Post by Alison Hein.
Once upon a time, long before Google search, people had to work very hard to obtain special recipes. Finding just the right one might involve a trek to the library and a search through hundreds of cookbooks; tricking friends and neighbors into giving up their family secrets; or hours and hours of trial and error and a messy, messy kitchen. Vannilekipferl was just that hard won.
Every Christmas a friend’s mother would whip up batches of these melt-in-your-mouth holiday specialties. Year after year I begged her for the recipe. After about three years, she agreed that I could help her bake. The following year she finally relented and gifted me her hand-written, cherished instructions. Next obstacle – translate the directions from German to English, and convert the quantities from metric to US measurements (my friend’s mother was Austrian). Again, an easy task today with Google translate and a multitude of online converters. But back in the day, it took time and a little fudging to get it just right. I have made these sweet, nutty crescents annually ever since, and they continue to be the favorite cookie on our holiday plate.
Make sure you chill the dough thoroughly before you begin the fussy shaping process. With no eggs in the batter, the dough can be a little finicky. Same holds true when you remove them from the oven. Fragile when hot, they can break easily, so be gentle and give them lots of support when transferring to a cooling rack and rolling them in sugar. If you break a few, by all means, indulge immediately. If you can hold out, save some for a hard won, special breakfast in bed.
As they say in Austria, Frohe Weihnachten!
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup finely ground walnuts or pecans
1¾ cups flour
Beat butter, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with electric mixer until fluffy. Add nuts and mix until blended. Gradually mix in flour until just blended. Wrap dough and chill until firm enough to handle, at least 2 hours. Heat oven to 325°. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. On lightly floured board, form each piece into a ½-inch thick rope, then cut into approximately 1½-inch lengths. Bend into crescent shapes, tapering ends slightly. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until light golden and firm. While warm, roll in confectioner’s sugar to coat. Let cool on racks. Recoat with confectioner’s sugar. Store in waxed paper-lined tins for up to 3 weeks.
Yield: 8 to 9 dozen.