Convection Perfection

For a long time I have wanted to experiment with baking Springerle using the convection option on my oven and, oh boy, am I sorry I waited so long. I so often get caught  up in getting cookies made  for events, classes, and gifts, that the pressure of deadlines has always made me delay the testing. An extraordinarily cold January  of dangerous road conditions and self enforced hibernation made any further delay inexcusable . Plus, I  had actually completed about 90% of my  consuming year-end bookkeeping.   Additionally, I was aided by cold dry weather so ideal for the drying process , that I found the experience almost too easy. Utilizing convection baking on only two batches of Springerle has convinced me that this will soon become my norm.

I made two batches of dough, both Nini's Perfection Springerle recipe, one traditional anise and one lemon. Both batches of dough were made and refrigerated in a tightly sealed bags for about 12 hours before I shaped the Springerle. The anise batch was formed into the following  cookies: 24 Hearts and Rose (approximately 3.25 x3.25 inch hearts), 25 Hearts United  (approximately 2.25 x 1.5 rectangles), 36 Fleur de Lis (cut with a 1.75 inch fluted round cutter) and 8 Cupid in Heart (approximately 2 x 2.25 inch heart). The lemon dough was made into the following cookies: 53 Amo Te Heart ( approximately 2.75 x 2.75 inch heart), 24 Heartstrings (1.875 x 1.875 inch hearts), and 1 Quilted Heart (approximately 4.5 x 4.5 inch heart). My cookie mold choices were clearly intended to make the cookies into appropriate Valentine's treats, but I also wanted to test various sizes and shapes, and also to test some molds that have some flat areas with no carving, since those areas are the most likely to have large air bubbles. All the cookies were dried between 24 and 28 hours on parchment paper lined cookie sheets before I began baking them.

Most ovens that have a convection option will instruct you to lower the temperature 25 degrees below the temperature that would be used in a conventional oven. And so it is with my oven. My oven manual also indicates that cookies will need the same baking time when using convection baking and that seems to also be pretty much the case, maybe only a minute or so less than with the conventional oven. You should , of course consult your oven's manual, if you decide to try using the convection option.

I used the middle rack for all of this testing and I had an entire tray of one design on each tray. I baked each tray of cookies on the parchment paper on which they were dried, and all trays were shiny aluminum that allowed at least 2 inches of space away from the walls of the oven. These are standards that I always recommend for all Springerle baking. I may in the future try baking 2 trays of the same size and shape cookie at the same time in the convection mode, just to see how it works. Baking 2 trays in the conventional oven is not something I ever do, as I do not get consistent results.

Hearts United

Hearts United

The first tray baked was the one of 25 Hearts United, 2.25 x 1.5 rectangles. This cookie is a very standard Springerle cookie size and many multiple and single molds are of this approximate size, so, this seemed to me a very good starting point for this test. This is the size that I think is the easiest to bake in a conventional oven and also such a good eating size, so it is important that the convection work for this particular size. I would bake this size at 320 or 325 degrees for 12-13 minutes if using the conventional oven. I chose 300 degrees in the convection mode; I baked them for 10 minutes, then turned the tray around and baked them 2 more minutes. Excellent results were achieved. Consistent and even rising on the entire tray and I broke cookies to reveal a beautifully baked dry cake like texture in the center of the cookies. Off to a good start, but I know that size cookie is the least challenging size to bake.

HeartandRoseCloseup

HeartandRoseCloseup

Next I baked a tray of Hearts and Rose, 3.25 x3.25 inch hearts, larger and heart shaped cookie with the entire surface having design relief, in other words, no flat areas. They were baked at 300 degrees convection, first for 8 minutes, then turned in the oven and then baked for 5 more minutes. I am always careful to turn the trays quickly to maintain the temperature in the oven. Again, I was very pleased with the consistent results. It is clear to me that the oven temperature is not suffering from hot and cold spots, which can cause cookies on the same tray to bake at different speeds, resulting in some under baked or some over baked specimens. As an experienced baker of Springerle cookies, I know that the challenge of making a good Springerle is to have enough rise in the leavening to have a cake like texture, but to control the rising to preserve the imprinted design. I am not willing to compromise taste and texture for the sake of the design. In fact, I am willing to have a slightly imperfect visual on the cookie, because it is,  after all,  meant to be eaten.

FleurWithCracks

FleurWithCracks

Next up, Fleur de Lis cookies cut with a 1.75 inch fluted round cutter. I baked one tray at 300 degrees convection for 5 minutes, turned the tray and baked for 5 more minutes. The inside of the cookies were the perfect dry cake like texture that I try to achieve, so that's great, but if you look closely you can see some small cracks in the middle of the cookies on the  two cookies on the right side of the photo. I baked a second tray of  this same cookie at 290 degrees convection and still noticed a few tiny cracks. Not a deal breaker, but I noticed that cookies that I had rolled pressed more thinly  (the two cookies on the left side of the photo) were perfect. So, note to self, on smaller cookies that are more likely to puff up quickly be sure to make them a bit thinner. Also true in conventional oven baking of Springerle. (This is why you might want to keep a little notebook of your conditions, sizes, thicknesses, etcetera, so that your experiences teach you lessons and so you don't forget what you learned.) But such even rising makes the convection option so very wonderful.

CupidinHeartClose

CupidinHeartClose

The last cookie design that I baked was a tray of 8 Cupid in Heart cookies. These cookies measure 2 x 2.25 inches , heart shaped. Because of the flat areas (flat areas sometimes have flat puffy areas) around the cupid, I elected to use the 290 degree convection oven and baked them 6 minutes, turned them and baked an additional 6 minutes. Fine results again and now I am firmly advocating a convection oven for Springerle baking.

I continued baking the lemon cookies that I had formed with equally successful results. I baked Amo Te Heart cookies at 300 degrees for 8 minutes, turn and then 4 more minutes. Smaller Heartstrings cookies where baked at 295 degrees for 6 minutes, turned and baked an additional 5 minutes. Wanting to test one larger cookie, the Quilted Heart cookie was baked at 290 degrees convection for 8 minutes, turned and then baked for 7 additional minutes. All of these turned out extremely well.

Here is the consensus: convection baking of Springerle, with it's even circulating heat, is a terrific option for baking Springerle cookies. The weather now is so cooperative for their proper drying and makes baking such an enticing activity. Try it!