What is a Springerle?

Diane Goettel

A springerle is a kind of sweet biscuit that is a part of traditional German cuisine and is especially common during the Christmas holidays. The key identifying feature of a springerle is the embossed the face of the biscuit. This feature is created by pressing or rolling a mold onto the dough before the dough is put in the oven to bake. Also, the dough is left to dry for a period of time between being embossed and being baked. This helps to maintain the impression in the dough so that it is still clearly visible after baking.

Woman baking cookies
Woman baking cookies

The impressions in the surface of springerle cookies are created by a carved rolling pin or by a metal press that functions much like a stamp for ink embossments. When a rolling pin is used, the wooden cylinder is rolled across the surface of the dough. Although the patterns are carved into a rounded surface, they appear perfectly flat and even when they are rolled across the springerle dough in the appropriate fashion.

Springerle cookies have been made in Germany and nearby countries for many centuries. In fact, there is historical evidence that indicates that these biscuits may have been in production as early as the 1300s. Some of the earliest springerle molds that have been found feature Christian images and symbols. This is one of the reasons that it is believed that springerle were derived from the practice of embossing sacramental bread to be used in religious ceremonies. Although the first molds for these biscuits were often religious in nature, more recent molds from the 1600s through the 1800s reflect images of family, love, and marriage.

The defining flavor of springerle cookies is anise. Instead of having anise seeds mixed into the dough, the seeds are usually scattered on the baking sheet. The molded dough is placed on top of the seeds before it is put into the oven. When they have finished baking, a process which is usually done at a rather low temperature, springerle biscuits retain their shape and their embossed image and are usually quite light in color. It is common for springerle, which are made primarily with egg whites and white flour, to be nearly white in color. The color is only made lighter by the fact that these kinds of cookies are very often dusted with a highly refined powdered sugar after they have cooled.

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