Friday, December 13, 2013

2013 White House Holiday Recipe: Decorative Springerle Cookies

Springerle cookies decorate the White House Gingerbread House
From the White House to your house: Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses' recipe for an ornamental version of the traditional molded cookie...
The White House - The life-sized fireplace that is beneath this year's White House Gingerbread House created by Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses and his team features more than 1,200 Springerle cookies.  Yosses has shared his recipes for both a decorative version, reprinted below, and for an edible version, available here.  

Made with a simple flour and butter dough baked in a mold, the cookies, enjoyed for centuries in Bavaria and Austria, feature images that tell family or holiday stories.  They were chosen to highlight First Lady Michelle Obama's holiday theme "Gather Around: Stories of the Season," said Yosses.

The Springerle tradition was brought to America by German immigrants who settled in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1710, Yosses said, noting that "each family had their own molds with images that told the stories of births, betrothals, and weddings."

During a craft session in the State Dining Room when she unveiled her decor theme, Mrs. Obama and the pastry chefs decorated Springerle ornaments with military kids invited to be the first to view the First Lady's holiday display.

The Springerle cookies surround a gingerbread hearth
For the fireplace, Yosses selected Christmas-themed molds purchased in Lancaster:  A wreath, a stag, a nutcracker, and Father Christmas himself.  There's also a mold that features a bee, a beehive and a beekeeper, a reference to the real beehive on the White House grounds, installed at Mrs. Obama's behest in 2009.  

Yosses' recipe for decorative Springerle cookies does not include the sugar or the traditional anise flavoring that is used to make edible cookies.  To ensure the mold image is preserved during cooking, the dough must dry for at least four days after it is removed from the molds and before baking.  The White House pastry chefs dried their cookies for seven days before baking.  

Some of the Springerle designs on the fireplace
The cookies are then baked at a low heat to ensure they remain white, rather than turn brown in the oven.  Insulated cookie sheets will cause the cookies to brown when baking, and are not recommended.  Instead, line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  Allow cookies to cool completely before threading with ribbon and using to decorate.

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A pastry chef creates a Springerle ornament
White House Decorative Springerle Cookies

Ingredients
*2 Pounds Sifted Cake Flour, plus more for dusting

*1/2 Tsp Baking Powder

*1/2 Tsp Salt

*6 Large Eggs

*1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter, softened

*2 Tblsp Whole Milk

Method
1.   In an electric mixer, beat eggs for 3 minutes until blended, but no more.

2.  Add soft butter, baking powder, milk, and salt.

3.  Turn mixer to slow speed and add flour, one cup at a time, just until blended.  

4.  Remove dough from bowl and finish by hand on a floured surface, working dough until it is stiff enough so an imprint will be made when put in mold.  Divide into four segments and wrap in plastic wrap.  Roll each segment out separately for the next steps.

5.  On a floured surface, roll dough out to 1/4 inch thick.  

6.  Cut a portion of dough about the size of the mold, then press mold into dough.  Trim excess with a knife, then coax dough out of mold and place onto cookie sheet.  Punch a hole in top of cookie.

7.  Repeat, spacing cookies about 1 inch apart on cookie sheet.

8.   Let dry for four days before baking.  Drying preserves the image.

9.  Bake at 250 degrees F for 20 minutes, placing one cookie sheet in the oven at a time. Remove and cool on wire rack.

10.  Tie a ribbon through the hole in the top of each cookie and hang in your favorite place!

*Number of cookies depends on size of molds used.

On display in the State Dining Room
Above, the gingerbread house and fireplace as guests see it in the State Dining Room; it is surrounded by a silk rope, so guests do not "sample" the cookies.

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*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama