Crisp and buttery with a nutty, almond flavor – that’s the Vanillekipferl. The crescent-shaped cookie does not only look good on a platter but it melts in your mouth and is always a big hit at Christmas parties.
The name Vanillekipferl (pronounced VAN-el-eu-KIP-furl) literally means “vanilla crescent” or “vanilla moon.” The cookies originated in Vienna, Austria and just like the rest of the German speaking countries, in Austria they are also known as Vanillekipferl. Besides those two countries, they are also quiet common in other parts of Europe, like Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Built on the same basis, which consists of flour, butter, sugar, vanilla, egg yolks and a heavy dusting of vanilla sugar which gives the cookie its typical flavor, the recipe varies across the countries when it comes to nuts. In Germany, they are mostly made from almonds, in the Czech Republic and Slovakia with hazelnuts or walnuts.
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. And even though the cookie only has a few ingredients, they can be particularly hard to bake. It is very easy to break them not only when working with the dough but also after finish baking them, since they are put into a bowl of vanilla icing sugar when they are still hot. Also don’t substitute any ingredients for others because the flavors will show through, especially the vanilla sugar. It is a staple in many German Christmas cookies and can be purchased on Amazon, Walmart and World Market. But you can easily make your own vanilla sugar by mixing 1 cup of sugar with the seeds of 1 vanilla pod and letting it sit in an airtight container for at least a week, until the sugar smells of vanilla. One packet of vanilla sugar equals roughly 1 1/2 teaspoons.
- 1 1/2 cups or 260 grams of flour
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup or 200 grams of cold cubed butter
- 1 cup or 100 grams ground almonds
- 3/4 cup or 80 grams of powdered sugar
- 2 packets of vanilla sugar
For the topping:
- 2 additional packets of vanilla sugar
- Place the flour and cubed butter into a mixing bowl and combine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Add in the vanilla sugar, powdered sugar, egg yolk and ground almonds and knead until the dough comes together.
- Shape the dough into 4 equal pieces and shape each into a ball.
- Wrap the log in plastic wrap and stick it into the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Put the vanilla sugar into a small bowl.
- Pull the dough out of the fridge. Roll the dough balls 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 and placing them onto a cookie sheet. I usually taper the ends before bending the dough into a crescent shape.
- After filling up the cookie sheet, place it into the oven and bake for 12 minutes until the edges begin to brown.
- Set the cookie sheet with baked cookies near the vanilla sugar bowl and the cooling rack. Take a cookie while they are still warm and roll them in the sugar.
- Place the finished cookie on the cooling rack.
- Store cookies in an airtight container.
Even though Vanillekipferl are traditionally considered a Christmas cookies, they are easy to make year around.