I don’t think I’m alone in saying this, but as far as I’m concerned there is no better time for baking cookies than Christmas. At other times of the year I can be more likely found baking a cake or a batch of brownies; something that can be whipped together in one go, cookies seem so arduous somehow in their singularity.
I make an exception at Christmas. Normally I bake traditional sugar cookies with my sister and grandmother. The cookie itself isn’t much to write home about but the ceremonial process of icing the cookies, dusting them with sprinkles and then wrapping them up in cellophane bags to give as gifts to family and friends is to me exceptionally pleasing and the epitome of the season.
Today we made Vanille Kipferl (vanilla crescents) with Bruni, Tim’s mom, for us to take back to California for Christmas. Possibly the most loved German Christmas cookie (and believe me, there are many) Tim’s mom sends these to us every year in a festive tin to keep us company through the Advent. Perfect with a cup of tea or coffee in the afternoon they are somehow (amazingly) simultaneously both light and rich. I love how my first bite of Vanille Kipferl is always crisp, but as I nibble further it becomes more yielding and the overall crumbliness of the dough (from the ground almonds) I find immensely satisfying.
This is also a great “team-cookie.” Together Bruni, Tim and I, rolled, cut, shaped and formed dozens of Vanille Kipferl. It’s easy to form a proper Vanille Kipferl assembly-line where each person (or child) has their own individual say. You shouldn’t stress about shaping the cookies into perfect crescents, rather they should each bear their own mark in that way which is quintessentially homemade and lovely.
After a successful morning of baking I am now (gleefully) in possession of Bruni’s Vanille Kipferl recipe, which I can now share with you. We made a double batch (the best for gift-giving) which I recommend you do as well for these little guys disappear quickly.
250 g all-purpose flour
100 g sugar
200 g soft butter or margarine
3 large egg yolks
100 g grond almonds
1.Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius, 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, using your hands to knead the dough. The dough will be very stiff.
2. Wrap in plastic and leave in the refrigerator for at least one hour to rest.
3. Divide dough equally into large chunks and then roll each piece into a long snake. Using a small knife cut the roll into one inch pieces. Then roll each piece between your hands to form a small even “snake”. Form these “snakes” into crescents. Place on the baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly puffed and golden brown.
4. While the cookies are still hot prepare your sugar topping. Mix equal parts vanilla sugar and granulated sugar together in a shallow basin or large plate. Dip each cookie face-down in the sugar mixture until lightly coated. Set aside. Repeat process until all cookies are dipped in vanilla sugar. Let cool on a rack and then store in an air tight container for up to two weeks.