Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Spritz Cookies

Spritz cookies are a special, holiday-only cookie to me. When I was a kid, we would wait on edge until wintertime for my grandma to make her holiday cookies--one of which was spritz. She would mail us a package of Christmas cookies, and we would put all the cookies in the freezer to munch on. I still remember sneaking into the kitchen, hoping that I could snag a frozen spritz before anyone would see and ask me to share.

Now that I'm a grownup, I've got to make my own spritz. Although they look tedious, they're actually very easy cookies. And they keep well, and ship well, so are great gifts if you're into "make-your-own" gift giving.

You'll need quite a bit of softened butter. It seems like a lot, and, well, it is. But these are butter cookies. What else did you expect?

I like to cream the butter by itself, just to make sure it's softened enough. If it's still a little cool, beating it around in the mixing bowl speeds up the process a bit.

Once I'm satisfied that the butter is totally room temperature, I sprinkle in the flour.

Two egg yolks, added one at a time, are next.

I like to save the egg whites. I was thinking of making meringue cookies with my leftovers today, but the Kiddo wanted eggs (and doesn't really like the yolks anyway) so my whites got turned into scrambled eggs instead of fluffy cookies.

Be sure to scrape your bowl. The dough ends up being a bit crumbly at this point, and you want to make sure the flour is mixed in well.

For flavoring, vanilla extract is always a classic.

I also added almond extract. I didn't get a picture of it--it's sort of hard to photograph a clear liquid, and it looked funny in my measuring spoon with the little specks of vanilla that got left behind. But I did add it. I promise!

Once everything is mixed together, it's time for your cookie press to come out and play. I use a spoon to stuff my cookie press full of dough.

Of course, at this point, you'll need to decide what shapes you'll use. My press came equipped with more than a dozen different press plates.

Here's my press, ready and loaded with dough and the Christmas tree plate.

If you don't have a cookie press, feel free to roll the cookies into little balls instead. For me, it's the shapes that make them spritz cookies--although I was informed by a relative over Thanksgiving that they're not really spritz cookies to him unless they're "S" shaped. So maybe spritz cookies to you mean little round cookies.

If you like thumbprint cookies, you could smush a little well into your cookie balls and spoon in some jam. You may want to pop your cookie sheet into the freezer for a few minutes, though, or the edges of the cookies may spread and get a little dark.

Now, here's a trick with spritz cookies and cookie presses. You want to use UN-greased cookie sheets. When you press the trigger on your press, it releases dough through the plate. The dough will need something to stick to, to pull free of your cookie press. If you've greased your sheets, the dough won't be able to stick to the sheet, and will stay attached to your press.

Pull the trigger on the press, and then pull straight up. If you've done it right, you should end up with a perfectly shaped cookie.

If your cookies come out less-than-perfect, and you're a perfectionist, don't worry about it. Just scrape your cookies off your baking sheets and put them back in your mixing bowl. It won't hurt them a bit to go back through your cookie press for a more-perfect try.
I like to keep my spritz pretty simple--either bare naked or with a light dusting of sprinkles.

If you've got a junior sous-chef in the kitchen, decorating the cookies with sprinkles is a perfect job for them.

You may end up with a bit of a sprinkle mess, though.
Spritz don't need much oven time--just enough time to bake them and set the dough. They say not to let the dough get any color, but I kind of like them on the darker side.

If you like them to have that pristine white look, using a lighter-colored cookie sheet or a silicone baking mat will help.

Let your cookies cool completely and then don't be afraid to dig in! They freeze and ship well if you've got relatives who live far away who crave a taste of home. They're great plain or with sprinkles, and also hold up just fine to frosting. Add food coloring if you're feeling more festive, or decorate with red hots or large nonpareils.
I bet the dog wishes he could fly over to my kitchen island!
Recipe: Spritz Cookies
1 c. plus 2 tbsp. (2 sticks plus 2 tbsp.) salted butter, softened*
1 1/4 c. flour
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cream butter to ensure it's warm enough. Add flour and beat to combine.

Add egg yolks one at a time, beating gently after each addition.

Add vanilla and almond extracts, mixing gently to combine.

Scoop dough into cookie press. Press cookies onto ungreased cookie sheets, spaced 2 inches apart.

Bake 6-8 minutes until just set. Let cool slightly before moving to cooling racks.

Tip: Using lighter cookie sheets will prevent cookies from becoming too dark.
Tip: Let cookie sheets cool fully before using for a second round of cookies. If the sheets look shiny or the dough refuses to stick, use a dry paper towel to wipe excess butter off the sheets.
Tip: Some plates work better than others. If your first press is hard to work with, try another. I like to use presses with a center and larger side holes that are spaced close together. The cookies won't spread much, so if all the pieces of the cookie aren't touching when they're raw, chances are they won't be touching after the cookies have cooked.

*If you're using unsalted butter, add 1/2 tsp. salt to the recipe. I happened to use salted butter because that was what I had on hand that day.

1 comment:

  1. Spritz are my dad's absolute favorite cookie! I (try) to make them for him every Christmas. I just use almond extract and frost them with powered sugar/milk/almond extract frosting. He likes lots of frosting!