Crisp and buttery with a nutty, almond flavor, this recipe for delicate Vanillekipferl, or Austrian Vanilla Crescent Cookies, creates cookies that look pretty on a platter and are sure to be a hit at your holiday party.
Vanillekipferl: Vanilla Crescent
The name Vanillekipferl (pronounced VAN-el-eu-KIP-fuhl) literally means “vanilla crescent” or “vanilla moon.” These crescent-shaped cookies originate from Vienna, Austria, where they are a much-loved, traditional Christmas cookie. They are also quite common throughout Europe, particularly in Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
Legend has it that their shape was created to resemble the Turkish crescent moon, to celebrate one of the victories of the Hungarian army over the Turkish army.
Almond and Vanilla Crescent Cookies
Ground almonds give these cookies a crumbly texture, but they can also make them a bit difficult to work with. We refrigerate the dough to keep the butter firm, and the dough will crumble as you first start to work with it, but when it reaches that magical place where it is just soft enough from the heat of your hands, you know you’re in business and the shaping of the cookies will go quickly and smoothly.
Be careful not to over bake the cookies, or they will be very fragile. By baking them just until the tips start to turn golden brown, they don’t hit that too-crumbly point. Leaving them on the baking sheet to cool for a few minutes lets them firm up and cool just enough to be easier to handle as you coat them with powdered sugar.
What is Vanilla Sugar?
Vanilla sugar adds a distinct flavor to these cookies. Simply as it sounds, vanilla sugar is sugar that has been flavored with vanilla. It is common in many European baking recipes, and can be found in little packets in the stores. However, in the States, it isn’t common to find those little packets of vanilla sugar.
The good news is, it is easy to make yourself.
How to make Vanilla Sugar
You can make vanilla sugar simply by mixing 1 cup of sugar with the seeds of 1 vanilla pod. However, if you don’t have a vanilla pod laying around, you can also make vanilla sugar using pure vanilla extract.
To make your own vanilla sugar using vanilla extract, place ½ tsp pure vanilla extract and ¼ c sugar in your food processor. Pulse the two together until the sugar is evenly colored. The sugar will now be moist, so spread it sugar on a plate to dry. As it dries, it will clump slightly. So, once dry it needs to be returned to the food processor and pulsed a few more times until you have a fine, vanilla scented sugar. Store the vanilla sugar in an airtight container in a cool and dry place. (For your reference, 1 package of vanilla sugar is roughly equal to 1 ½ tsp.)
One you start making vanilla sugar, you might just be addicted to adding the extra flavor to everything from pancakes to coffee, even to sauces. Get creative!
- 12 Tbsp unsalted, cold butter, cut into chunks
- 2 c unbleached, all purpose flour
- 1 c ground almonds
- ½ c powdered sugar
- 1 Tbsp vanilla sugar*
- Pinch salt
- 2 egg yolks
- ½ c powdered sugar
- 1 Tbsp vanilla sugar*
- Place the butter and flour in to the bowl of your food processor. Pulse to combine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Place the mixture in a large bowl.
- Add the ground almonds, powdered sugar, vanilla sugar, salt, and egg yolks to the mixture. Knead the dough with your hands in the bowl until it comes together, 5 min.
- Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, shape each into a ball. Place the balls in a sealed plastic bag or covered bowl in the refrigerator for at least half an hour, up to 2 days, to develop flavor.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator.
- Remove one ball of dough from the refrigerator. Roll it into a rope, 12 inches long. Cut the rope into 12 even pieces. Roll each piece into a 3-4 inch rope and shape it into a crescent. Place the shaped crescents onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a non-stick baking mat, ½ inch apart. Repeat with the remaining dough, removing one ball of dough from the refrigerator at a time, until you have filled one tray.
- Bake the cookies, one tray at a time, for 11-12 min, until the tips of the crescents just start to turn a light golden brown.
- Remove the pan from the oven. (And place your second, cool tray with shaped cookies in the oven to bake, if necessary.)
- Let the baked cookies rest on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes while you prepare your sugar mixture. Mix ½ c powdered sugar and 1 Tbsp vanilla sugar together in a shallow bowl.
- Take the warm cookies from the baking sheet and carefully coat them in the sugar mixture. Place the coated cookies on a wire rack to finish cooling.
- Repeat as needed with the remaining cookies.
- Leave the cookies out overnight to harden, and then transfer them to an air tight container to store for up to 1 week.
This year, we are again participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, bringing food bloggers around the world together for a love of cookies and to support Cookies for Kids Cancer. If you’d like to join in the cookie swap fun next year, be sure to sign up in 2016!