Once fully cooled, Springerle must be stored in airtight containers, where they will keep for months. Do not eat them right away; they need time to develop their flavor and, more important, their texture. When they are freshly made, in the first few weeks or so, they will be crunchy on the outside but, when pressed, their crust will shatter slightly, giving way to a soft interior. As time goes on, they will get harder and harder, eventually getting so hard that you’ll be able to eat them only after dunking them in hot tea. I prefer Springerle when they get this hard, but others prefer to keep them soft. To do so, store the cookies with a piece of bread or a chunk of apple, which will supply them with moisture and keep them soft (replace the bread or apple every few days) .
1. Place the sugar in a food processor and pulse once or twice to make it finer.
2. Place the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and add the sugar. Begin whisking at medium speed until the sugar is well incorporated, and then raise the speed. Whip for 8 to 10 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Whip in the grated lemon peel.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together 3 1/4 cups minus 1 tablespoon/400g of the flour with the baker’s ammonia and salt. With the mixer at medium speed, beat in the flour mixture. Then, with the motor running, add the remaining 3⁄4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of flour by spoonsful, beating after each addition, until the dough is no longer runny but has not become dry. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
4. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scatter each one with 1 tablespoon of aniseed. Set aside.
5. If you are using wooden molds, set up your work space: you will need your molds, a dry pastry brush, a little pile of flour, and a sharp paring knife. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and pull off a small lump. Cover the rest of the dough and place back in the refrigerator. Pat the dough out to be a bit larger than the mold you’re using. Dust the mold liberally with flour, making sure it gets into all the nooks and crannies. Then dust the flattened dough liberally with flour. Place the floured dough on the floured mold and press it gently into the mold; turn it over, and with the dough facing the work surface, press down firmly on the mold. Remove the mold and trim the edges of the dough neatly with the knife. Then transfer the molded cookie to one of the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough. Alternatively, if you do not have wooden Springerle molds, you can simply roll out the dough on a well-floured surface until it’s 1/4- inch/6mm thick. Cut out cookies and place them on the prepared baking sheets.
6. When all the cookies have been formed, set the baking sheets out, uncovered, at room temperature to dry. The room should be comfortable—not cold and not humid. Leave the cookies out for 24 hours, until they are completely dry to the touch.
7. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 300°F/150°C. Wet a clean dishcloth and wring it out so it’s just damp. Stretch it out on the counter. Remove all the cookies from the baking sheet and place them on the damp dishcloth for 5 minutes. Then return them all to the baking sheets.
8. Bake the cookies, one batch at a time, for 20 to 25 minutes. The Springerle should remain white and not brown, and they should develop little “feet” as French macarons do. The Springerle will be firm to the touch but still a little soft if poked. Remove from the oven, put the baking sheet on a rack, and let the cookies cool completely. Store the Springerle in an airtight container for 2 to 3 months.
Note: Baker’s ammonia (ammonium carbonate) is an old-fashioned leaven that reacts with heat to release strong-smelling gases whose propulsion leavens baked goods. Cookies made with baker’s ammonia have a specific kind of airy texture that baking powder can’t achieve, an especially even rise, and an almost honeycombed crumb; they are overall very light and crisp. Baker’s ammonia also helps cookies keep their shape in the oven, so that instead of spreading, they propel upward. If you open the oven door to rotate a pan of cookies leavened with baker’s ammonia halfway through baking, your eyes might sting from the gases. But don’t worry; the gases evaporate as the baked goods cool, leaving behind no trace. Baker’s ammonia, also known as ammonium carbonate, can be found online and at well-stocked specialty stores.
Reprinted with permission from Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss, copyright 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC