Our archives of simple, healthy recipes using aphrodisiac ingredients.

Markus Zusak’s Vanilla Kipferls–cookies for book lovers

Markus Zusak’s Vanilla KipferlsThis is a first for us! Although we love featuring our favorite cookbook authors, we’ve never before featured an author’s dish from a work of fiction. But when the folks at The Book Club Cookbook recommended this recipe, how could we say no? In addition to working it’s way into Zusak’s The Book Thief, the recipe for Markus Zusak’s Vanilla Kipferls appears in The Book Club Cookbook, an entire tome dedicated to recipes from great books and authors.

Why was this particular cookie significant enough for Zusak to highlight? This is how he explains it:

Growing up in the southern suburbs of Sydney, Australia, my family was a small oddity; our last name wasn’t Smith, Jones, or Johnson. Even as kids, we knew that our parents—who had immigrated separately from Germany and Austria—had brought a whole different world with them when they came to Australia. This was often felt most around Christmas, when we celebrated on Christmas Eve as opposed to Christmas Day. We cooked up weisswurst and leberkase and rouladen, with kraut and potato salad, and everything happened in the night.

The other memory I have of that time, of course, is the sweet things. For starters, my mother would make colossal gingerbread slabs and fashion them into houses. Sometimes her construction work was sound. Sometimes it wasn’t. Us kids would decorate the houses with icing and lollies that ranged from smarties (like M&M’s), freckles, crunchie bars, and jaffas. The jaffas always went along the top, on the ridge. Sometimes small pretzels also found their way onto those rooftops, and it really was the time of our lives, especially given that we felt deprived all year of these things! Of course, we loved it when the houses collapsed as we decorated them—it just meant that they had to be eaten immediately . . . so there was always plenty going on at our place around Christmas.

Next to the gingerbread houses, the accompanying ritual was the making of vanilla kipferls. This is technically the wrong plural—in German there’s no s on the end—but I’ll go with the English version here. As a child, I remember making the mixture and taking clumps of it and rolling it into a long sausage. We would then chop it into the sizes we wanted and make them into horseshoe shapes. Of course, these cookies were always best made on cold days, which can be hard to come by in Australia around December. Still, that’s what I do now. As soon as there’s a cooler day in the lead-up to Christmas, I start making vanilla kipferls. For the first time this year, I made them with my daughter, who just turned four. That’s the other good thing about this recipe. Kids can easily get involved. The ingredients are minimal, and if you destroy a cookie or two in the dough-making, it doesn’t matter. You just squash it up and try again.

The only warning I offer apart from choosing the right day to make them is that no matter how well you make these cookies, they’ll never taste as good as your mother’s. It’s just the way it goes.

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Markus Zusak's Vanilla Kipferis
Markus Zusak’s Vanilla Kipferls (Crescent Cookies)
In The Book Thief, the main character, Liesel, soon discovers a constant venue for her book stealing. It’s the mayor’s wife’s library, and when she’s found okipferlut, and even encouraged by the aforementioned woman, she is pretty much given a free run at the books there. At one point, a dictionary is leaning against the window, but it’s around Christmas that a plate of cookies is also left on the table inside. When you’re writing a book, you want to be familiar with even the smallest details in the world you’re creating. For me, there was no question what those cookies would be. They would be vanilla kipferls—exactly what my mother used to make when we were children. I guess sometimes it’s the smallest things that make a story ring true. You don’t think when you’re young that standing in the kitchen and helping out will be useful in any number of ways later on. For me, it hopefully added just one more small ingredient to make the world of my book both authentic and recognizable.
Course: Dessert, Snack
Seasonal: Christmas, Holiday season
Ingredient: hazelnut
Servings: 42 cookies
Created by: Markus Zusak reprinted from The Book Club Cookbook
For the cookies
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1 /4 cups hazelnut meal see note
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 14 tablespoons 1 ¾ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the vanilla sugar
  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 –2 whole vanilla beans cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces (see note)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two baking sheets lightly with cooking spray.
  2. To make the cookies: Combine the flour, hazelnut meal, and granulated sugar in a large bowl. Cut butter into 1/2-inch pieces and add to flour mixture. Using your fingers, mix butter and flour thoroughly for 8–10 minutes, until a soft dough is formed.
  3. Pinch off small pieces of dough and mold gently between your palms to form 3-inch ropes, thicker in the middle and tapered at the ends. Fashion each piece into a crescent shape and place onto the prepared trays, leaving a generous 1/2-inch in between (they do spread a little and grow in size when cooked).

Hazelnut meal is made from ground-up hazelnuts, and can be found at specialty grocers and online. You can also make your own hazelnut meal: Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 6 ounces (1 1/4 cups) of shelled hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally so nuts don’t burn, until they are fragrant and browned. Remove tray from oven and let nuts cool slightly. While still warm, fold the nuts inside a clean kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove their skins. Place nuts in a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade, and process until they are finely ground.

Using two vanilla beans will give the cookies a more intense vanilla flavor. However, vanilla beans are expensive, and just one bean will still impart a delicious hint of vanilla.

Like the recipe? Get more from The Book Club Cookbook!

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Alphahores–aka Famous Tango Cookies

Alphahores--aka Famous Tango Cookies from Marcy GoldmanI have to give a HUGE thanks to Marcy Goldman of BetterBaking.com for sharing these seductive little temptations with us. This Alphahores recipe is from her cookbook, The New Best of BetterBaking.com by Whitecap Books. I love dulce de leche and I’ve never figured out a way to incorporate it into my Holiday baking…until this brilliant recipe!

Comments Marcy, “[they are a] one of a kind gift but save some for yourself! Make your own dulce de leche from the free recipe on my site or find ready-made (if you must). This is about the best cookie in the world and the ideal holiday gift. Make it once-it will become, as it is mine, your trademark. I learned about alphahore cookies in tango class. 13 years of tango later (which one needs to work off the alphahores calories), I am still making these amazing cookies. If you make only one cookie (after oatmeal and Tollhouse) this would be it.”

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Alphahores--aka Famous Tango Cookies from Marcy Goldman
Alphahores or Famous Tango Cookies
Course: Dessert, Snack
Dish Type: cookies
Seasonal: Christmas, Holiday season
Ingredient: dulce de leche
Created by: Marcy Goldman
Cookie Dough
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup ground almonds
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
Dulce De Leche Filling *
  • 2 14 ounce cans of condensed milk
Finishing Touches
  • Confectioners' sugar for dusting
  • Toasted or plain shredded coconut for sides
  1. For the cookies, cream the butter with confectioners' sugar until fluffy. Stir in granulated sugar, salt, almond extract, vanilla, nuts, and flour. Wrap dough and chill for 30 minutes. If you chill longer, you have to let the dough warm up a bit before it can be rolled.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Roll out dough on a lightly floured board to a thickness of 1/4 inch or so. Cut in 2 1/2 inch to 3 inch circles, preferably using a serrated or fluted edge cookie cutter.
  4. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Cool well.
  5. Spread some caramel filling on a cookie. Top with another cookie and press together carefully.
  6. Dust tops with confectioners' sugar. Alternatively, you can smear more dulce on the sides of the cookies and roll in toasted or plain shredded coconut.

Prepared Dulce de leche is available in Latin food markets but homemade tastes much better and is easy to do. For homemade Dulce de Leche, prepare filling several hours or the day before. Spoon condensed milk into the top of a double boiler and set over simmering water. Stir occasionally, allowing milk to heat for several hours on very low heat. Eventually, the milk will thicken and turn a deep butterscotch color. Cool well. It will thicken further. Refrigerate until needed.

Love this recipe? Check out more of Marcy’s great recipes in The New Best of BetterBaking.Com.

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Dutch Crunchy Coconut Cookies (biscuits Hollandais à la noix de coco)

Dutch Crunchy Coconut CookiesThis recipe for Dutch Crunchy Coconut Cookies comes to us from cookbook author Micheline Mongrain-Dontigny. An expert on the cuisine and culinary traditions of Quebec, she translated this recipe from French especially for our readers. The cookie recipe comes from her book Les Grands Classiques de la Cuisine d’IciRead more

Biscottini di Caffè e Noce (aka Espresso Walnut Cookies)

Biscottini di Caffè (little espresso cookies)Although in plain English these are espresso walnut cookies, they sound so much more sexy when called Biscottini di Caffè e Noce. Suddenly, these elegant little cookies are the sort of things you nibble while caressing a lover’s hand at an outdoor, European cafe. The recipe comes to us from Roberta Roberti. It comes from the dessert edition of her ebook series, Vegetarian Italian: Traditions. Read more


American Wagyu Beef Chili–a recipe for a Wine Country experience

American Wagyu Beef Chili

The magic of Wagyu and Zinfandel

I discovered the magic Wagyu makes when it’s the base for a decadent chili. This particular Wagyu beef chili was created by Chef Rick Warkel of Calistoga Kitchen for the Northern California (Sonoma County) Wine Road Food & Wine Affair. The event included wineries from the Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley. Read more