My grandma, in her prime, baked the most wonderful cookies you would ever taste. She made some pretty horrific ones, too, in that, only a German palatte could love (although, the cookie flavor was yuck, they were perfectly baked).
Grandma, a self-taught baker, worked as the head baker of a well-known German restaraunt in Frankenmuth, MI. For as long as I can remember, she always had cookies and butterhorns and doughnuts in her freezer — significantly less of those treats were in there, after us grandkids raided the frozen pantry without her knowledge!
My favorite, favorite, FAVORITE cookie that I have ever tasted of Grandma’s was her springerli (pronounced: shpringerlee). This pristene white cookie, flaky on the outside, chewy on the inside, stamped out of a hand-carved wooden cookie board with several different designs carved out is the flavor of anise. I am not an anise-flavoring fan, but I am of springerli, and have been since as long as I can remember; stealing cookies off the cookie tray at Christmas while the grown-ups were drinking beers, playing cards, and yelling at us kids for no apparent reason (hehe).
A few years ago, I asked Grandma to teach me how to make my favorite cookie, and little did I know at the time, is my dad’s favorite cookie too. Traditionally, the cookie is stamped out of a hand-carved wooden board, but Grandma used a cast aluminum board that her boss had found in Switzerland and had purchased for her. This became her tool of choice, and neither she nor I have seen another board like it.
Believe me, I’ve looked.
My first year, Grandma taught me everything, and I had to write up a new recipe as hers only listed the ingredients to use, not the amounts, nor did it list the temperature of the oven or how long to bake them. She just knew, she didn’t need all that stuff written down. My second year, I borrowed her springerli board and made them on my own. When I took her my cookies, I got the Grandma Seal of Approval, which for my grandma, is pretty rare! My third year of baking, more accolades from Grandma (and a request for me to bake some for her, as it was getting difficult to stir up the dough and to stand hunched over a low countertop to roll and cut the cookies out). My fourth year of baking, Grandma decided that I should just keep the springerli board, she would not be baking them again, but would I bake some for her, too? (um, of course, Gram!!) My fifth year of baking, I took a dozen to Grandma, she ate 3 right away, must have finished the rest at some point in the day, and by the evening when my parents went to visit, they were all gone — she didn’t remember me bringing any to her.
This year, my sixth year of baking springerli, I plan on giving Grandma as many as she wants, and will bake more if I need to. What was once a quest of knowledge, and really pure gluttony, since there were only 6 springerli on the cookie tray at Christmas, and it was a battle between 27 of us to see who got to them first; spawned my tradition of baking springerli — a tradition forged by my grandma, and continued on by me. I can’t wait to see the look on her face when I drop a giant box of cookies in her lap!