Spritz cookies are a classic Christmas cookie. They are a specialty throughout the Scandinavian countries and in Germany, where they are known as Spritzgebaeck. The word “spritz” is German for spritzen, which means “to squirt.” Americans have enjoyed baking these crisp, buttery cookies for decades. They are a “must” on my holiday table, as well. Spritz are basically a simple butter cookie, made with flour, butter, sugar and flavoring. Some versions call for ground almonds or almond paste and even cooked sieved egg yolk. A favorite recipe for one American-style version can be found below, and calls for cream cheese. With the recipe, I included lots of tips for better baking.
If you don’t own a cookie press, you can easily find one for purchase. When the dough is squeezed through the decorative templates of a cookie press, you can make charming little trees, logs, stars, flowers, wreaths and other shapes. I often use my grandmothers cookie press, an old-fashioned device that still works well. I also like to pipe dough through a pastry bag and open star tube to create rosettes and wreaths.
The dough can be tinted with a little paste color (or food coloring) to create a rainbow of colors. Then decorate the unbaked cookie shapes with candy sprinkles, chopped nuts, bits of candied fruit, colored sugars and other enhancements.
The baked cookies can be enhanced with frosting or dipped into melted dark or white chocolate. Decorate with candy sprinkles or chopped nuts, if desired.
For thumbprint cookies, the dough can also be rolled into balls and baked, then filled with jam, ganache or lemon curd.
Since only a few ingredients are used in Spritz cookies, they must be top-quality, especially the butter. I use unsalted butter like Irish Kerry Gold, Plugrá or Land O Lakes®. The first two mentioned are European-style butters with a higher butterfat content than most American butters. The rich grassy diet of Kerry Gold cows give the butter it’s special tang. To fully appreciate the wonderful taste, try spreading some on a piece of crusty bread.
Always avoid synthetic flavorings when baking. Use pure quality extracts like bourbon vanilla or pure almond extract.
For another favorite Spritz cookie recipe, pick up the latest copy of Columbia Metropolitan Magazine to read my article, 13 Christmas Gift Recipes. The Spritz cookie recipe in this article calls for pure almond paste – one of my favorite baking ingredients!
Spritz in origami cookie box
CREAM CHEESE SPRITZ COOKIES
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
egg yolk of one large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, using the “dip and sweep” method
Preheat oven to 350°F. With an electric mixer, cream butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Beat in sugar until mixture is light. Blend in egg yolk, vanilla and almond extracts and salt. Slowly pour in the flour; blend just until the dough forms. Shape small amounts of dough into a short log, then fit them into a cookie press. Or, put soft dough into a large pastry bag fitted with a large #4 open star tube. Press (or pipe) cookies onto an ungreased, heavy duty baking sheet, about 1-inch apart. (Decorate, if desired.) Bake 10 to 12 minutes or just until cookies are light golden brown around the edges. (Your oven temp may be different from mine, so check cookies after 10 minutes.) Remove from baking sheet; cool completely. Decorate with frosting, if desired.
Store in an airtight container about one week. Cookies can be packed in air-tight containers and frozen. Makes 6 to 8 dozen cookies, depending on size and type of cookie you make.
Eliminate almond extract and add lemon or orange extract.
Eliminate almond extract and add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, mace or cinnamon.
Get creative by adding other flavors like edible lavender, cardamon, grated fresh or powdered ginger, rose extract, grated orange or lemon zest.
TIPS FOR MAKING SPRITZ COOKIES
- 1 cup butter is also 1/2 pound or 2 (four ounce) sticks.
- Retailers like Williams-Sonoma or Wilton sell quality cookie press. Wilton supplies can be found in places like Michaels or Jo-Ann’s Craft Stores.
- It is best to use a heavy-duty, shiny aluminum baking sheet (ungreased) so dough will adhere.
- Don’t use a nonstick cookie sheet because – the cookies just won’t stick! The same goes for parchment paper and silicone baking mats.
- Avoid using thin-bottom baking sheets; cookies can easily burn underneath. If browning too fast, slip another baking sheet under the pan of cookies to cushion from excess heat.
- Stir flour in container to loosen, then measure using the “dip and sweep” method. Level top of measured flour with a blunt knife.
- Don’t pipe dough on warm baking sheets; dough will melt before baking. Use baking sheets at room temperature or cool.
- PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT! Test-press a few cookies with a small amount of dough. You need to press out just the right amount to create a well-defined cookie shape. Scrape up the test dough and practice again.
- If the dough seems too soft to hold a shape, chill for a few minutes, but note that the dough must not be too cold or the cookies won’t stick to the pan when pressed. If the dough is too cold to press, leave at room temperature a few minutes. (However, dough can be wrapped tightly and refrigerated to be baked later.)
- If you use a pastry bag and tube, the exact consistency of the dough isn’t as important. The pastry bag and tube can be washed and used over and over. It is great for piping clouds of frosting on top of cupcakes too.
- To color the dough, add small amounts of paste color to a portion of dough with a toothpick. Blend lightly until color in incorporated. Red and green are good holiday colors; softer colors are more appealing.
- For two-tone cookies, press together a small amount of plain dough and tinted dough; fit into the cookie press for pressing.
- Shape dough into round balls then press a slight indention in the tops with the end of a wooden spoon or your finger. Bake, then fill cookies with jam.
- When cookies come out of the oven, cool a minute or two, then carefully run a thin metal spatula under each one to loosen. Let cookies cool a few minutes more, then remove to a rack or other surface to cool completely.
- When freezing cookies, separate layers with parchment or waxed paper. Wrap well to preserve fresh flavor.
- Totally unrelated food fun! If you are still dreaming of cookies and other sweet (or salty) things, check out the new German Food Hotel in Neuwied, Germany at http://www.food-hotel.de/main/. You can translate some of the page into English. The hotel, created along with the help of 36 popular German food manufacturers, is designed around special food themes. The chairs even resemble grocery carts.
Photos © Susan Slack
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