Edible Works of Art: Springerle Cookies
Wedding season is upon us. Forget about traditional favors – no one likes those Jordan almonds, and does anyone use those tiny picture frames that double as seating cards? Instead, try traditional Springerle cookies from Palatofino.net.
Melania Bettarelli is the proprietor of Palatofino, and she specializes in these tiny works of art. She tells us about the traditions behind these Old World cookies.
Tell us about Springerle cookies.
Springerle are a type of European embossed cookies, historically connected to figurative writing and Egypt. Carved molds are necessary tools to produce these heirloom treats, a tradition that can be traced back to the 14th Century. Springerle developed into a full mass media tool of communication, printed with images of everyday life events, street scenes, erotic and/or romantic messages, like today’s postcards. It was a media for political and religious education and propaganda up until the 18th Century. The decline began in the 19th Century with the introduction of modern media tools. Today the molds are highly collectible. Most cookie molds on the market are replicas of the originals. Old time designs from the Marie Antoinette era can still be reproduced today, and are among my favorites. A small section of my production, however, includes modern media icons. This was the original purpose of the craft and the part that mainly interest me.
What is your process?
You need good molds to start with. Size and deepness will tell you what type of recipe is necessary. Mine is generally the traditional recipe for Springerle with a couple of “secret” adjustments. It involves long hours of work but is the most reliable. I like to make my own butter – the results are worth the extra effort. At times, I explore other edible printable forms of media such a marzipan, fondant, icing sheets. The process of measuring and baking is not different than others. Working by myself, I need 3 to 4 full days to complete a batch of any type of “picture” cookies.
How did you decide to specialize in this type of cookie?
My father actually first introduced me to this edible craft. Sometimes he would come home with a giant cookie from a small town nearby depicting a woman with 3 breasts, a symbol of a good wine harvest. Those cookies, tokens of affection and an introduction to symbolism at the same time, are among the sweet memories that I cherish. So, when my husband presented me with a marzipan mold depicting a rose a few years ago, I fell in love and started to collect them right away.However,I don’t consider myself a baker or an artist, I am interested in media connections. And this is quite a good one for me. My cookie mold collection is still expanding.
Who are your typical clients?
Marie Antoinette-style lovers of all ages
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I was born, raised and educated in Rome, Italy. I did not go to culinary school. I studied media education in Rome at the Istituto di Stato per la Cinematografia e la Televisione. I moved to NYC, in the East Village, in 1998 and bake in my upstate Catskills kitchen.