Cooking Chapbook

Notes from my kitchen in the D.C. area & beyond

Category: Dessert

Chocolate Scrabble

Chocolate Scrabble. Clearly genius. And the best White Elephant gift ever.

Chocolate Scrabble box

Chocolate Scrabble box

Yes, the pieces are chocolate. Let’s look inside!

Chocolate Scrabble, inside the box

Chocolate Scrabble, inside the box

Inside the box, you’ll find wrapped chocolates marked with letters. The “coin” in the middle is also chocolate, and the game’s designated reward for the winner. Yes, you apparently are only supposed to play Chocolate Scrabble once.

Take note of Chocolate Scrabble!

Take note of Chocolate Scrabble

Since it’s a one-shot game, the board is foldable slick paper. And Scrabble geeks may be in shock – there are no tile holders. You are, I can only imagine, supposed to keep your tiles in view of the other players. I know!

Five sample letters of Chocolate Scrabble

Five sample letters

The differences don’t end there. The directions direct each player to pick out five letters (rather than the usual seven), except each tile has a front and a back …

Five sample letters flipped

Five sample letters flipped

… so E on one side might be X on the other.

Chocolate Scrabble's blank space

Chocolate Scrabble’s blank space

Yes, there are blanks. But I was most aghast to find the Y letter worth 8 points. In usual English Scrabble, Y = 4 points. (Scrabble fans may have also noticed above that the W is 5, instead of 4.) What is happening?

Chocolate Scrabble is a European specialty

Chocolate Scrabble is a European specialty

You probably also want to know how the chocolate tastes. I confess, we have played the game twice, and I can’t bring myself to eat the tiles yet. I know we must. The time is coming. I’ll let you know …

And after the chocolate tiles are gone, I’m thinking it may be time to make a homemade edible Scrabble version, maybe with hard German cookies. Any ideas?

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Printen cookies from Aachen, Germany

 

Like beer, cookies in Germany are regional. Each state has its own specialty, a delicious discovery on the end of a long autobahn drive.

Generally, in Germany, what we would call cookies are denser, richer, and less sweet than the fluffy chocolate-chip concoctions in America. For those with a hefty sweet tooth (teeth?), they can take a little getting to use to.

Earlier this chilly month, we visited Aachen, where German kings were once coronated.  Aachen specializes in a specific type of cookie, which can only be made in its region: Printen.

Printen are dense gingerbread-type cookies, sometimes dotted with nuts or fruits or what reminded me of crystallized ginger. They are often cloaked in rich white chocolate or dark chocolate, or a lighter icing, or decorated with nuts. And they are divine.

Printen cookies from Aachen

Printen cookies from the Moss bakery in Aachen’s old city.

Shops with “Printen” printed in the window are all throughout the old city, where most tourists end up visiting the Dom. The Dom – cathedral – is spectacular, especially the sparkling mosaics on the ceiling.

Printen cookies from Aachen

Printen cookies from Aachen, covered in almonds and white chocolate.

Each bakery supposedly has its own secret recipe. Printens are sold in big rectangles, the size of a large greeting card, or in chunks, like you see here.

Bag of Nobis Printen from Aachen

Bag of Nobis Printen from Aachen, about 5€

They reportedly can last a long while (not that they have lasted long with us), and like many German cookies, grow hard over time. Sticking a piece of bread in the cookie tin adds moisture and softens them up in a day.

I read, only later, unfortunately, that Printen is also an ingredient in a local beef dish, Sauerbraten! The gravy is supposedly concocted out of raisins, Printen and sugar beet syrup. I am so intrigued.

Cappuccino and Printen at Nobis cafe in Aachen, Germany

Cappuccino and Printen at Nobis cafe in Aachen, Germany

We tried a few kinds of Printen from two different bakeries: glazed with nuts, chocolate covered, iced, and the white chocolate, which were my favorite. (Side tip: Great article on white chocolate from Saveur magazine.) The creamy white chocolate matches up so well with the thick gingerbread. I’m tempted to try this recipe

Idea file: fruit crisp cake

Cherry crisp cake

Berry crisp cake. Fruity. Crunchy. Creamy. Again, please!

A little note to self. Don’t mind me. I’m filing away a dessert I devoured this week with a friend. Oh, wait – maybe you can help!

It was a slice from Hüftengold, a lovely cafe in Stuttgart that feels like a secret passage to New York City. Chandelier, funky wallpaper, enormous circular cakes, loud and happy chatter.

This cake was worth remembering – and trying to make – because it was not only a cake. It was a fruit crisp hidden under a silky layer of cream and chocolate shavings. I couldn’t believe it. I love fruit crisps! Above the crust sat baked berry (cherry, I think?) blanketed in thin nuts and crunch, slathered in richness. Instead of stopping at the fruit and crisp, this concoction kept going and going and going.

Must try this! How? Any ideas?

A repeat trip for research purposes may be required!

German springerle cookies

This may be a little late, but I’m taking solace in the handy fact that the Christmas season truly lasts until January 6, the Epiphany. 

At the Stuttgart Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christmas market, I first spotted these intricate molds, arrayed on a stall’s walls, from stamp-sized rectangles to frisbee circles. Amazingly detailed nativity scenes.  Saints. Musical instruments. Animals. Hearts. I was immediately taken.

But what were they for? I couldn’t tell at first. Were they for wax creations? Paper prints?

Or cookies!

Springerle cookie mold

Springerle cookie mold

In a deliberation mode of locals, we bought a 2€ cookie to try. It was beautiful and elegant, but was it edible? Springerles, as these cookies are called, are hard and dry, completely unappealing solo. But dunked – rather, soaked for a good 4+ seconds – in a cup of hot tea or coffee, they give way to soft, delectable sweetness laced with anise.

So you can guess how this adventure turns out. My only hesitation was that I wanted to substitute the anise  for some other flavor. Maybe lemon or almond?

Pressing springerle cookie mold

Pressing springerle cookie mold

I went back to the market a few days later and bought a collection of springerle molds: little Biblical scenes, a hairy camel, a violin (or is it a cello?), a pretzel, a heart, and an enormous Saint Nicholas. In Germany, St. Nick is still a bishop with a croiser, rather than an elderly bearded man with a bulging sac of toys.

The prices were all over the place. A small mold might be 2€. A larger one made up of many little molds could run north of 50€. 

Springerle cookie

Springerle cookie with Mary, Joseph, Jesus and a donkey

We tried the Joy of Cooking instructions and ended up adding heaps of extra flour. As written, it was too sticky for me. The dough kept climbing into the molds’ crevices and refusing to leave. Only after two of us wrangled the dough into a floury submission did the imprints start to emerge. But goodness. They are so much more gorgeous than American cookie-cutter creations.

Assorted springerle cookies

Assorted springerle cookies, including a camel, a pretzel, and a violin

I did substitute almond extract for the anise, which blended into the recipe nicely. But the rest of the recipe was a mystery to me. Eggs, but no butter? Flour, but no oil? Also: You must rest the dough, once molded into cookies, for at least 10 to 12 hours. Not in the refrigerator – out on the counter.

Tray of springerle cookies

Tray of springerle cookies

I’ll post a recipe when we find one that works without so much haggling. After all, with heart-shaped molds, I imagine these could be pretty Valentine’s Day cookies, too …