I previously mentioned I had a ball of vanilla-flavoured dough sitting in my fridge. Ten days and another two balls of vanilla-flavoured dough later, I feel I’ve been well initiated into the world of German Advent biscuits (Plätzchen) and I wanted to share the recipe for the ones I’ve been making: Vanillekipferl, or vanilla crescents.
Vanillekipferl are one of the vast array of festive biscuits with which the Germans celebrate the four weeks that lead up to Christmas and from my experience, they’re one of the most popular. Not only are they my husband’s favourite Advent biscuit, but they’re the only one to have repeatedly cropped up in conversation with my work colleagues over the last two weeks. With three batches of my own Vanillekipferl now done and dusted, I quite understand why: crumbly, aromatic and not too sweet, they make for an extremely moreish mouthful and are a capital accompaniment to a cup of tea. They smell sublime during the very short time that they’re baking, and as a huge bonus, they’re extremely simple to make.
There are, however, two things to watch out for when making Vanillekipferl: the dough becomes soft very quickly when you work it, so if your crescents start losing their shape before you can get them into the oven, stick them into the fridge for 15 minutes or so to allow them to firm up. Secondly, when you remove your biscuits from the oven, they’ll still be really quite soft, so to avoid squashing them, I’d advise sprinkling the sugar over them rather than trying to dunk them into it. Collect the excess sugar up at the end and save it for your next bake.
This recipe is adapted from one I found in the popular German magazine Brigitte. I made my vanilla crescents gluten-free, but my husband, a German and a Vanillekipferl devotee, didn’t even notice they weren’t “proper” Plätzchen, so if you are making them gluten-free, don’t assume you’ll be compromising on texture or taste. For a normal version, just exchange the gluten-free flour for standard all-purpose flour, measure for measure. Happy Advent baking!
Ingredients (makes approximately 25)
100g all purpose or gluten-free flour (I used Schär’s all purpose gluten-free “Mix It!” blend)
40g caster (white) sugar
85g cold butter, cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
100g ground almonds
Half a vanilla pod
a pinch of salt
30g bourbon vanilla sugar (approximately 4 packets if you buy it from a German supermarket; else you can make a decent quantity of your own by mixing the seeds from one vanilla pod with 100g caster sugar.
Scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod and mix them together with the flour, sugar, egg, almonds and salt, ensuring the seeds are evenly distributed. Add the butter and knead the mixture quickly into a smooth, soft dough. Roll the dough out into a long sausage (pictured above), wrap it in clingfilm and put in the fridge for at least an hour.
Heat the oven to 180c (air 160c, gas mark 3) and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Remove the dough from the fridge, remove it from the clingfilm and cut into 25 thick slices. Roll each slice into a sausage approximately 6cm long, tapering slightly at each end (but not too much or the ends will burn in the oven), and curl it into a crescent-shape on your baking tray. Bake for 10 minutes, keeping a close eye on them, and remove them when they’re a pale golden colour.
Whilst the crescents are still warm, sprinkle the vanilla sugar liberally onto them using a teaspoon. Allow to cool completely before shaking off any excess sugar and storing in a cool place in a sealed container. If you can keep your hands off them, they’ll keep that way for up to three weeks.
Are you in the the Plätzchen-baking mood? Which ones have you tried?