I’ve fallen prey to the sentimentality of the season, folks. Actually, it’s pretty true, even if trite. I have room in my heart not only for my family but also for a few precious baked goods. One of them is this one.
First I must explain the taste experience. Really, this is just a kind of shortbread, but for some reason, that seems insulting to this elegant and defiantly complex cookie. The flavour is a balance of sweet and bitter, married by the warmth of vanilla. It’s walnuts, butter, vanilla sugar. It’s magic.
This, vanilla kipferl, is an Austrian Christmas cookie I grew up eating and making. You can sometimes find approximations, or blatantly false imitations, in stores, but so far I have not found one that comes close to the homemade deal.
I need to talk about the walnuts for a minute. You can make this cookie with hazelnuts and almonds too, but as far as I’m concerned, the walnuts are it. It’s the slight bitterness that works so well with the sugar and vanilla. It’s what makes you eat more of these cookies than you ever intended. My friend, you can’t eat just one. I triple dog dare you to try.
(From a piece of scrap paper in my envelope of random recipes that probably originated from another scrap paper with the recipe my cousin uses)
NOTE: You will want to double this. Or quadruple it like I did here. Seriously. I don’t even know why the recipe is so stupidly small.
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp water (I don’t always use this)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup freshly ground walnuts
Vanilla sugar for rolling–about a cup should do it. (I make my own with a split vanilla pod, a jar, some granulated sugar and time)
Preheat oven to 350. Cream the butter and sugar until light. Add the walnuts and vanilla, then the flour, combining just until the flour is incorporated. Roll balls of dough (about walnut-sized) into crescent shapes. Mine usually look like Cs or horseshoes. They still taste good. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake for about 12 minutes. Give or take. Don’t leave the house or anything; these can get dark on the bottoms quickly. I usually do one tray at a time, in the middle of the oven, but you could also use the top two racks and alternate them. Prepare the vanilla sugar bath: pour the sugar into a pan with decently-high sides. Once you take the cookies out, you should give them a minute to cool or they will just fall apart in your hands, but you must roll them while they are warm or the sugar won’t stick. Gently put cookies, two at a time or so, into the sugar and roll/cover them with it. Then they are ready to go into
your mouth cookie tin.
I don’t know how many this makes. Yes I do. Not enough.
On that note, I wish you a lovely and food-filled holiday. Love and hugs from the North!