Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Springerle Cookies ~ Sugar Free

Springerles are an Old World cookie with more than a 400 year history. Traditionally they're made the first week of December and stored in tins for the Christmas holidays. A lovely assortment of springerle cookie designs can be seen here

Although anise seeds and grated lemon peel are traditional ingredients, you don't have to use these flavors. If you search on-line you might be surprised as there is a good deal of interest in the art of springerle baking. There are many contemporary recipes with different flavorings that could easily be substituted for the anise and lemon.

This month I made 2 batches of springerles, one using lemons and anise seeds from my garden and the other using oranges and anise seeds.

Substituting the sugar in springerles seemed like an impossible task. Over the last few years, I've tried various alternatives without success. This holiday season I tried Just Like Sugar and it worked.

Just Like Sugar has to be added to the dry ingredients, not to the eggs as per a normal springerle recipe. On Maui, Just Like Sugar is available at Down to Earth in Kahului or it can be ordered online through the link above.

This is a good video demonstration for making a normal springerle recipe. 
The demonstration uses Hartshorn baking powder. I haven't yet tried my alternative recipe using Hartshorn.

Just Like Sugar is a good non-toxic alternative to sugar but chemically it isn't sugar and it's not inexpensive. If it's added directly to the eggs and left to mix it results in a stiff, gummy mass. The traditional recipe I have called for 2 cups of sugar, 4 eggs, 4 cups of flour and no butter. In order to get it to work with 2 cups of Just Like Sugar, I increased the eggs to 6, reduced the flour to 3 cups and added a stick of butter. I used flour to brush the molds - it worked better for this step than the Just Like Sugar.

The Ingredients
3 c. sifted unbleached or white flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 eggs at room temperature
1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature
2 c. Just Like Sugar for Baking
2 tsp. grated lemon or orange peel
2 Tbsp. crushed anise seeds

1) Combine the flour, Just Like Sugar, baking power and salt. Sift twice and set aside.

2) In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs at high speed until thick and lemon colored - 10 to 20 minutes.

3) At medium speed, add the butter to the beaten eggs and combine.

4) Add the lemon or orange peel and combine.

5) Remove the mixing bowl and add the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time, combining with a spatula or wooden spoon. When the dough is too thick to mix with a spatula, knead it by hand until all of the flour is incorporated.

6) If the dough is still sticky, gradually add more flour until the dough no longer sticks to your hands.

7) Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

8) Lay pieces of parchment paper over 2 to 3 cookie sheets and sprinkle with crushed anise seeds.

9) To roll out the dough, use whatever surface is comfortable. The dough is sort of like a bread dough. I used a piece of parchment paper on my counter-top and coated the parchment and rolling pin with a small amount of flour.

10) Divide the dough into 2 to 3 parts and keep each part refrigerated until ready to roll out.

The video provides very helpful information for these next steps.

11) Roll out the dough into a rectangle.

12) Brush the springerle board with flour and press firmly into dough. Lift the mold off carefully.

13) Coat the edge of a sharp knife, pastry wheel, pizza cutter or a metal scarper with flour and carefully cut along the lines in the dough.

14) Transfer the cookies to the parchment paper covered cookie sheets. Let stand at room temperature overnight or until the designs are well defined.

15) The next day, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are a light golden color. Remove from the pan and cool completely.

16) Store cookies in a tightly covered container for 2 to 3 weeks before using.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Good sources for springerle boards are Ken Hamilton's page Christmas Season Molds and Gene Wilson's page Multiple Design Springerle Boards. Both of these websites have numerous pages filled with historical information as well as other springerle boards and Old World cookie molds.

According to the book Baking With Cookie Molds, Springerle cookies were originally made only for the wealthy as they were made with expensive, imported sugar rather than local honey.

Taking springerle cookie molds to a whole new level - Cookie Molds