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Vanillekipferl – vanilla crescent cookies

28 November 2019

Melt-in-your mouth vanilla crescent cookies. These Austrian / German Christmas cookies will be a hit at your holiday table! Vanillekipferl are delicious buttery nut cookies flavored with vanilla, and dusted with vanilla sugar. We are making them every year for Christmas. They also make a great Christmas gift.

Vanillekipferl - vanilla crescent cookies in a cookie tin

WHAT ARE VANILLEKIPFERL?

Vanillekipferl are Austrian / German Christmas cookies. They are also popular in Croatia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Hungary. Their name means vanilla crescents in German.

HISTORY

The history of Vanillekipferl is not exactly clear. According to the most famous legend, they were invented by Viennese bakers, who, in order to celebrate the victory of Jan III Sobieski over the Turkish army in 1683 and their exile from Vienna, decided to create a baked good that resembled the moon from the Turkish flag.
This legend, although very popular, is not entirely true. Crescent-shaped baked goods (not cookies) were already popular in these regions in the 13th century and they were also a precursor to the famous French croissant (!). Apparently, crescent-shaped baked goods were presented to the French by Marie Antoinette, the daughter of the Austrian Duchess Maria Theresa, who married a Frenchman and took Kipferl with her when she moved to France.
In Austria and the neighboring regions, Vanillekipferl became popular only in the 19th century, when artificial vanilla was discovered and the cost of making cookies has dropped significantly and became available to ‘ordinary’ people, not just aristocrats.
Nowadays, In Viennese bakeries crescent-shaped pastries are very popular, not just the cookies but also for example brioche buns (Briochekipferl), which are available all year round.

Vanillekipferl - vanilla crescent cookies in a cookie tin

INGREDIENTS

Vanillekipferl are really simple and are made with just 4 main ingredients: nuts, flour, sugar, and butter.

  • Ground nuts – almonds and walnuts are most often used but I’ve also seen recipes with hazelnuts. I tested this recipe with skin-on almonds, peeled toasted almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts. I liked the most version with skin-on almonds and walnuts. You can buy ground almonds (make sure they smell nice and are not stale) or grind them yourself (use a food processor, but don’t pulse too much or you will make almond butter) or use almond flour.
  • Butter – use good quality unsalted butter with 82% fat, don’t substitute butter for margarine, these cookies are made with only few ingredients you can really taste the difference.
  • Vanilla sugar – vanilla crescent cookies are traditionally made with vanilla sugar. Vanilla sugar is granulated sugar flavored with vanilla beans. It’s added to the dough and it’s used to dust the baked cookies. Many recipes will tell you, you either must buy vanilla sugar or make it yourself, but I tested this recipe with vanilla extract which is more available in some countries that vanilla sugar, and they tasted just the same. If you would like to make your own vanilla sugar though, it’s actually very simple. You can follow this tutorial.
  • You can find recipes calling for eggs or egg yolks, but I’m using neither. When researching old Austrian cookbooks I haven’t seen any recipes calling for eggs or egg yolks. The dough made with eggs it’s easier to work with but the cookies come out more tough.
  • Equipment needed: you don’t need any equipment but there are Vanillekipferl baking sheets that you can use (here in Austria they are easy to buy in every big market, they look like this). They are not necessary but the cookies made using such baking sheet are not spreading that much. I personally haven’t used it.
Vanillekipferl - vanilla crescent cookies ingredients

HOW TO MAKE AUTHENTIC VANILLEKIPFERL

These cookies are made with just 5 ingredients and are so simple. In a nutshell, you just have to knead the dough from all the ingredients, shape the crescents and bake.

Vanillekipferl - vanilla crescent cookies preparation steps

1. Make the dough: Add all the ingredients for the cookies into a big bowl. Rub the butter with the other ingredients with your fingers, then work it with your palms.

2. The dough will be very crumbly at first, but a minute later or so it will come together.

Vanillekipferl - vanilla crescent cookies preparation steps

3. You should have a smooth ball of dough. The dough can also be kneaded with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment – mix at the lowest speed until smooth dough forms.

4. Chill the dough: Divide the dough into 4 parts, roll each part into a thick log. Wrap each log in plastic foil and put in the fridge for 50 minutes.

Vanillekipferl - vanilla crescent cookies preparation steps

5. Shape the crescents: Take one log out of the fridge and cut into 1/2-inch / 1 cm slices.

6. If the dough is cold, shape the cookies with your finger until they resemble a crescent. If the dough is more warm you can try to roll the slice of the dough between your palms until it forms a cylinder and then bend each end into a crescent shape. Repeat with the other logs.

Bake the cookies: Place the cookies apart (they will spread a little) on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes at 350°F / 180°C / Gas Mark 4, no fan. They should be pale and only the tips of the crescents should be lightly golden, the cookies will be completely soft.

Vanillekipferl - vanilla crescent cookies preparation steps

7. Make vanilla sugar: you can just stir powdered sugar with vanilla sugar together or what I like to do: mix them in a food processor – to transform vanilla sugar into powdered vanilla sugar.

Let the cookies cool and dip in vanilla sugar: Transfer the cookies with the baking paper to a cooling rack (carefully, just slide the baking paper with cookies onto the rack). Sprinkle them immediately with sifted powdered vanilla sugar.

8. Wait until they cooled down but are still just a little warm. Then take carefully each cookie and dip its base in the sugar mixture (it’s also fine if you just sprinkle them with sugar without dipping the bases).

Enjoy!

TOP TIPS + WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS:

  • The best (and authentic) crescent vanilla cookies are made with no eggs, egg yolks or baking powder.
  • The cookies are flavored with vanilla on the inside and on the outside (double-delicious).
  • When shaping the crescents the dough will be a little crumbly but this is how it should be (remember the cookies will reward you with its delicate texture!).
  • Let the dough rest in the fridge, this step can not be omitted.
  • Don’t overwork the dough, the cookies will be tough.
  • Keep the dough cold at all times. When shaping the cookies, take only 1 log out of the fridge at a time.
  • Try to make the cookies the same size so that they bake evenly.
  • Don’t bake the cookies for too long. They will not look ready when you take them out of the oven. They should be pale and soft, only their edges may be a little golden.
  • Dusting the cookies works best. They are just too fragile to dip them in vanilla sugar when warm and when cooled, the sugar won’t stick to them very well.

STORAGE

  • These cookies can be stored in a tightly-closed cookie tin for up to 3 weeks (if they last that long).
  • The recipe tells you to chill the dough in the fridge for 1 hour but you can keep it there longer and bake the cookies even the next day or in 2 days. Just leave it on the counter for 15 minutes to warm it up before shaping the cookies.

WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT:

OTHER AUSTRIAN RECIPES YOU MAY LIKE:

This recipe is adapted from an old Austrian cookbook from 1970, the author is S.Behring. I changed the ingredient ratios (only slightly) to adjust them to the US measurements. I also added vanilla sugar to the dough (the recipe was calling for vanilla sugar only on the outside).

Vanillekipferl – vanilla crescent cookies

Melt-in-your mouth vanilla crescent cookies. These Austrian / German Christmas cookies will be a hit at your holiday table!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
chilling the dough 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 60 cookies
Calories 67kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

cookies:

  • 1 cup + 3 Tbsp ground almonds 4.6oz/130g, or walnuts or hazelnuts
  • 8 oz / 230g butter 2 sticks, at room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups flour 10oz/280g
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar 4oz/115g, powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar OR 2 ts vanilla extract + 2 ts flour
  • pinch of salt

for dusting the cookies:

  • 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar 1.4oz/40g
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar or confectioner’s sugar

Instructions

  • Make the dough: Add all the ingredients for the cookies into a big bowl. Rub the butter with the other ingredients with your fingers, then work it with your palms. The dough will be very crumbly at first, but a minute later or so it will come together. You should have a smooth ball of dough. The dough can also be kneaded with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment – mix at the lowest speed until smooth dough forms.
  • Chill the dough: Divide the dough into 4 parts, roll each part into a thick log. Wrap each log in plastic foil and put in the fridge for 50 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C / Gas Mark 4, no fan.
  • Shape the crescents: After this time, take one log out of the fridge and cut into 1/2-inch / 1 cm slices. If the dough is cold, shape the cookies with your finger until they resemble a crescent. If the dough is more warm you can try to roll the slice of the dough between your palms until it forms a cylinder and then bend each end into a crescent shape. Repeat with the other logs.
  • Place the cookies apart (they will spread a little) on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake in batches if your oven is not big enough.
  • Bake the cookies for 10 minutes. They should be pale and only the tips of the crescents should be lightly golden, the cookies will be completely soft.
  • While the cookies are baking prepare vanilla sugar: you can just stir powdered sugar with vanilla sugar together or what I like to do: mix them in a food processor – to transform vanilla sugar into powdered vanilla sugar.
  • Let the cookies cool and dip in vanilla sugar: Transfer the cookies with the baking paper to a cooling rack (carefully, just slide the baking paper with cookies onto the rack). Sprinkle them immediately with sifted powdered vanilla sugar, then wait until they cooled down but are still just a little warm. Then take carefully each cookie and dip its base in sugar mixture (it’s also fine if you just sprinkle them with sugar without dipping the bases).
  • Leave the cookies to cool completely. Store in a tightly closed cookie tin for up to 3 weeks.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • Ground nuts – I like most skin-on almonds and walnuts, but you can also use hazelnuts or almond flour. You can also grind the nuts yourself in a food processor (you don’t want it too coarse and also you can’t pulse too much or you’ll get nut butter).
  • If you can’t find vanilla sugar or you don’t want to make your own, you can easily substitute with vanilla extract (+ extra flour), the cookies will taste the same. Sprinkle them at the end with confectioner’s sugar.
  • When shaping the crescents the dough will be a little crumbly but this is how it should be (remember the cookies will reward you with its delicate texture!).
  • Don’t overwork the dough, the cookies will be tough.
  • Try to make the cookies the same size so that they bake evenly.
  • Calories count = 1 cookie (1/60 of the recipe). This is only an estimate!

Nutrition

Calories: 67kcal
Course Dessert
Cuisine austrian, european, German
Keyword crescent cookies, nut cookies recipe, vanilla cookies, vanillekipferl cookies

Did you make this recipe? Let me know how you liked it and give it a star rating in the comments below! You can also add a photo of your creation!

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