – use real butter, folks. Trust me.
3 ounces (3/4 cup) powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla – I recommend using double extract vanilla at full strength
4 ounces (1 cup) ground almonds (preferably blanched)
10 ounces (2 cups) all-purpose flour
2 ounces (2/3 cup) powdered sugar
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or 175 degrees Celsius. Have ready cookie baking sheets, lined with baking paper.
2. In a medium bowl, beat the butter until it is creamy and lighter in color. Then sift the 3 ounces of powdered sugar over the butter, and beat well until incorporated.
3. Next, add in the vanilla extract and beat into the butter-sugar mixture. Stir in the ground almonds until evenly mixed in.
4. Gradually sift in the flour, stirring it in. Then knead the dough until it is well-blended. If the dough is very soft, place it in the refrigerator for twenty or thirty minutes; however, you don’t want the dough so cold that it doesn’t mold well in your hand.
5. Taking about a tablespoon of dough at a time, form crescents and place on the cookie sheets, giving the crescents a little space to spread.
6. Bake one sheet of cookies at a time, in the upper third of your oven, for approximately 13-16 minutes. You want the cookies to be very lightly browned. Then cool the cookies on the cookie sheet on a cooling rack for about two minutes; then remove the cookies from the cookie sheet to continue cooling on the wire rack.
7. Once all cookies are cool, dust with the remaining two ounces of powdered sugar.
Note: If you like, you can add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon OR one to two tablespoons of vanilla sugar to the powdered sugar. Vanilla sugar is more traditional, but adding a touch of cinnamon is a nice variant for the holidays.