I got bit by the baking bug lately, and decided to try a seasonal German-style cookie called springerle. (means little jumpers as far as I can acceptably discern)
I remember my grandmother and grandfather made them. Their kitchen smelled of flour and anise on those weekends. I never saw the actual making but as a wee bairn I was impossibly fascinated by the rolling pin with the designs carved into them and the resulting cookies with their paper-thin, crisp and crunchy tops lingering over chewy, savory bottoms. They looked like little postage stamp cakes. They tasted horrible, I have never been a fan of anise, sadly. But I ate them anyway. The texture of the cookie, the fact that they came from my grandmother's hands, and those irresistable little pictures... there was no stopping me.
So this year, I took a swing at it. My mother brought me the healthiest of the rolling pins (one has a big chip in it) and a series of plausible-looking recipes. I studied each recipe and came up with a plan.
This cookie comes from a very thick dough. Very thick. Be advised, if you pick an old recipe that uses naught but eggs to keep the sugar and flour together, you will be a witness to some serious magic. Here's why! As you're adding the sugar in the sugar-adding step... you're probably going to be standing there looking at your mixer and going "sure, good, that looks fine" and then when it comes to the flour-adding step you're going to be like "whoa, there is no friggin' fraggin' way that it' s all going to come together?!?!?!" and then it doesn't... and then you watch the mixer for another minute because that's exactly what the recipe tells you to do and then all of the sudden WHAM you have a fully incorporated wad of dough. Blink and you'll miss it.
Knead it a bit, let it rest in the fridge for 2 hours in like 8 small balls.
Anyway, when it's rolling time, you're going to grab a refrigerated doughball and you're going to be like "whoa, there is no friggin' fraggin' way that this baseball sized wad of solid flour is going to roll" and then you start to work it very slowly and gently and LO and BEHOLD it rolls right the hell out into a lovely flat sheet. Smash the stamper rolling pin across it (this is hard and requires patience!) and cut between the lines for a series of the most gorgeous little squares of hard and crappy flour you ever saw.
At this point, by the way, the whole kitchen smells like my grandmother is standing right behind me and humming and grinning and being all proud and junk. I could literally smell her cosmetic powder twice - between the wholesome lungfulls of anise and lemon rind (a mixture I cannot reccommend strongly enough!)
Now, the patience. Line up the dough cookies and let them dry overnight. GAH! I know. I know. Big leap of faith here, but my doubting-thomas self got schooled on the previous steps so I'm more willing to give in this time.
Overnight, they dry. Then we bake. Into the oven they go. Ignore any sensations that might incline you toward the thought that these will NEVER EVER puff up right with the hard part on top and the gooey square below. I/You/We have learned by now that doubting this recipe is foolish. Magic happens. Just you wait. They'll puff and they'll poof and you'll fall clean in love with every last little cookie. I promise.
Important - remove the cookies from the pan immediately. No really. The sugar/protein mix becomes concrete after baking and cooling and you'll need a jackhammer to get 'em free.
Now put 'em in an airtight container, brimming with faith that upon the second week of "ripening" (um... gah?) they'll be the little postage stamps of perfection that you were anticipating. I'm still halfway through this step. Two airtight containers of joy just ripening away over there in the corner on the table. I'm sure they'll be grand.
And for some reason... a yummy anise flavored cookie just sounds DERISHISS right now. *drool drool drool*
Good luck to you. I know you're dying to try them too. I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so. Bring extra flour to the party (for rolling) extra anise seeds, and some fresh lemon zest. Also bring faith and patience. These are so yummy and worth it. And oh the memories that they brought about. The smells. The memories. Those wonderful autumn afternoons at my grandparents' house. Joy. All of it. Pure Joy.