Springerle Success!


Other than one faintly muttered "damn," no swearing occurred while making springerle cookies this year. I used a new recipe, because I located one of the more obscure leavening agents (baker's ammonia, once made from the horns of deer, and found at a local European deli).

I'm not sure why things worked out as well as they did, but the cookies unmolded, and baked beautifully. I only dragged my oven mitt through a couple of them, and that was fine, because it meant that Robb and I got to eat 'em.

This first photograph is the finished product -- pillowy and white, just like they should be.

Over the years, I've managed to find antique wooden cookie molds. They are little works of art, and if you think about it, they're pretty mind-boggling. The image is hand-carved, which is complicated enough, but here's what amazes me: the carver had to essentially carve the image inside-out. They had to carve deepest, where the image would be the tallest. And of course, since they were carving in wood, they really couldn't see what they were doing.

Printmakers and rubber-stamp carvers should be suitably impressed. Everyone else can shrug and wonder why I think this is such a big deal.

I think these are lovely, and keep a few on display in our dining room. Yeah, I've got a thing for hand-made wooden objects.

It is possible to buy resin reproductions of springerle molds, but I don't find them to have the same charm. Also, I've been super-lucky in the past, and found my wooden molds at remarkably good prices.

(If you ever see these little wooden molds at antique stores, send me a photo from your phone, and I might just ask you to buy them for me.)

In one way, I'm non-traditional with these cookies. I flavor them with almond instead of anise. I adore licorice, but I know that many people loathe it. There's no point going to the trouble of making a cookie that nobody wants to eat.

I spent part of my childhood in Austria, and have always thought that Northern Europeans really know how to do Christmas. That's probably why I get so misty-eyed about these cookies. It's not like they're actually part of my childhood memories, but something about really touches a nerve.

Charming, aren't they? This one is a bit more modern (or so I think).

Sadly, the carving of the grapes seems to have been damaged. I wonder if I could smooth it out, or if I would just wreck the mold in my misguided attempts at repair.

Bunny? Cat? Lamb? Darned if I know.

This series of molds seem to have been carved with a dremel-type tool. You can see the work of a rounded carving bit.

A charming castle. One of my fondest memories of living in Austria was spending weekends, doing what our family called "castle climbing." There were an apparently endless number of castles and fortifications open to the public, and we seemed to have explored most of them.

Compare the carving on the veins of the leaves with those on the rose, above. You can see how the carver of this mold dug their knife into the wood, creating a protruding vein. The carver of the rose was far more sophisticated, creating a leaf that curls in space and has more realistic (and far more difficult to carve) veins. Still, this is one of my favorite images.

In years past, the dough has gotten stuck in the molds, causing all sorts of heart-ache. This time, things could not have worked better. I suspect brushing flour into the molds and onto the dough really helped.

I'm almost tempted to try the (vegan) gingerbread recipe. Almost.


Becky said…
Wow! Superb!
Kaveh said…
Those really came out beautifully. It would almost be a shame to eat them. Almost.

I'll be on the lookout for antique wooden molds.
Celia Hart said…
These are beautiful! I love carving printing blocks so I'm (almost) passing out with excitement!

Hope they taste as lovely as they look.

Anonymous said…
Your cookies look professional!

Yes, lightly dusting the wooden cookie mold with flour helps the dough come out easily.

Regarding using almond flavor instead of anise, the Sisters on the video that you posted earlier also make some like that, except they call them "almerle" instead of "springerle." I noticed this on their website:

Mel said…
The molds, and your cookies, are amazing! Thanks for sharing them.
ajt said…
I CAN'T BELIEVE THOSE ARE COOKIES. They look amazing, Lisa! Well done.
Anonymous said…
We have these here in Pennsylvania, and I also collect them when I can find them. Which is rare. As a printmaker I love them! The one animal you were looking at is for sure a lamb. Many of those animals have a religious connotation to them "lamb of god" type mindset, but I also think it works well as an animist, since animals and trees figure heavily in many religious belief systems.

The carvings I find here average about $20- $25 and are beautiful. I have a few that are directly from the Amish and also feature some great Pennsylvania Dutch text in them as well. Many are offshoots from various cults of the PA. Dutch sects, and I LOVE those. No one knows what they are exactly, but when all 4 (or more) squares are put together, they are supposed to be eaten in a certain order according to their beliefs. They are primarily used to make maple sugar candy and cookies and are super duper tasty! Do you brush your blocks with linseed oil to preserve them?

Annalisa -- I think you're right about the lamb, based on the pose as much as the symbolism.

If you find decent molds, I'd be happy to buy them through you. (There's a lot of junky carving out there. Blobs and lines.)

I don't oil the wood, because I'm afraid of the oils getting rancid and imparting a vile taste to the cookies. I just clean them off with a dry toothbrush and hope for the best.
MommaWriter said…
Gosh, those are beautiful, Lisa! I spent so much time and energy making lovely cookies this year, but you're definitely making me want to go out looking for cookie moulds!

Kim said…
You are the only other person I know who knows about Springerle! They are an old family tradition at Will's house - the boards his 91 year old grandmother uses have been in the family since the late 1700s!

You're right about dusting with flour; his grandmother has a little handkerchief full of flour (secured shut with a rubber band) that she (or I, if I'm lucky) will "pat" over all of the boards, being extra-generous in the very detailed designs!
Thomas said…
Wooden molds are on Kickstarter -- they need backers!


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