The cookies are flavored with vanilla, hence why they are also known as a vanilla crescent or moon cookies.
This is one of my Oma's traditional Austrian Christmas cookies recipes.
The cookies are also known as Viennese almond crescents.
Read up the history of this iconic cookie just before the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
What are Vanillekipferl?
Vanillekipfers are crescent-shaped cookies flavored with vanilla and prepared with nuts, usually with almonds.
Vanille stands for vanilla (as we can guess) and kipferl or crescent.
They are also known as moon cookies, vanilla kipferl cookies or horseshoe cookies in English.
Vanillekipferls are delicate and a class of cookies for themselves.
The cookies traditionally made and gifted during the Advent Christmas season in Austria, South Tyrol (North Italy), Germany, Czechia, Switzerland, Hungary, Slovenia and other neighboring countries.
The pronunciation for the cookies is vanelleukepfeul.
How to make it?
Here I explain how to make the Austrian vanillekipferl cookies easily from scratch.
Find all the details with ingredients listed and instructions in the recipe card further below.
Beat butter sugar and vanilla sugar fluffy
Add the flours and combine to a smooth dough.
Shape dough to a sausage and wrap in cling film.
Allow dough to cool in the fridge.
Cut dough into thick slices and shape each slice into a crescent.
Make sure there is enough space between the horseshoe shape because the cookie will grow in size when baked.
Bake cookies until golden brown.
Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes and then roll into prepared vanilla-flavored sugar to coat.
Store in a cool and dry place.
Yes, you can freeze the dough. Just wrap it into cling film after you prepared a smooth dough and keep in the freezer until further use. Thaw before using it.
If stored in a dry environment, you can store your cookies for a few weeks. But they are eaten up all the time before they can turn bad.
The Vanillekipferl dough is easy to make, BUT they are also a bit tricky to shape.
The cookies are made of a shortcrust dough and that butter dough has a tendency to crumble.
If you have worked with shortcrust pastry before, you will know what I mean by "tricky".
The main basic ingredients to make a short crust are flour, butter, and a tiny amount of water.
This Vanillekipferl recipe contains the correct ratio of ingredients, so the chances are very low that the cookies will break.
Follow the tips to make cookies that hold their shape:
- Use the correct ratio of shortcrust pastry ingredients. So please follow my recipe to the dot!
- let your dough rest long enough in the fridge. The dough should be cold to prepare the cookies
- don't work out the dough too much. Your warm hands will just soften the butter and the dough will fall apart. If that happens, turn it back into a dough and let cool again.
- shape the Vanillekipferl thicker. If they are too thin they tend to break very easily and shape into a large U because they increase in size when baked.
- Bake in a preheated oven at the exact temperature and time. 400 Fahrenheit (200 Celsius) for 10 minutes.
- Once baked, let the cookies cool for 2-3 minutes before rolling them in the prepared vanilla sugar. Letting them cool allows the flour to stick together better and the cookies are less likely to break later on.
- work with delicate hand movements when coating the cookies with the vanilla sugar.
Crescent-shaped vanilla cookies are usually made with ground hazelnuts or almond flour.
I used almond flour in this recipe.
You can also use walnut flour or cashew flour if you prefer, the choice is up to you!
Traditional vanillekipferl cookies do not include eggs. Therefore this is an eggless Christmas cookie recipe.
Yet, if you would add an egg, the dough wouldn't break that easily and hold together better. (You would have to adjust the flour quantity)
The almond flour in this recipe helps the cookies to rise and it's a great substitute for eggs.
Vanilla Sugar Coating - The secret ingredient
After the cookies are baked, they are rolled still warm in vanilla sugar to coat.
This is an essential step and the reason why the cookies are called vanilla crescents.
You have two options, prepare your own vanilla-flavored sugar form scratch or mix commercial vanilla sugar with confectioners sugar.
Homemade Vanilla sugar is easy to make, you just need sugar and Vanilla beans or vanilla paste.
Simply cut the vanilla bean into half, take out all the seeds and add the whole bean with seeds to powdered confectioners sugar in a jar and combine.
Shake the jar every day for the next days so that the sugar gains in flavor.
Another option is to use packed vanilla sugar from the store and mix it with powdered confectioners sugar.
Vanillakipferls are known to be a typical Viennese tradition, having been invented by a talented baker in Vienna some ~400 years back.
Apparently, after the Ottoman Turks had sieged Vienna in the 16th and 17th Centuries, the people in Vienna came up with the Vanillekipferl to celebrate the victory over the Turks.
Kipferl is the Austrian-German word for "moon/crescent-shaped"
The moon shape was inspired by the Muslim/Turkish banner, which even today shows a moon.
To commemorate the siege, bakers in Vienna formed the cookies into a crescent - moon shape.
Fun fact: In Austria, there are other pastries as well that are also called Kipferl, including croissants and stuffed pastries.
The Turks brought back sweets in a moon shape and also vanilla beans and even coffee (which were completely unknown to the Europeans at the time).
A Vanillekipferl is a must with freshly brewed coffee.
More Christmas cookie recipes 🍪
Updated Post: original post published for the first time at masalaherb.com on 1st December 2012
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Vanillekipferl Cookies Recipes
For the Cookies
- Vanilla Sugar
- Beat soft butter, powdered sugar and vanilla sugar fluffy.
- Wrap dough in cling film and shape into a large sausage, about 2- 2.5 cm or 1 inch thick.
- Cool dough in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
- Cut into thick slices so that each weighs about 20 grams (0.7oz).
- Preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit/ 200° Celsius.
- Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking tray. Keep space between the cookies and bake for 10 minutes at 400° Fahrenheit/ 200° Celsius or until light golden colored.
- While the cookies are baking, prepare a plate with vanilla-flavored powdered (confectioners) sugar.
- Keep cookies to cool 2-3 minutes after baking before touching them.
- Coat cookies with vanilla-flavored powdered sugar while they are still warm.
- Store in a tin box lined with parchment paper. *see notes for hot humid climate storage instructions.
- You can substitute the vanilla sugar with a few drops of vanilla extract and 2 teaspoons vanilla sugar
- Store the cookies in a parchment layered tin box or in an airtight container (in a hor humid climate).
- In a dry climate, you can also add apple peel to the cookie tin over a sheet of parchment paper liying over the cookies. The apple peel helps in keeping the cookies a bit moist and when you open the tin, it smells nice.