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December 15, 2011

Vanilkové rohlíčky (Vanilla Crescents)

Last time we visited Britain and that's why now I think it's time for "homecoming" :D Christmas is all about traditions and even though I love trying new exotic recipes I usually stick to the old good stuff during this holiday. I can't imagine not celebrating Christmas on 24th December. I love looking forward for the evening, decorating Christmas tree, one minute fasting (= you don't eat for a minute, then you do, then you fast for another minute :D) and useless waiting for the golden pig that never comes. Well, and at the end of the evening when you can see only pieces of wrapping paper everywhere, that's the time for Christmas cookies. In the Czech Republic there it is extremely traditional to bake many kinds of the cookies and one of the most popular ones are vanilla crescents. Mine have been in our family for more than 20 years - quite old, don't you think?

Vanilkové rohlíčky (read vah-neel-co-veh roh-leech-kee) are typical Christmas cookies, almost the symbol of Christmas. They originated in Austria in Wien where (just like in the rest of German speaking countries) they're known as Vanillekipferl. Nowadays they are considered typical Christmas cookies in Austria, Germany and Slovak countries in general. However, they are baked in Hungary, too. They are said to have been created in the shape of the Turkish crescent to celebrate the victory of the Hungarian army over the Turkish in one of the many wars between the nations. (In case you'd like to know more about our Czech Christmas traditions let me know in the comment and in the next post I can write about our customs :) )

The recipes vary across the countries but they are "built" on the same basis: flour, butter, sugar, vanilla, egg yolks and nuts - here is the biggest difference. In Germany there they're made mostly from almonds, in the Czech republic here we use mainly hazelnuts or walnuts. Right after being baked, they're covered in vanilla icing sugar which makes them nicely sweet and beautiful.

The flour you use in them is good old sifted all-purpose flour. Much more important is the choice of fat. In this case the only fat that exists is butter. Good, fresh butter with delicious creamy taste and strong milk smell. Once I've tried buying vanilla crescents in a shop and all I can say is this: "Never ever again!" They didn't taste THAT bad but they completely lacked the nice buttery flavour and reminded me some cheap sugary cookies because store-bought crescents have naver seen butter (only vegetable oils and fats). It's much better to make your own! Simply, don't use any vegetable fats or shotening in these cookies. Vanilkove rohlicky consist of butter, nothing else can make up for the taste!

Another thing that has to be in my vanilla crescents is vanilla. I always scrape out these beautiful vanilla seeds into the dough and for the ultimate vanilla taste I use organic vanilla sugar instead of plain sugar. Vanilla belongs even on the surface of the cookies so about a week or two ahead I place approx. 250g of icing sugar (2 cups) into an airtight container, add in split 1-2 vanilla pods. every day I shanke it a bit and after two weeks I have a fabulousaromatic homemade vanilla sugar (and then I keep adding another vanilla pods and I think now I have in the cointainer about a pound of sugar and 20 pods :D).

As for the nuts, we have always used walnuts because they grew in our garden :D And their taste is the strongest of all nuts (I've tried them with almonds and they weren't so good) but you might use hazelnuts or even pecans. By the way, shaping the crescents is a great family fun (just try not to taste the dough before baking - it's pretty good and could disappear before you get to baking :D) - me, my sister and mom always meet in the kitchen and listening to Christmas carols, start shaping our rohlíčky. It doesn't matter if they do not look exactly the same - that's where the magic is :) I prefer extra tiny crescents, mom likes pretty arc-like crescents and my sister loves nice thick & big ones :D It's really easy to shape them, you don't need any special equipment besides your hands.

I've browsed through tons of crescents recipes but I have never seen exactly the same that I use. I have no idea where my mom got the recipe from. She doesn't remeber either but I'm sure they have a strong tradition in our family. My mom writes down notes about every single Christmas cookies we bake every year and the first note comes from 1989 and these cookies are already there! I think my granny uses the same recipe. Anyway, mom had to give the recipe to our neighbour, auntie and several of her friends because they liked them so much. There's something about them :) At least they're very addictive :D

150g (1 cup + 3 tbsp) all-purpose flour, sifted
50g (1/3 cup + 1 tbsp) finely ground walnuts
30g (1/4 cup) vanilla icing sugar
20g (1 3/4 tbsp) organic vanilla sugar
1 vanilla pod
110g (1/2 cup) softened butter, chopped
1 egg yolk
vanilla icing sugar for covering

In a bowl, combine sifted flour, nuts, sugars and vanilla seed scraped out from the pod. Add in chopped softened butter and egg yolk. Using a knife, mix until combined. Then using your hands, knead until you get nice soft and solid dough that is not crumbly at all. Cover in a plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day pinch off small pieces (their size should be similar to a small walnut) of the chilled dough and roll each one into a strip 4cm long and about 1cm wide (don't flour your board). Shape each strip into a crescent by pulling it into a semi-circle. Place them on a lined baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven to 170C for 10 minutes or until the edges become beige (not brown!). Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes and them roll them vanilla icing sugar. You can either eat them right now or store them in an airtight container in a cool place (these cookies get better with time - store them in refrigerator for 2-3 days and they'll be even better!).
  • If you're not dieting, make a double batch - they are so good they tend to disappear in no time (or am I the only one who's capable of devouring the entire plate of them in one sitting??).
  • The serving is only approximate - if you make tiny crescents, the recipe yelds more than 60 pcs. If you make bigger crescents, you may end up with 40-45 pcs.

I love their addictive vanilla smell, a thin sugar crust on the surface, slight crunch when you bite into them and the feeling when they melt in your mouth. I always realize in this moment that Christmas is here for real. As I'm writing about the right now, my stomach is becoming really hungry :D I bake many different kinds of Christmas cookies but vanilkové rohlíčky are always included. I recommend baking these a week before Christmas and storing them in a top secret place otherwise when you open the container on Christmas Day you'll only see a few leftover crumbs :D

Linked to:
Sweets for a Saturday
Sweet Indulgences Sunday
These Chicks Cooked
Sweet Tooth Friday


  1. You have described this well, now I am curious to try making it

  2. These sound really interesting. I'm curious as to what they taste like. They look amazing!:)

  3. They look perfect, Gloria! I've seen these before but have never made them! Don't you love how cookies made with real butter melt in your mouth! Oh my!

  4. And you've been redecorating over here...I love it!

  5. These are one of my favorite Christmas cookies when I was a little girl and now my boys love them as well. Vanilla crescents are a must in my house at Christmas time.

  6. Beautiful post and beautiful cookies! I am certainly very interested in reading more about your country's traditions. I am planning to make cookies with walnuts tomorrow as well :)

  7. so yummy enjoyed reading your post as well will have to try these soon come see me at

  8. These are so pretty and festive! Simple cookies are the best cookies. Thanks for sharing on Sweet Indulgences Sunday.

  9. Three-Cookies: Thank you :) I can't recommend these enough! They truly are oh-so delicious :D

  10. Estas galletas siempre las recomiendo son una delicia en sabor y perfume a vainilla,me encantan,feliz navidad.

  11. Those are such lovely looking cookies. They look like they're covered with lightly fallen snow. You made the top spot for Sweets for a Saturday.

  12. Joanna: Thank you! The taste is quite similar to Russian Tea Cakes, but crescents are a bit crunchier and have stronger taste with amazing vanilla flavour :)

    Betsy: Thank you so much! And yes, I love the "melting" process so much :D I'm glad you like the desing :)

    Ms Bibi: Exactly! Christmas would not be the real Christmas without them :D

    Simona: Thank you a lot :) I'm really happy that you'd be interested in the topic - I'll write a post about it soon :)

    shopannies: Thank you, let me know if you try them out :)

    Kim McCallie: You're welcome :) Thank you for your kind words!

    Rosita Vargas: Muchas gracias! Las recomiendo altamente porque son muy deliciosos :)

    Lisa: Thank you :) In fact, their taste is as litght as snow flakes are :)

  13. those are so festive! I love making them , the shape is just beautiful and they taste delicious

  14. Hi Catalina, these crescent cookies sound absolutely delicious. I am going to make some soon. Thanks so much for sharing and Happy New Year. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris

  15. These cookies look great, and I'd love to taste them!

  16. betty: Thank you so much! I'm really happy to hear you know them :)

    Chris: Hi Chris :) Thank you for the kind words as well as for following! I am really glad find these cookies interesting! I'll follow back for sure :)

    Winnie: Thank you so much! I'd love to give you some :)

  17. First of all, Happy New Year Catalina!!!
    I think that investing time and becoming a follower of several food blogs was one of the best things I did during 2011. And needless to say, even though Christmas (the occasion for these cookies) is over, I couldn't be more glad I found your blog.
    In my country, we have a similar recipe called "Polvorones", and they're usually made during Christmas time. In any case, I'm a big fan and need not wait until December to have them. I think next time I want polvorones, I'll try your recipe.

    For us non-grams users, these are the measurements I was able to convert. Let me know if it sounds right:

    150g/ 1 1/2 Cup all-purpose flour, sifted
    50g/ 9 1/4 Tb. finely ground walnuts
    30g/ 1/4 Cup vanilla icing sugar
    20g organic vanilla sugar (Could this be measured as regular sugar? Also, what would a good substitute be?)
    1 vanilla pod (or about 2 tsp vanilla)
    110g/ 1/2 Cup softened butter, chopped
    1 egg yolk
    vanilla icing sugar for covering

  18. Bundle Wade: At first I'd like to apologize for this late response - I'm very busy at school at this time so it's almost impossible for me to get to PC during week. Now, thank you for the wish! All the best for you too :)) Your words have just made my day a lot brighter! I know polvorones, but those are made from pork lard, aren't they? I've tried them once according a Spanish recipe and their taste was very different compared to these crescents, but probably your polvorone recipe differs from mine :) Thank you so much for the conversion (looks like I have completely forgot to convert the measures this time, I'm so sorry!).

    In several sources I've found that 1 cup of all purpose flour equals to 130g - that would mean 150g flour equals only to 1 cup + 3 tbsp flour. The biggest problem always comes with converting nuts from grams into cups. I always found so many different measurments :/ Anyway, it should be between 1/3 to 1/2 cup finely ground walnuts. The best would be 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp. And finally, yes, organic vanilla sugar can be measured as regular granulated sugar - in fact, it's granulated sugar mixed with vanilla seeds. If you can't find it anywhere, you can use plain granulated sugar and 1 tsp pure vanilla extract. 20g sugar equals to 1 3/4 tbsp sugar. I hope you won't mind if I use your measurents in the recipe :) Thank you a lot for this!

    1. No need to apologize, you are actually great at writing back to your readers.
      The polvorones I'm used to are also called Mexican wedding cakes or Russian tea cakes (don't know why!)...I've never used lard in them, so I was surprised to read about the version you had tried.

      Thank you for all of the info on measurements. I'm very used to Cups, Tbs and tps, but I have only very recently started to deal with grams, but like you said, there are so many measurements! I'm glad you took the time to explain all that.
      By the way, I don't mind at all if you use the measurements I put up there. I'm happy some of them were actually useful.

    2. Thank you :) Oh, yes, I know these! I call them too Russian Tea Cakes and they're extremely delicious and addictive :D Their taste really is very similar to these crescents but the crescents have a slightly "fuller" taste being a bit sweeter and more vanilla flavoured :) The polvorones I know are very different with all that lard and no vanilla (here's more about them:

      You're welcome :) Thank you for reminding me :D For me, it's sometimes hard to deal with the cups :D I've bought a set of 1 tbsp, 1 tsp, 1/2 tsp and 1/4 tsp recently and it's great especially for measuring spices and salt, but when it comes to cups, I prefer my scales because it's more accurate (sometimes it doesn't matter if you put 10g more flour into your dough but sometimes it can cause a disaster). Anyway, thank you for your help :)

  19. Oh these looks so great, I made something similar a long time ago and lost the recipe, this is better:) Thank you so much for the recipe:)

    1. Thank you, Katya! You're welcome :) I'm really happy you like the recipe :)

  20. Hi. I am Czech too and love these cookies. Make them for friends and clients. Thanks for the conversion of the ingredients. Makes it easy for my friends.


    1. Roni, you're welcome! Hope you'll like these as well :)

  21. hola quisiera saber si tienen la historia de esta receta vanilkove rohlicky.. se los agradeceria mucho


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