Spritzin it up

Anyone who knows me well knows that every Christmas, I go absolutely crazy for cookies.   For the last eight years I’ve hosted a party that has been dubbed Desa’s Slave Labor Cookie Party.  One year we made 1200 cookies in a day.  It was absolutely insane.  But painfully delicious – everyone ends up covered in powdered sugar with horrific stomachaches from too much raw cookie dough snitched off of fingers amidst preparation of literally hundreds of little dough balls.  For scale, see the pictures below.

This is the butter just for the Russian Teacakes. ONLY for the teacakes.

This would be four batches of peanut butter cookie dough.

In the end we usually make six or seven types, but my favorite has be to spritz cookies.  Spritz cookies are a little evil.  They are little butter cookies, about one or two bites, with a little lick of almond running through its delicate crumbliness.  Of course, the cheery Christmas spritz are also a pleasure to look at, and I’ve found that if I color them blue, nobody eats them and I get plenty to dunk in sugary milky tea.

Here’s the recipe:

Spritz Cookies

1 c butter

1 c powdered sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

2 1/3 c flour

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 375.  Cream butter and sugar.  Add the egg and extracts and mix well.  In a small bowl,  mix the salt in with a cup of flour and add to the wet ingredients.  Slowly add the rest of the flour until the mixture comes together.   Prepare the dough in your chosen manner (see below) and bake for 6 to 8 minutes.  The cookies won’t be golden brown, but will keep the color of the dough.  They will be firm to the touch, however.

Spritz dough, ready for baking!

If you’d like, add food coloring to the dough before prepping the cookies.  Another idea is to sprinkle colored sugar on them just before baking.

There are two general ways to form spritz cookies: roll them out and use cookie cutters, or use a cookie press.

Cookie press, deconstructed. What art.

I use a cookie press, which looks a bit scary, but operates on a basic principle.  Shove a plastic tube full of dough and force it through a metal plate so it turns out pretty.

Prepping the cookie press

This sounds simple, but execution can sometimes be an issue.  What I’ve found works best is putting the dough straight into the press aftermaking it – don’t chill the dough, or you will struggle mightily.  Also, see the picture to the side for a suggestion on filling the press.  This way there are no pesky airbubbles to deform whatever shape you are trying to achieve.  Press down with the palm of your hand, then scrape the excess from the side, pile it back on top and repeat.

At the base of the press there you screw one of the thin metal die-cuts, then after almost filling it with dough, you ratchet the handle back and screw it on.  Let’s press.

This is the only cookie I ever make without a Silpat – I have sold my floury little baker’s soul to the silicone industry.  But in this case, sticking is exactly what you need.  Hold the press flush to a room temperature pan and pull the trigger a few times.  You’ll feel the dough grab the pan.  Then pull straight up firmly.  The dough will break away from the press, and you’ll be left with a pretty little blob stuck firmly to the pan.   Towards the end of the tube, you’ll have more leverage, so you won’t have to add as much pressure.  I’m not going to lie; this is the most difficult part of spritz cookies.  It will take a lot of aggravating practice to learn the feel of when the cookie is the right size.  Don’t worry too much if they aren’t pretty – they are still tasty, and you can always wipe it up off the pan and run it through the press again.  I’d only do this once more, otherwise you overwork the dough and the cookies get tough.  Less crumbs fall down your front then, but you no longer have a cookie that trembles to pieces in its delight to be eaten.

Fill the whole pan, then bake according to the directions.  Eat them until you feel ill.  You’ll be surprised at how many it takes to do that.


1 Response to “Spritzin it up”

  1. 1 skoonr January 16, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    I am not much of a baker, but these cookies look inspiring! Thanks for sharing. The photos are great and the article is very informative.

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Hey, I'm Desa. I've been bouncing between the Pacific Northwest and Sevilla, Spain in the last few years and from tiny apartment to tiny apartment. I cook mainly for one, which means some potentially boring meals, but here I'll be sharing the food that excites me. Feel free to offer suggestions, commiseration, or desires. And thanks for coming by!


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