i jumped out of bed like a little child today! it's nikolaustag!
the tradition of saint nicholas is a big thing here in austria. it goes back to nikolaus von myra as you probably know and when i was a child this was one of my favorite festivities in the church year. i did not have a very religious upbringing and i rarely go to church today, i practically only attend weddings, funerals or christenings in my close family and circle of friends. i am not very fond of the fact that advent season starts around mid-november these days and that everything seems to become more and more kitschy and sponsored by coca cola ... but i still love love loooove to celebrate the festivities i couldn't wait for as a child.
us kids would always find little "nikolaussackerl" on the breakfast table decorated with a tiny little rod reminding us that we did not always behave well during the year. the "sackerl" contained little presents, nuts, tangerines, apples, oranges, candy and a little saint nikolaus made of chocolate. while we where still very small children a person dressed up as st. nikolaus acompanied by the evil krampus would knock on our door in the evening, inquire about our behaviour and bring the presents himself. while i just adored the bishop with his flowing beard, miter and staff, i was always very afraid of the krampus, the evil helper that would discipline bad children with his rod and take them away ... of course we never were beaten up by this guy, but if you ask me threatening children to hit them if the are naughty is a very questionable educatinal method!
my mama still made us little presents on nikolaus day as we became teenagers and young adults and so i am still really into this children's holiday ... mama spoiled us for life!
as i am living alone and further away from my family now i need to treat myself to a little st. nikolaus celebration. that day usually marks the start of advent season for me. i throw in a little "last christmas" (kitsch, you say?!) and get in the mood.
and i start baking.
my late grandmother was famous for her vanillekipferl (vanilla crescent chrismas cookies or vanilla cornets in english) and although i can not look back on 60 years of baking experience (yet) i try my best today and make these cookies just like she used to make them. let me share the recipe:
300 g flour
50 g sugar
1 pack of vanilla sugar
200 g soft butter
100 g ground hazelnuts
5 tbsp lukewarm milk
2 packs of vanilla sugar mixed with confectioners' sugar
- in a bowl, knead all ingredients until you get a dough of firm texture. be careful, the more you knead the more the butter in the mixture will soften. so work rather fast. start by creaming together butter and sugar and add the flour and the other ingredients after that
- let the dough rest (you can put it in the fridge) for half an hour. cover with wax paper
- preheat oven to 180 °c
- pinch off walnut sized pieces of the dough and place them on a cutting board
roll each one into a strip and shape them by pulling the strips into a semi-circle
- arrange the crescents on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes
- coming straight out of the oven (still hot!) either dust them with a mixture of confectioners' sugar and vanilla sugar or simply pull every single crescent through the sugar mixture in a flat dish or a little bowl
they turned out pretty fine although it took a while until i figured out the best way to roll those little strips into crescents. the second batch was by far less crooked than the first one! i wonder what my grandmother would say if she was still alive - i bet she would secretly think "mine are better" but i am also sure that she would be really glad that her former tomboy granddaughter is finally transforming into a domestic maniac cherishing and treasuring her legacy.
where did all the broken crescents go, you ask?