I've had multiple conversations with many students, customers and cookie bakers concerning their questions and preferences for flavoring their Springerle cookies with anise seed or anise oil. Many of the preferences are based family traditions as in "my family always made them with____". Insert oil or seed in the blank. Some folks just want to know what to use and some just want my opinion.
Firstly, let me just state that my family tradition is anise oil and that I have always loved Springerle cookies and for a long time thought that was the only way to make them. But early in my public experiences, I found that there are hundreds of variations on Springerle making. Some with leavening, some without. Some with powdered sugar, some with granulated sugar. Some with feet, some without. Et cetera. And some with anise oil and some with anise seed.
I have tried many Springerle recipes and still always come back to the one my grandmother gave to me. And while I had eaten samples of cookies with the anise seed backing, I had not made them, until recently. I knew the procedure and that the anise seed version needed to age to develop the anise flavor. I also know I liked the rustic look and crunch of the seeds adhered to the back of the cookies.
Here is my experience and how to make Springerle WITH anise seeds on the back: (I made my Springerle dough without any flavoring oil or extract.)
Now for the tasting!
Tasting # 1 – June 23, 2018
Shortly after baked and cooled. A barely perceptible anise flavor, but I knew the aging process was required and many traditional recipes call for an aging period. (Including recipes with only anise oil as the anise flavor develops with aging.)
Tasting #2 – July 23, 2018
A more pronounced anise flavor. More subtle than I would like.
Tasting # 3 – August 27, 2018
Now we are getting somewhere! Definitely anise and I do so like the crunch of the anise seed on the bottom of the cookie. These are my conclusions from this fun project:
If you really like a mild anise flavor and the authentic rustic feel, anise seed backed cookies aged for at least one month might be your favorite version of this traditional cookie. Longer aging for stronger flavor.
If you like a stronger anise flavor profile, use anise oil. Even when you use anise oil, the flavor gets stronger as the cookie ages.
If you like a strong flavor AND the seeds use BOTH knowing that the flavor will continue to evolve as the cookie age.
And my preference based on these conclusions? I like strong flavors and particularly the anise and licorice flavors, but also the crunch of the rustic seeds. I also understand that, historically, many people would have used seeds when the oil was not available to them. I also know some people who cannot eat seeds. So I will be baking my Springerle with anise oil only and also with both anise oil and some anise seeds.
And what will you be trying next???