Hartshorn??? What’s that???

by connie on August 21, 2008

Yes, it’s the ingredient that stumps you. Hartshorn is also known as baker’s ammonia and ammonium carbonate. It is an old time leavening that literally used to be made from ground deer horn. Hart is the German work for deer and that is how it is so named. It is not commonly found in everyday groceries. Years ago I would purchase hartshorn (and also anise oil) at a pharmacy; that was back when pharmacies did compounding and mixing right in their shops. Not something easily found these days. Thus, many people started substituting baking powder in their springerle. I still really like hartshorn as it produces a fluffier, lighter and softer texture in springerle. Some springerle lovers grew up with the baking powder version and actually prefer the harder cookie that is the result….and that’s just fine.

But if you decide to try the hartshorn, here are some things you shoud know.  Firstly, it stinks!! Yes when you open the jar it smells stongly of ammonia, which makes sense since it’s ammonium carbonate. Secondly, it will readily evaporate if you do not keep it tightly sealed (also why it’s aroma is so strong). Also, you should NOT eat the raw dough as it will give you a frightful and painful case of flatulence. This is probably another reason that it  is not as commonly used anymore. Afterall, it is difficult to keep the cookie monsters at bay. The ammonia  dissipates when you bake the cookies. You can substitute hartshorn 1 for 1 for baking powder in other cookie and cracker recipes. Don’t use it in breads, cakes, or rolls, only in baked goods that are thinner and fully baked, so that you know that the ammonia is comletely gone. You might want to try it in a sugar cookie recipe, just for fun, to see the difference in texture.

Happy Baking!   Connie

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1 Lorna 09.22.08 at 10:22 pm

My husband grew up eating Springerle at his German Grandmothers side. He always comments that when I make them they don’t have a ‘mushroom’ top that he is used to, can you help with this problem?

2 connie 09.24.08 at 11:54 pm

Lorna, I think he is referring to a footed springerle and I’ll get back to you soon on this! Connie

3 olivia sunderman 11.14.08 at 3:44 pm

i apologise for an entry based on obtaining an item…here goes. i have kept a 2004 catalog from King Arthur’s on my desk until i felt i could afford to buy my daughter a little love gift from it, the “Alpine Heart” cookie mold. it’s an 8″ mold which sold for around $65. how time flies! they no longer have it but the lady i spoke with suggested i google “the house on the hill” springerle site…so does any one know where I can get this beautiful mold of edelweiss?

4 connie 11.16.08 at 6:18 pm

Hi Olivia. Yes, House on the Hill does carry Alpine Rose and Edelweiss (M6046). You can click the link here or visit http//:houseonthehill.net. Connie

5 Sue 11.21.08 at 9:55 pm

I would love to have the recipes for springerle cookies using cinnamon and coffee, ginger, and chocolate . Is this possible?

Thank you,

6 Virginia Harrison 11.29.08 at 10:03 am

Connie: Where can you purchase Hartshorn?

7 Melanie 01.31.09 at 10:58 pm

I once went into my local independent pharmacy and asked if they carried baker’s ammonia, the pharmacist looked at me as if I were trying to set up a meth lab. I was sure a police cruiser would be following me home! Thank goodness other people know about this ingredient…and that House on the Hill sells it!

8 Loretta 03.08.09 at 12:26 pm

What was your answer to Sue. I too would like springerke recipes.
I would also like to see how to make some of these cookies as I am new to the whold thing. I am interested in the walnut mold…

9 Barb A. 09.16.09 at 8:42 am

I have never tasted or baked springerle cookies…but have collected cookie molds and now want to try baking them. Because I have never tasted these, are they like a shortbread cookie, a gingersnap, a sugar cookie??? How would you describe it.

10 Hilary B. 10.05.09 at 7:58 pm

My husband loves the mild gingerbread cookies from Too Pretty to Eat (it came with our springerle molds. Sad to say, we’ve moved and although our collection of House on the Hill molds survived the trip, the little recipe book is nowhere to be found. The weather is getting cooler and its time to start baking! Can you please help? Many many thanks.

11 nUNU 11.04.09 at 9:38 pm

my friend eats the hartshorn by itself without it being put in a mixture. whAT CAN THIs to her health?

12 Connie 11.20.09 at 5:57 pm

I have a recipe for hartshorn cookies given to me by my husband’s grandmother from Austria. It uses hartshorn and anise oil. I find lots of recipes using hartshorn and aniseed but none with anise oil. Do you know of any recipes like this? This recipe makes about 300 cookies and my family makes these every year – takes us nearly all day but they are DELICIOUS!!!

13 linda 02.10.12 at 10:14 pm

I bought the bakers ammonia online to use in a sugar cookie recipe but had he opposite effect – they were like rocks – I thought it was supposed to make them soft

14 connie 02.20.12 at 12:14 pm


The hartshorn will make a softer springerle. It will make a fluffier texture in sugar cookies; the sugar cookies will be tender, yet crisp. If you want a very soft textured sugar cookie, choose a recipe that is high in both fat and sugar and slightly underbake that cookie. You should never underbake any cookie or cracker made with hartshorn, because the hartshorn needs to be completely baked out.

Good Baking!

15 Elaine 12.18.12 at 9:01 pm

Hi Connie, I have a question about hartshorn/underbaking and am hoping that maybe you can help.

I made my first batch of Springerle a couple of weeks ago with some of your gorgeous molds, and having been ‘aging’ them in airtight tins. When I opened the tins to check on them recently, one tin had a distinctly ammonia-ish smell. I’m concerned that they were slightly underbaked and that all the hartshorn did not get baked out.

Should they be discarded, or will the smell disappear as they continue to age? Can I try to re-bake the cookies to ensure that all the hartshorn is gone?

Thanks so much!

16 connie 12.21.12 at 11:12 am

It is true that you need to make sure that cookies made with hartshorn are fully baked sot that the ammonia is baked out. I would break open a few cookies and see if there is any “doughiness” in the middle of the cookie; if that is the case, the springerle are underbaked. Some douginess is fine in other cookies, even desirable in a chewy cookie, but not good if you have baked with hartshorn. (Read my blog entry about harsthorn.) Rebaking the cookies at this point will probably not work, just make them very dry. You can rebake break open a test cookie as soon as you take the Springerle out of the oven and if they are doughy, put them bake in the oven while they are still hot.

This is your first batch, so consider this a training batch, and try again!

Avery Happy Holiday to you!

17 Michelle Dexter 12.19.13 at 9:31 pm

I just made my first springerle! The mold I bought from you was a beautiful christmas medley. The first batch was my own speculaas spice blend cookie with a wonderful dunking texture. The batch I just completed was with the hartshorn, almond oil, and lemon zest. I followed another persons recipe because I wanted my first experience to be a small batch. They did not seem to rise as much as I expected. The molds were fairly small shapes. I thought that could be it. Or the ingredients called for lemon juice, would that change the leavening? Or did I knead too much. A few did have nice rise so I mostly think that the different textures that the dough had after every re- roll might make it not rise. Any suggestions to make sure they achieve maximum height ?

18 connie 12.21.13 at 2:09 pm

Hi Michelle,

It is so difficult to answer this question without knowing the exact recipe you used. So many unknowns! If you used hartshorn, the lemon juice should not change the leavening effect, as hartshorn does not require an acid to create leavening. The leavening from hawthorn occurs primarily from heat. So then you should know that too low a baking temperature may cause less rising. The recipe you used simply may have a lower proportion of leavening or eggs. The leavening may not have been distributed evenly in the dough.If this is the first time you have used this recipe, it is possible that this may just be the nature of this particular recipe.


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