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Each country has its own specific sweet treats around Christmastime.
In Europe – especially in Germany and Austria – vanilla crescents are one of the most traditional varieties.
Also known as kipferl, not only do they carry a wonderful note of vanilla, they also look really nice with their curved shape.
To achieve this look that’s reminiscent of a crescent moon, just a little practice is needed. The dough is cut into thumb-sized pieces and then rolled into the special shape.
Once you get the hang of it, this will be no problem!
Kipferl molds like this one are also available on Amazon, if you’re looking for a little extra help with the shaping.
To make things easier for beginners (or to make things more uniform for the perfectionists among us) there are special cookie cutters and molds available that help to keep the dough in perfect position.
For all made-from-scratch shaped-by-hand bakers, here’s a tip for anyone who has problems with the shaping process: Add an egg yolk to the dough. This will make the dough less crumbly and the shaping easier, though the cookies will be a little less tender.
This is also a great idea if you’re planning to give these as gifts and package them in small sachets or boxes – this way, they won’t break apart so easily.
Traditionally, crescent cookies are made with ground hazelnuts or almonds. But if you or anyone you know is allergic to nuts, feel free to replace the ground nuts with regular flour.
If you want to make yours the classic way, dust the cookies with powdered sugar after cooling. Or if you want to get a bit more creative, a dip in chocolate coating or some lemon icing would be perfect choices as well.
And just in case you’re looking for another idea for how to adjust these treats to your preference…
Why not replace the vanilla with cinnamon, and add some orange zest for another wintertime twist?
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Mix and Knead the Dough
Scrape out the vanilla pulp from the bean, and cut the cold butter into cubes. Or, chill the butter and then grate it, using the coarse side of a box grater.
Reserve the bean for another use, like making vanilla sugar or syrup.
In a large bowl, combine the pulp with the flour, ground almonds, sugar and butter. Knead to form a dough. Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
Step 2 – Form the Crescents
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
For easier handling, halve the dough, and roll out each half into a snake about 1 2/3 inches in diameter. Cut into slices about ½ inch thick.
Form each piece into a small crescent, and place on the baking tray.
Step 3 – Bake and Dust
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until golden.
Leave to cool on a rack, then dust with a nice layer of powdered sugar.
Bring the Scent of Holiday Baking to Your Kitchen
When these little treats make their way to the assorted cookie platter this holiday season, there is no holding back.
With their powdery coating and curvy look, they will surely be among your new favorites. Their crumbly texture and the delicate vanilla flavor are probably the two most convincing aspects as to why you should definitely try them out at home.
Aiming for a more typical cookie treat? Give our classic sugar cookie cutout recipe a try. Or, try other European-inspired recipes, like my Amerikaner cookie cakes, black and white cookies or soft, tender snowflakes. Perfect for the holidays!
Want to go gluten-free? Try these soft, chewy ginger cookies (sans the gluten) too.
But to be honest, who needs to be convinced when it comes to cookie baking?
Let us know how the crescents turned out for you, and whether you (or your family) could resist these sweet treats!
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Photos by Nina-Kristin Isensee, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.
About Nina-Kristin Isensee
Nina lives in Iserlohn, Germany and holds an MA in Art History (Medieval and Renaissance Studies). She is currently working as a freelance writer in various fields. She enjoys travel, photography, cooking, and baking. Nina tries to cook from scratch every day when she has the time and enjoys trying out new spices and ingredients, as well as surprising her family with new cake creations.