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Burning Snowman Cookies

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My springerle cookies made with an antique wooden mold of the snowman being devoured by the Sun, bringing the rebirth of nature. Mighty fine pagan dessert.

Since time immemorial people have baked breads and biscuits shaped like pagan symbols. For a couple centuries we have lost the original meaning, if there ever was one explicit meaning, of these bones, two headed babies and giant edible phalluses. But they are still all around us. In my parts, we bake small hard cookies shaped with wooden forms passed on like family heirloom. In the South of Germany and the Swiss-German speaking part of Switzerland, they call them springerle. To welcome the sun back onto our land, I made a batch of springtime cookies using a unique mold I bought from an antique dealer.

Springerle
2 eggs
250 grams / 0.5 lb flour
250 grams / 0.5 lb confectioner's sugar
1 gram baking powder
Vanillin or vanilla sugar or lemon oil or anise oil
A kitchen mixer
A springerle mold
About three days

We will need to cream the sugar and egg for a very long time - 20 minutes. Old recipes called for your four oldest kids to beat the eggs in turn, but nowadays a kitchen machine is definitely cheaper.

Break the eggs...

... then sift the sugar over the eggs, like snow on a field of sunflowers.

Add the vanilla or other flavoring, then beat over high speed for 20 minutes.

Leaving the frothed eggs in the bowl, add half the flour, sifted with the baking powder, and continue to mix until fully absorbed.

Continue to add the rest of the flour by hand, working the dough on a table until it makes a smooth and relatively hard ball. Cover in foil and let it rest in the fridge overnight.

Springerle molds are about symbols and figuration. There is nothing really artistic in them, but the farmers who carved these molds during wintertime knew precisely what they wanted them to print. This one (picture above) show a sun with fiery rays like tongues of fires melting a snowman. We had our yearly snowman-burning celebration last weekend in Zurich - same spirit.


The Bööög on his pire during the 2008 Sechseläuten, courtesy of Clemens Orth.


A last smoke?

I will also try out this other, more mundane, springerle mold with a bell, a pear, two flowers and a castle.

Flour your working space. I use rice flour but any really fine flour will do.

Unwrap the dough ...

... then flatten with a rolling pin to a thickness of about 10mm / 0.4''.

Firmly press the mold onto the dough with the heel of your hand. I wanted to write 'press with all your weight', but I don't know how much you weigh.

Remove. Not the nicest snowman in the land, but it won't be our last.

Continue, trying to avoid too much deformation in neighboring springerle as the dough moves sideways when you press down.

Cut using a large knife or paddle.

Beautiful work. You feel like a druid of sorts preparing some sacred food! And that's before drinking any Kirschwasser.

Assemble the remaining dough to make another dough which you'll flatten again.

And six new snowmen are born today.

Recycle the remains on the usual way - snowmen born from the ashes of other snowmen.

Now the snowmen need to go to bed for the big day tomorrow. Lay them on a piece of baking paper glued to a baking tray with four drops of butter in the corners. Leave in a warm, well ventilated place for the designs to harden while drying. If we baked our snowmen right now, they would just melt before their time is up, contradicting the medieval proverb 'Old snowmen don't die, they just fade away'.

The next day, wet the back (unprinted, flat surface) with a little water, then place in a cold oven and increase temperature to 200 °C / 400°F. Bake for 20 minutes, turn the oven off but leave the cookies inside for a further 20 minutes.

There we are - a tray full of snowmen and a bell. For whom does the bell toll?

The bell tolls for our friend the snowman. His time on this earth is up. The sun's mighty rays now make him melt. His demise will be the start of the rebirth of our land. But will the sun really come back and raise grass, trees, flowers and crops from the earth?

If you eat it sunny side up, a summer of rain will drown upon you.

'Eat the snowman before the snowman eats you', as we say in Switzerland.

I wish you all a good summer.


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27 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by david
"For whom the bell tolls" Love your writing:) And I am ready to melt some snowmen myself and enjoy a wonderful summer! Thanks for the recipe, I love springerle, but can only get them around Christmas here.

I've just found your site and think it's wonderful. These biscuits look amazing and if only I ate eggs and had a pagan biscuit stamp I would certainly make some! Looking forward to reading the rest of your work. Thanks for your tips on Dandelion Syrup too, that's the way I found you.
  • #3
  • Answered by fx
David, I think making the springerle and finding the wooden molds is actually more fun than eating them!
  • #4
  • Answered by fx
Manda, I think the eggs are more of a problem than the pagan stamps, which you can buy as plastic reproductions all over the Internet. I like your own article about Dandelion and wish you fun in France!
Wow! I can't believe it doesn't have any butter!(How rare in Fxcuisine!:)) It's the first time I have ever heard of this cookie and it's a must try for me! They look so crispy and delicious~ Thanks for sharing with us, FX~
Beautiful pictures, as always!  I especially like the reflection-heavy ones near the top.
  • #7
  • Comment by Paul Mckenna
I looked on Ebay and there were 10 wooden examples including rolling pins all at affordable prices.

Great stuff. This is a lovely recipe to involve children, give them a sense of heritage, appreciate how important spring is.

Thanks

Paul
  • #8
  • Answered by fx
Cheese Puff, welcome back, indeed no butter in those cookies. They can be a bit too crispy for the good of your teeth though, maybe best dip them in hot milk!
  • #9
  • Answered by fx
Vicki, I love reflective objects on dark backgrounds, but they certainly reflect everything else in the background!
  • #10
  • Answered by fx
Paul, there are all sorts of online shops that sell Springerle molds. Most have rather tacky designs, watch what you buy!
  • #11
  • Comment by reclusegrl
Everyone should have a snowman burning festival.  It is not just your recipes which are astounding.
Call me sentimental, although I am ready for Spring/Summer...The snowman looks impaled by his broom and looks rather like a marshmallow being fed to the flames! Is nature always so cruel?
  • #13
  • Comment by karmel
Awesome!love your Miele oven.  We have them too and they are the best!!Can't wait to try these...I will eat snowman first.
  • #14
  • Comment by Luke
I love old Pagan traditions, especially those that haven't become too diluted with time. They're so much more human and earthly than traditions introduced by both Christianity and modern consumerism alike.Wonderful post!
Great recipe and I love the way you write!  Will have to give these a try!  Thanks
  • #16
  • Answered by fx
Next year I'll try to show you the whole snowman-burning festival in Zurich!
  • #17
  • Answered by fx
Callipygia, the snowman sure gets the raw end of the deal and the business end of the stick. But if you look at the 1973 movie The Wicker Man, you'll see that it's not much fun visiting inside the Wicker Man on celebration day.
  • #18
  • Answered by fx
Karmel, when I finally upgraded by 18-year-old oven whose door had to be held in place with adhesive tape, it was like an ephiphany. Two decades of progress in one go!
  • #19
  • Answered by fx
Luke, I share your interest for Pagan traditions. As for their being more humane, I recently visited the largest Helvet (Celts) burial site ever found, and some of the remains are rather difficult to reconcile to present days values, as empty of any religion as one can make them. Things could get really hard core.
  • #20
  • Answered by fx
Gary, thanks for visiting and hold on for more of the same!
  • #21
  • Comment by Luke
Well, I said human, like it concerned human day-to-day issues, rather than the Christian value of waiting for an afterlife or modern consumerist values of vying to acquire the latest and the greatest.

Humane is a different story. Those certainly were some brutal times indeed.
FX, as an anthropology student, I really like how you give us the historical and cultural background to your recipes. And as always, wonderful photos. It looks like you artistically spread the flour around in that first one-is that the case?
  • #23
  • Answered by fx
Lyra, thanks for your appreciation! There is much to enjoy for the anthropologically minded pastry chef, perhaps you might read Le Diable en sucre, a book by a French anthropologist about pagan cookies across Europe. Yes I tried to make a nice pattern with the flour, French chefs call this 'fraiser' or 'to strawberry' literally, and there is even a precise gesture supposed to guarantee an even layer of flour!
  • #24
  • Comment by Leon
The cookies puff upwards? Awesome. Remind me to try them somedays. Greetings from Singapore!
  • #25
  • Answered by fx
Leon, thanks for visiting!
This is really interesting - I have my great-grandmother's springerle board and have been experimenting with springerle recipes.  A lot of the recipes I have swear that you must use baker's ammonia/hartshorn instead of regular baking powder, but yours seem perfectly fine without it.  I may have to try this one :)
  • #27
  • Answered by fx
Sasha, thanks for your visit and I wish you fun with your great-grandma´s springerle mold. Indeed if you have baker´s ammonia that´s the way to go, but if you don´t you´ll get good results with regular baking powder.



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