This year the Three Wise Men Gaspar, Balthasar and Melchior left for Bethlehem not with their traditional gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but with vanilla, chocolate, peppermint and coconut. Doesn’t that sound and smell a lot better? Though some people seem to enjoy the smell of incense, I have seen scented candles. Once your done baking these cookies, you won’t need a good old scented candle to spread holiday cheer.
St. Nicholas Day
Where I live December 6th is a big deal, bigger now than when I was little. Thank you consumerism. Kids get almost as many toys as you would get for Christmas, I don’t get it. When I was little you would put your boots in front of the door, obviously choosing the biggest one, and then St. Nicholas would come over night, like Santa, and fill your boot with nuts and sweets. I guess Americans and Brits do something similar with their Christmas stockings, right? Sometimes, if you were really good, you’d even get a “Nikolaus Teller” (a plate from St. Nicholas with sweets and nuts). Way back when you’d get a plate with nuts and cookies, if you were lucky. Let’s bring back the good old times, and make a lovely plate filled with Christmas goodness, to fill our stockings and our bellies. I can smell it already.
In some areas in Germany on December 6th children get a Weckmann, as the pipe (which I lost so I could not use it in my recipe), symbolizes a bishop’s crozier. In the west it is not that common, although it would make a great St. Nicholas Day breakfast. Feel free to give that recipe a try, if you’d like.
Three Wise Men’s first gift this year – vanilla
Let’s get started with the first cookie, the Vanilla Crescent Cookie (otherwise known as “Vanillekipferl”), which practically dissolve on your tongue leaving a heavenly vanilla aftertaste. Aren’t we all a bit vanilla? I’m not sure what that means, but I will roll with it. This is probably the first traditional Christmas cookie in Germany I’d think of, right after Printen gingerbread from Aachen. Although hailing from Polish origin, Vanilla Crescent Cookies are made in many countries in Europe, such as Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. I love how multicultural food is. In this globalized world nothing should keep us apart, we should all exchange our food and culture and all be friendly. Although, you Scots may keep the Haggis, I still appreciate and love your culture.
This recipe is super simple, although not the cheapest (I’m looking at you, vanilla bean), they are really delicious. If you cannot get your hands on a vanilla bean for a “reasonable price”, here they cost an arm and a leg (or just a kidney, if you know a guy), use vanilla extract or paste instead. I will have to fall back on that, too. Not paying four Euros for one tiny, skinny vanilla bean, not happening. I haven’t made them in a long time as I struggle controlling myself around them. You don’t even need a cookie cutter, how cool is that? The dough is a little fragile, so be careful. Thankfully I made them thicker this year, as I dropped the cookie sheet while taking it out of the oven. They all survived due to my laziness.
Vanilla Crescent Cookies (“Vanillekipferl”) (Vanilla Crescent Cookies pdf download)
Ingredients for one cookie sheet:
- 100 gr ground almonds, slightly roasted in a pan
- 150 gr Butter or Margarine
- 100 gr Sugar
- 2 Egg yolks
- 2 Vanilla Beans or 2 Tsp. Vanilla extract/paste
- Zest of one lemon
- 250 gr Flour
- 150 gr powdered sugar or fine white sugar
- 2 Tsp. Vanilla sugar (optional)
- Slightly roast the ground almonds in a pan and leave to cool.
- Put the roasted almonds, the butter, the sugar, the egg yolk, the lemon zest and flour in a bowl. Scrape out one vanilla bean (or just add vanilla extract) and add the seeds in the bowl. Now knead all the ingredients into a smooth dough.
- Wrap the dough in some cling film and put into the fridge for one hour.
- Take the dough out of the fridge and cut it into quarters. Take one quarter of the dough and leave the rest in the fridge. Shape that quarter of the dough into a roll of even thickness, if the dough breaks apart squeeze it back together. Now cut the roll into even pieces and shape into a small crescent. Try to shape the ends with the same thickness as the middle, so they don’t burn while baking. If the dough breaks apart squeeze it together, you will be fine. Put that onto a lined baking sheet. Repeat until all the dough is gone.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and bake the Vanilla Crescent Cookies for 10-15 minutes until golden. Be sure to keep an eye on them.
- The cookies are very delicate while warm, so transfer onto a cooling rack with the help of palette knife.
- Now mix powdered sugar or regular fine white sugar, vanilla sugar and the seeds from the vanilla bean in a bowl. The Vanilla Crescent Cookies will be rolled in the mixture, while still warm, not hot, to make it stick better. (The fine white sugar has better staying power and is less sweet, but it’s really up to personal preference).
When the Cookies are ready to be devoured, enjoy. I hope you will try them and enjoy them as much as we do. Experimenting in the kitchen is kind of the most fun part of cooking, in my opinion. Hopefully you will want to come back for part two and three of this years Christmas Cookie Extravaganza. Now stay tuned and get your plates and bellies ready for part 2.
Blogpost and photos updated November 24th, 2020