Back in 2005, while working at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, I met a bloke named James Matterer. He runs the site, Gode Cookery, and had some Springerle cookies which he was passing out to people. I believe he had come out specifically to see Wolgemut, in his travels around the country. For years, I had seen all sorts of molds, but never really knew what they were for. Since I’m a fan of medieval cooking, I was fascinated and wanted to know how they were made and where on earth he picked up the molds. I cannot recall where he bought the molds, or any other info about them. We talked about the old way of making them and the modern way. It’s difficult to find Hartshorn, as that is what you use instead of baking soda. You /could/ substitute, but he wasn’t a fan of it.
When I was back at home, I scoured the intarweb and found House on the Hill, which specializes in molds & baking paraphernalia for Springerle, Gingerbread, and Speculaas (which I also love). I immediately ordered the catalog. It’s been 7 years since I did and I still have it. I’ve been known to carry it around randomly, to show people something I am passionate about. You’d think being all nerdy, I would have started on this project much earlier. Things weren’t going well for me back then so I put it off. And I’ve kept putting it off for no good reason at all.
When I was visiting Germany, I was excited to see some medieval Springerle molds in a window display for the local museum.
I decided right there that I was ready to learn how to make these delightful cookies. I was determined to pick up a couple of molds at some point during my trip. When Iain and I visited the Württemberg State Museum for the Celtic Exhibit, I wanted to check out the gift shop. They had HEAPS of cookie molds. It took a while, but I narrowed it down to two. I resisted buying more, but I didn’t want to be stuck with a whole bunch of these if I decided that making this a hobby was not for me. The museum gave me a recipe for springerle along with some information about the molds.
When back home, I hit up the online shop to pick up hartshorn aka baker’s ammonia. I also picked up a beginners kit for springerle (sample of hartshorn, flavored oil, and recipe book), and a rolling mat. I chose to start with almond flavoring instead of anise, since it’s much more suited to American tastes. Generally, that is. I’m definitely going to try with anise another time. I received the package of goods on the 24th. I thought I had everything I needed for the recipe, according to the kit book. I realized later, after shops were closed, that I did not have near enough powdered sugar. I also realized that this recipe was for a HUGE amount of dough. I found the German recipe from the museum and translated it. Turns out it is a much smaller recipe, both the ingredients list and the amount of dough I’d have.
I inspected my springerle molds to make sure there weren’t any splinters. Or dirt. Or anything else. I would hate for someone to take a splinter to the gums while eating one of these.
I realized once I put in the flour, that I hadn’t taken into account the size of my eggs. It wasn’t dough; it was batter! This is where I don my robe and wizard hat. I decided to experiment. I started adding more flour. Lots more. Upped the powdered sugar, and hartshorn. Since the almond oil is concentrated already, I didn’t add more. I think I had too much to begin with anyway. I finally managed to get a good dough out of the mess. Wrapped it up to let it chill for an hour in the fridge.
Now comes the tricky part. Time to roll and press! I had no idea how thick it should be in relation to these size molds. Every recipe I’ve found lists something different.
I actually rolled it out at different thicknesses so I could see which would work best. I’m kinda awesome experimental that way.
Time to let them sit! The reason you let them dry over night is so the part of the cookie with the print will rise. When baking, the cookie will automatically rise the design up over the rest of the cookie. Well, in theory, that’s how it is supposed to work. Today, I picked a medium random temperature so as not to burn the cookies. I left them for 10 min, and then for another 7. As I found out later, that was WAY too long. If I had been doing larger molds, I would have dropped the temperature a little and cooked them for that length.
I found a great video tutorial *after* I had already made the cookies, so I quickly realized where my mistakes were. I’m going to try the recipes I found on Springerle Joy and The Springerle Baker sites. I also need to buy a pastry brush, as it would have made dusting the molds easier, plus I could have easily removed the flour from these after they were baked.
I just ate one and they are almondy delish! Definitely too thin and dry on the one I’m eating. I’ve put them all in a tin and I’ll see how different they are when I get back from seeing family later this week.