christmas baking: vanilla crescents (vanillekipferl)

Christmas vanilla crescents
I first saw these vanilla biscuits in a festive German Christmas market some years ago. At first glance, these vanilla crescents looked a bit pale and anaemic, and dare I say it, a bit flavourless.

Certainly uninteresting when compared to my favourite Christmas spice biscuits, packed full of fragrant spices.

That was how I felt until I took my first bite and realised that appearances are so very, very deceptive. Pale they may be, but they are definitely not dreary.

These little German vanilla crescent biscuits (vanillekipferl), traditionally served at Christmas, have a delicate subtle flavour and a wonderful buttery crumbly texture. I was completely bowled over!

Makes 25-30 biscuits
Skill level: Easy

200g plain flour, sifted (plus extra to flour the work surface)
150g unsalted butter, softened (at room temperature)
80g icing sugar, sifted (plus extra to dust the biscuits)
80g ground hazelnuts or almonds
1 x large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
milk (optional)
icing sugar or vanilla sugar, to dust

  1. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the diced butter and lightly rub into the flour to form fine crumbs (a bit like bread crumbs).
  2. Sift the icing sugar over the mixture and add the ground nuts. Give it a quick stir to distribute through the mix.
  3. Lightly whisk the egg together with the vanilla extract and pour over the dry mix. Bring the ingredients together to form a dough. If the mixture is too sticky then add a tiny amount of flour or ground nuts, by increments. If too dry then add a tiny splash of milk.
  4. Cover the dough with cling film and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 160C / Gas Mark 3.
  6. Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.
  7. Divide the dough into 2 or 3 roughly equal amounts.
  8. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into sausages of about 3 centimetres in diameter.
  9. Using a very sharp knife (I use a Stanley knife!), cut into 1 centimetre pieces.
  10. Begin making the biscuits by rolling each piece of dough into an evenly shaped sausage, about 7 to 8 centimetres long and 2 centimetres wide. Squash the end of each to taper the dough, and then curve to form a crescent shape as you place the biscuit on the lined baking tray.
  11. Leave space between each biscuit because they will spread a little (although not much).
  12. Bake in the middle part of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes. The biscuits will take on a small amount of colour but should not brown.
  13. Leave the biscuits to cool on the baking tray before transferring carefully to a wire cooling rack.
  14. Dust generously while still slightly warm with plenty of icing sugar, or sprinkle over a little vanilla sugar.
  15. These can last about a week in an airtight container, (usually under lock and key - all mine went within minutes!)

  • These are more often made with almonds but hazelnuts can be used too and I am a complete convert to them. They may brown a little if using hazelnuts.
  • I am lucky enough to have "pastry hands" - they are permanently cool (although this is probably due to poor circulation rather than any propensity to perfect pastry making). If you have hot hands, I would recommend occasionally running them under the cold tap and drying before forming the biscuits. This stops the butter in the dough from melting and you get a better crumblier texture when cooked.


Unknown said...

these look wonderful... I can just imagine their texture and I WANT a bite NOW!!!

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

They've all gone - but I am sure you could whip some up in minutes. Definitely use hazelnuts, they're heavenly!