Tis the season of Christmas baking traditions! And there are a couple of recipes that I want to share with you to make your season a bit more special . One o my favorite Christmas cookie is the Vanillekipfel: a tender and delicate treat from southern Germany. It combines all the good stuff: butter, almonds and hazelnut, homemade Vanilla sugar and lots of love while baking. Here is my extra crumbly, extra nutty Vanillekipfel recipe!
In case you follow a vegan diet, you can replace butter with any kind of margarine of a neutral and mild taste.
In case you are allergic to hazelnut you can replace them with almonds or the other way round. If non of both are an option for you, you can try roasted coconut flakes but that completely changes the flavor profile (not for the worse, its just different.)
Vanillekipfel traditionally have the shape of a crescent moon, which is probably the most time consuming part of the Vanillekipfel recipe, as each one is done by hand.
To save you some time I included some tricks at the bottom of this Vanillekipfel recipe. Just in case you are in a hurry…
What you need to make Vanillekipfel
Time you need:
Preparation dough: 20 min
Forming the cookies: 20 min
Cooling of the dough: 1h
Time in the Oven: 10 – 15 min
Ingredients you need:
250 g (1 and 1/8 sticks) butter, room temperature
300 g (2 and 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
100 g (1 and 3/4 cups) ground almonds or corse almond flower
100 g (1 and 3/4 cups) ground hazelnuts or corse hazelnut flower, ideally toasted
1 Vanilla pod or equivalent in vanilla essence
1 Pinch of Salt
150 g / 2/3 cups of homemade vanilla sugar or normal sugar plus an extra vanilla pod
A bit of powdered sugar for decoration
What you need to do:
Combine all the dry ingredients and mix well. Cut open the vanilla pod and scrape out the dark seeds with the blade of a knife. Add the seeds to the dry ingredients and mix again. Then work in the soft butter either with your hands or using a mixer.
If you got a well combined dough, divide it up in peaces which are more or less the size of your fist. Wrap the individual peaces in clingfilm or waxed paper and set it in the refrigerator for about an hour.
Please do not discard the vanilla bean pods after using the seeds! You can make your own Vanilla sugar if you add them to a small jar of sugar and let it sit for three months.
Preheat the oven to 180 °C or 350 °F. Line a cookie sheet with baking paper and take out one peace of dough at a time. The dough needs to be completely cold for the baking process, otherwise the cookies will not keep their shape and texture is compromised! So in case the dough gets warm during the time you make the crescent shapes, you’d have to cool the tray again between forming and baking. I do that all the time, just to be sure. The little, delicate shapes get warm very quickly so unless you are super fast while forming: give them an extra round in the refrigerator.
As announced at the beginning of this Vanillekipfel recipe, here comes the hard part: forming the little crescent shapes by hand. start with a little ball of dough, roughly the size of a big raspberry. Roll the dough between the palms of your hands back and fourth, only using little pressure. The natural curvature of your palms should help to create a roll which is tapered towards both ends. If that doesn’t work just apply a bit more pressure on the end with one finger while rolling back and fourth. Then bend the roll to get the crescent shape.
As I explained above, I let them cool again for about 15 min at that point. After that the cold dough goes into the preheated oven for about 10 to 15 min or until slightly golden, but not brown.
After you take the cookies out let them cool completely before moving. Once they are cold, they are sturdy enough to be lifted. Give them a pretty dusting of icing sugar and place them in an airtight container. In a cool, dark spot they keep for about three weeks.
With all the cooling and forming involved, it sounds like a lot of work. But trust me: once you had one of those little crescents softly crumbling in your mouth and once you tasted this nutty vanilla delight you will make this a Christmas tradition for sure!
There also some tricks to speed up the processing time of this Vanillekipfel recipe. You could skip the crescent shape and just make little balls (I would get stoned by my folks if I tried but well… it saves time). Also if you just do about 10 to 15 cookies at a time you can skip the cooling process in between forming and baking. Just make sure to form bite sized cookies and do it quickly. Only cool dough will create the tender texture and hold shape while baking!
I wish you a merry Christmas time, happy baking and enjoy!