Vanillegipfeli are tender, buttery, sweet, baby croissant-shaped cookies, dredged in vanilla-y icing sugar.
A lot of icing sugar.
Vanillegipfeli / Vanillekipferl
Originally from Vienna, and more commonly known as Vanillekipferl, these cookies are popular throughout Austria, Germany, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republc, Slovakia and here in Switzerland. The 'kipferl' / 'gipfeli' refers to the cookie's crescent shape—Gipfeli, of course, also being the Swiss German word for croissant.
They are a notoriously fickle cookie, bursting with butter, and prone to breaking during the delicate forming of the crescent. Work the dough too much and they lose their tenderness, but too little and the dough falls apart in your hands.
My first attempt was not a success.
But the draw of that melt-in-your-mouth texture (and the assurance of my friend Carmen who touted it as the BEST Christmas cookie) made me persevere until I had a passable, and very powdery, batch.
The recipe comes from one of Switzerland's most revered home economists and teachers:
Elisabeth Fülscher (a quick history)
Born in 1985, she studied home economics in Zürich and would go on to become an instructor at the school. She got into cookbook writing through her mentor, the proprietor of the school, Anna Widmer and when Widmer died in 1930, Fülscher took over responsibility of the school and the cookbook that she had started.
She worked tirelessly on the book over the years, updating it frequently. In the 1940s, she included valuable information on rationing, and continuously revised the information on nutrition.
Fülscher's last edition came out in 1966, but it was reprinted until 2005, when a modern update was made and published in 2013. Though just in German, you can find it in most big bookshops, or order it here. For my post on Elisabeth Fülscher, see here.
200 g butter, soft
100 g superfine sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
100 g ground almonds
250 g flour
vanilla sugar and icing sugar
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the vanilla.
Add the ground almonds and flour.
Separate the dough in three pieces, form into cylinders, and wrap in plastic. The dough is very fragile, so don't overwork it, just gently press it together into a roll, using the plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for at least an hour.
When you are ready to form
Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F / gas mark 4.
Cut slices off your dough roll, form them into little sausages, then carefully bend them into crescents.
Let them cool again for about a half hour, either in the freezer or outside on a chilly day.
Bake for about 11 minutes or until they start to brown slightly.
While they are baking, mix together some icing sugar and one packet of vanilla sugar in a bowl.
Once the cookies are out of the oven, let them rest for a minute or two, then dredge them in the vanilla icing sugar.
- I added some cinnamon to my dredging sugar (for an authentic, powdered mini-donut taste) and it was quite delicious. This could also be an option if you can't find little packets of vanilla sugar.
- This is a delicate and fiddly cookie. Don't get discouraged if they break or melt or crumble. Fortunately, even my ugliest cookies still tasted good.
- Superfine sugar helps make a super tender texture. In the German part of Switzerland this sugar is sometimes called Griesszucker or Feinkristallzucker or this one, from the Coop.