It's the time of year. When the sun goes down early. The time of chilly nights. The time our garden goes to sleep and forces us to slow down... just a tiny bit.
It's the time of year when we bring out the glittery lights. When evergreens are brought into the house. When we spend time digging through old decorations in the attic and cover our homes with holiday cheer.
It's the time of year we remember and make new sweet memories. It's also a time for traditions.
In our house we bake. We only bake cookies once a year, for Christmas. But when we do, we go all out. We pull out the German recipe books and the handwritten notes and recipes from Oma and get to work. It takes up quite a bit of time. Especially since baking is much like a Science project, and instructions need to be followed pretty exactly. For us this means using grams and converting Celsius to Fahrenheit to get the best results.
We always use Oma's original recipes for our cookies and end up with North of 1,500 to 2,000 cookies if we are taking all the different varieties into consideration. This translates into roughly 3 - 5 days in the kitchen to get things in order. Between putting together the dough, resting time, cutting cookies and baking them, filling them, and decorating, we have quite a bit of work on our hands. But we love it. It's a great time to spend time together, listen to Christmas classics, singing along and maybe even doing some cookie dough taste testing along the way. Don't judge.
One of our absolute favorite cookies is the Vanilla Crescent (Vanillekipferl) Cookies and it would not be Christmas at our house without them. The are actually one of the easiest varieties we make and put together, but oh so tasty!
The overall recipe includes the basics of eggs, sugar, butter, and flour. However, this delicious cookie is made with tons of nuts. In this case hazelnuts, plus some vanilla sugar. Put the dough toget, let it rest overnight to really assure the flavor gets a chance to establish. Then, form the cookies, bake and roll in vanilla sugar. Voila!
Sounds pretty simple, right? It really is. However, I guess, I really need to walk you through this a bit more in detail to explain the steps. The importance of butter and egg temperature when preparing the dough cannot be understated. It's important they are at room temperature. This means, you assure the eggs and butter you will be using have been sitting out to adjust to room temperature. I'd suggest overnight, or you can simply start your Morning with setting the butter and eggs you are looking to use out on the counter. Melting the butter in the microwave will not do. Absolutely not!
Once we are sure the butter and eggs are adjusted, we can get started. Get all your dry ingredients together and mix them well. A bowl and fork will do just fine for this. Once youve combined the dry ingredients well, start adding the wet ingredients. If you have a kneading machine or a KitchenAid, you can use this to combine everything and get it smooth. Personally, I prefer using my hands for the kneading and combining. After all is mixed and combined well, we wrap in cling wrap or put in a bowl with lid (to avoid loosing elasticity and moisture) and let rest in the fridge overnight.
Now comes the real fun! I'd plan in an hour or so to finish this up, as you really want to be ready with the vanilla sugar prepared for rolling your hot crescents! More on vanilla sugar
HERE! Pre-Heat your oven to 375F or 170C
Pinch off a dough piece about 0.5inch diameter ( you can go bigger if you like, just adjust baking times) then roll out like a croissant, form into a crescent shape and put on your baking sheet. Assure to leave sufficient room in between your cookies as they will expand in the oven! Bake at 375F or 170C for 12 minutes. If you are making bigger crescents, adjust your baking time accordingly. I'd suggest checking after 12 minutes to see how much more time you may need. Cookies are ready to come out of the oven once they start getting golden brown.
It's important to get your vanilla sugar mix ready before putting your cookies in the oven. You will need to roll your crescents immediately after they come out of the oven in order to assure the sugar mix sticks like it should. And that's it! Congratulations, you made your first few authentic European Christmas cookies!!
250g butter (un-salted)
10g vanilla sugar OR vanilla essence
3 egg yolks
125g hazelnuts (can substitute with almonds)
300g all-purpose flour
combine all dry ingredients (flour, nuts, sugar, vanilla sugar)
add all wet ingredients (butter, vanilla essence, egg yolks)
bake at 375F or 170C 12 minutes OR until golden brown
roll the crescents, STILL HOT, in vanilla sugar mix