Saturday, December 22, 2012


Sweet treats are always very appealing at Christmas time. When I was young, my dad would bring home a stollen every year at this time. Another treat we would find when we visited neighbours were baskets filled with a special vanilla sugar cookie known as Vanillekipferl (va neel kip furl) These were delicious crescent-shaped cookies that originated in Vienna, then a part of Austria-Hungary.

There is an interesting story that goes with vanillekipferl. Since the thirteenth century, the Ottoman empire had been battling and conquering lands in Austria-Hungary. Finally, in 1683, German, Polish and Austro-Hungarian forces defeated the Turks and finally ran them out of Europe for good. After the joyous victory, the bakers mimicked the Turkish flag's crescent emblem by baking crescent-shaped sugar cookies. Also noteworthy is the Turks leaving behind sacks of coffee beans which led to the famous European coffee houses, one in Liepzig where J.S.Bach hung out and wrote his famous secular Coffee Cantata in the 1730's . Vanillekipferl, those vanilla crescent cookies with that historic crescent-shape, were served all over Vienna and today are beloved Christmas cookies not only with central Europeans but also by those descendants living here in the USA, who call them Christmas Vanilla Cookies. In the eighteenth century when the vanilla cookies were brought to Paris, bakers there took that crescent shape and created the flaky Croissant (French for “crescent”).

Basically these Christmas Vanilla Crescent Cookies include ground nuts, usually almonds and/or hazelnuts, along with the vanilla for flavour. Often they are dusted with powdered sugar and sometimes dipped in chocolate.

Here is a fine vanillekipferl recipe, from Saveur magazine which uses walnuts for the nut flavouring.

Christmas Vanilla Crescent Cookies              Makes 4 dozen


1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for finishing cookies
½ pound. unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ cups walnuts, finely ground in food processor
2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for rolling


Heat oven to 325F

Beat together sugar, butter, and vanilla in a bowl; mix in ground nuts and flour.

Flour and roll into a cylinder.

Divide into 48 pieces.

Roll each piece into a sausage shape.

Taper ends; bend into a crescent.

Transfer to parchment paper-lined baking sheets, spacing cookies 1" apart.

Bake until golden-coloured, about 12–15 minutes.

Sift with confectioners' sugar. Let cool

Enjoy these wonderful, historic cookies, served at Christmas for more than 300 years.

The Education Tipster and I wish everyone everywhere peace and love this Christmas season.
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