Springerle cookies

Earlier this year, my province hosted our kingdom’s Twelfth night celebration. I contributed cookies (and a subtlety, which deserves its own “Doin’ it WRONG” mention, ha ha) to the feast.

In the words of an event steward, “We’re interested in exploring period European twelfth-night traditions of festive merriment.

Our touchstone for the theme is Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” — boisterous humor, cakes and ale, chance reversals of fortune, masked identities, cross-dressing, farcical infatuations, and so on.”

I found a 7.5” cookie mold of the Epiphany (12th night).  I planned to make 2 springerle cookies for each table, one flavored with anise, and the second flavored with speculaas cookie spices of my own admixture — all of which are mentioned in Forme of Cury (the cookbook from which our feast cook was working).  The spice cookie failed to imprint and was not to my taste, so I reserved it for use in the subtlety and cut back to just the anise springerle cookie.

The leavening for the cookies was hartshorn (ammonium carbonate), which in medieval times was literally hart’s horn — powdered & processed deer antler.  The anise cookie was pale cream in color, the speculaas cookie medium/dark brown.  Springerle cookies date back to at least the 1600s, and the mold is duplicated from molds of the time.

I used a modern recipe from House on the Hill (the mold maker), and began test baking in November.  The cookies store well in air-tight tins, and improve with age, so I baked them in December for our January festivity.

Three Magi cookie mold.
Hartshorn dissolving in milk.
6 room-temperature eggs beaten for 10 minutes.
Beating in 1.5 lbs. confectioners sugar.
8 Tbl. butter, beaten in.
Adding hartshorn + milk.
2 half-droppers anise oil.
A half-teaspoon salt.
Finally, beat in 2 lbs. cake flour.
KitchenAid has the power to beat it all in.
Dough is ready to be wrapped and chilled for 24 hours.
Kneading a small portion of the chilled dough.
Rolling out the kneaded portion with confectioners sugar.
Pressing dough into mold, from the center out.
Trimming excess.
Imprinted cookies drying for 24 hours.
Baking 2 cookies at a time.
Result! 14 delights.