My friend called them Vanille Kipferl, I recognised them instantly as Chifeletti (‘ch’ sound is pronounced as k in Italian and ‘letti’ at the end of words in Italian means small.). Same recipe, different name. But it is not surprising that we share the same recipe – my friend is from Vienna and I came from Trieste and both cities were part of the Austo- Hungarian empire.
The Vanille Kipferl (or Chifeletti) are frail, crescent-shaped, little biscuits dusted with icing sugar. They are popular at Christmas time in Austria and together with her much-loved cherry cake they were my friend’s contribution to our shared Christmas eve dinner. I ate the last of the kipferl recently; they last well and the flavour is said to improve when stored well.
I have found slight variations in the different Triestine and Austrian recipes sighted, (for example some add egg yolks to the mixture), but the ratio of ingredients seems to be the same. In Trieste, rather than adding vanilla to the dough they use icing sugar that has been flavoured with vanilla beans.
Chifeletti in Trieste are also called Lunette (small moons) or Curabiè, perhaps from Kourabiès, which are the Greek version of these biscuits. Interestingly enough there is an eastern Greek Community in Trieste and when visiting this very pleasant Italian city, it is worth seeing the Greek Orthodox church – Church of Saint Nicolò. There is also a Serbian – Orthodox church called San Spiridione, but this is another story and very telling of the historical culture and racial mix in Trieste’s population.
In my mother’s pantry, the jar used to store her icing sugar always had vanilla beans buried in it. Vanilla infused icing sugar for dusting is optional but if you want the real deal: Place vanilla beans in a jar of icing sugar, seal it and leave it for at least a week.
300g plain flour
100g finely ground almonds
vanilla (a little paste or essence)
1 pinch salt
icing sugar for dusting
Rub the butter into the flour, sugar, ground almonds and salt and form it into dough. Shape the dough into a ball, cover it with plastic film and leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Divide and shape the dough into finger thick long rolls and cut each roll into 2 cm pieces. Curve each small piece of dough into small moon shapes.
Place the biscuits on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake in a pre-heated oven at 150°C for 10-15 minutes (They should be pale golden in colour and must not brown).
Remove them carefully from the oven and from the baking tray and when they are still warm dust them with plenty of icing sugar (vanilla flavoured).
When they are cold store them carefully in layers, in a tin with plenty of icing sugar.
The photo of my friend’s Cherry cake is below. As you can see, the batter is like pastry and there are many cherries in the centre.
Other pastries also called Chifeletti popular in Trieste are made with potato dough. These are fried and then rolled in sugar; my mother and Triestine aunts used to make these with the same dough as gnocchi…..gnocchi for lunch, followed by Chifeletti made with some left over dough.