I’ve been making Christmas cookies for at least twenty years now. Ouch. Should I have admitted that? There are a few that are annual traditions, like the molasses cut-outs, butterballs, and peanut blossoms we prepared on Monday. In more recent years, I’ve started changing it up a bit, adding in a new recipe or two to break up the monotony. (Yeah, I know, cookies once a year probably aren’t that mundane… but it gives me a chance to stretch my wings a bit.) Even with the changing up of members of the cast, there is one that always has a starring role: spritz.
Squishing that dough through the cookie gun can be challenging. My mother-in-law has an electric one, which I find a little amusing seeing as I didn’t even know electric cookie presses existed until she pulled that out several years ago. My mom has the same one she’s had for many years now. I’ve broken a cheap one already and am on my second, a Pampered Chef press that makes bigger spritz than the standard size. All have their issues.
Getting just the right amount of dough out of the gun to make the perfectly-sized cookie isn’t always easy. Too much and it spreads into a blob in the heat of the oven; too little and it won’t stick to the cookie sheet at all or even worse, falls apart into a huge doughy mess so that you try to piece it back together again on the sheet but know that it’s going to be an utter failure. And don’t ever use parchment–the dough just won’t release onto it. Trust me, I know.
Some recipes have naturally been divided up among our family: not ordered as such, but divinely divied up without prior discussion. Spritz have fallen to me, good or bad, so I have come to embrace them. Here we go…
There are many spritz recipes out there. I’ve tried several and keep coming back to the Better Homes and Gardens red checkered tablecloth cookbook for my favorite. I do alter it slightly but keep pretty true to the recipe as it works, time and time again. You don’t need to save spritz for Christmas–cookie guns tend to come with various shaped discs so you can make them year-round. Your hips won’t be happy about that, but I highly recommend it.
Oh, and if you don’t have a cookie gun, you can roll this dough into logs, chill it, and slice and bake. I know this because my oven thermostat broke during holiday cookie baking 3 years ago. I already had the dough made but the oven wouldn’t work. I stashed the dough in the fridge until hubby got home but when I learned that he couldn’t fix the oven right away, I sliced and baked in the toaster oven instead. Always be resourceful!
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book
makes about 84
1 1/2 cups butter, softened (I insist–you must use butter because it’s the star of this recipe!)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp amaretto, or more if you’re feeling frisky
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
optional: food coloring, sprinkles, other cake/cookie decorating pieces that can be baked
Set the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In the bowl of a stand-up mixer (or a large bowl, using a hand mixer) cream the butter and sugar. Add the baking powder and mix until incorporated. Add the egg, vanilla, and amaretto, mixing well. Gradually add the flour until it’s all incorporated.
If you’re going to tint some of the dough, separate that out and mix in the food coloring. (I find that it’s easier to knead in the color by hand than trying to mix in with a spoon.) Then fill the cookie gun cylinder with unchilled dough, affixing the disc you’d like to use according to manufacturer’s directions. Press onto ungreased cookie sheets (I am particularly fond of the Pampered Chef stoneware baking sheets, but they’re a little tricky in between batches because they retain so much heat–just remember, NO PARCHMENT PAPER. You won’t be able to get the dough to stick to the cookie sheet so the cookie gun can release it). If you want to add sprinkles or other decor, now is the time to do it. The cookies don’t spread too much so you can fit quite a few on each baking sheet.
Bake for 8-10 minutes until firm but not brown. Let sit on cookie sheet for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.