This year, I decided not to make my colleagues another batch of star-shaped shortbread. Not because there is anything wrong with that, but because I wanted to try something new. Kipferls are an Austrian biscuit that has spread across the world and many countries now have their own variations. I remember buying a little packet of kipferls one snowy night at the Christmas markets in Salzburg, but it is only now that I've taken the time to make them!
Kipferls are very much like shortbread, but they're part-made with almond meal instead of flour. The biscuit itself is crumbly but chewy because of the butter, and the vanilla sugar coating packs a sweet punch. My colleagues found joy in these lovely crescent-shaped, sugar-dusted treats, but it was one of my well-traveled colleagues who exclaimed, "Oh, wow! Kipferls!", when I delivered them. I was so glad that somebody else knew what they were. The next day, my colleague told me that her husband loved the kipferls, and said that they tasted just like the ones in Austria! Whether it evokes a memory or introduces people to something new, home-made gifts have a way of resonating with people.
What you'll need:
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
250g butter, cubed and softened
3/4 cup icing sugar
2 egg yolks
2 cups plain flour (plus extra for kneading)
3/4 cup almond meal
Sugar coating: (See note)
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1/4 cup icing sugar
What to do:
Preheat oven to 180C and line 3 baking trays with baking paper.
Using an electric mixer, beat 3/4 cup icing sugar, butter and vanilla bean paste until pale and creamy. Add egg yolks and beat again until combined. Add almond meal and flour and stir until combined.
Give a clean work surface a generous dusting of plain flour and tip the kipferl dough out onto it. Knead until smooth, adding more flour if the dough becomes sticky. Roll into a ball and cover with cling film, place into the fridge for 30 minutes.
Roll tablespoons of the chilled dough into balls, sculpt into crescent shapes and place on baking trays. Bake for around 20 minutes or until golden around the edges.
While the kipferl are baking, make the sugar coating by combining the caster sugar, icing sugar and scraped vanilla bean seeds. Mix well to break up the vanilla bean seeds.
Once biscuits have cooked and are cool to touch, roll them in the vanilla sugar to coat. Place on a cooling rack and allow to cool. Enjoy!
NOTE: Once you have scraped the seeds of the vanilla bean, put the pod into your caster sugar supply - it can stay in there for months and will keep releasing its flavour and aroma into the sugar.