Baking an assortment of homemade Christmas cookies has been a tradition in my family for at least three generations now. My maternal grandmother immigrated to the United States from Germany as a teenager, following her sweetheart from her hometown, already skilled in cooking and baking, including traditional German recipes for a variety of holiday breads and cookies such as stollen, lebkuchen, linzer cookies, and spritz cookies. My mother continued the tradition of baking tins full of Christmas cookies for the holidays--some of my grandmother's traditional recipes and some new ones she found here and there in her own cookbooks or passed to her from friends. We would eat more than our share of cookies the week between Christmas, but my mother would also package several cookies of each variety into decorative tins to give to friends and family during the holidays. I have joyfully continued this Christmas cookie tradition in my own home, establishing a repertoire of Christmas cookies I bake every year. My husband even has two cookies he makes every Christmastime, too. *loves*
Every year I'm on the lookout for new Christmas cookie recipes to try, because you never know what's destined to be the next family favorite. Favorites may come and go over the years, but one cookie that has a permanent spot on the family favorites list--and one I enjoyed from my grandmother's and my mother's kitchens is Spritz cookies! My daughters especially have come to love and expect spritz cookies every year at Christmas and I'd like to share my recipe with you.
Spritz cookies are a traditional German butter cookie also known as Spritzgebäck, that are made from a very basic butter cookie dough that is pressed or 'squirted' [spritzen is the German verb for squirt!] through a cylindrical cookie press that is fitted at the opened end with discs with patterned holes that form special shapes. So technically you will need a cookie press to make traditional spritz cookies. They are inexpensive and fairly easy to find at specialty food shops, department stores and possibly even grocery stores during the holiday season.
What if you don't have a cookie press or don't want to invest in one just to make Spritz cookies?
Do not despair! You can still make spritz cookies using a pastry bag fitted with an open star tip. Simply fill the pastry bag with the cookie dough and pipe the cookie dough directly onto cookie sheets. You can pipe the dough into 2" sticks, circles for wreaths or shape the piped dough into hearts.
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Place butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. This will take about 5 minutes. Set your kitchen timer for 5 minutes because these cookies really do turn out best when you beat the butter and sugar for the full 5 minutes.
3. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well blended.
4. Add the flour in three additions, adding the salt with the first addition, mixing well with each addition.
5. Assemble and fill your cookie press according to the manufacturer's instructions.
6. Press cookies onto ungreased, cool cookie sheets. If you are reusing the same cookie sheet for separate batches, make sure the cookie sheet cool completely before using again.
7. Decorate with colored sprinkles, if desired. This is a must in my house. :)
8. Bake for 6-9 minutes or until the cookies are just lightly brown at the edges. Watch carefully to avoid over baking. They tend to go from perfectly baked to burned in just a few seconds.
9. Cook the cookies on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack or large platter.
Yield: 4-5 dozen.
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