Monday, December 5, 2011
White Christmas by Bing Crosby
White Christmas, when sung by Bing, takes me waaaaay back. I'm sitting on the couch in my grandparents' living room with all the lights off and staring at their huge Christmas tree. They always had a wondrous tree. It was decorated with plastic metallic-coated musical instruments and fragile glass ornaments and layers of icicles. But my absolute favorite decoration were the tiny baby angels that glowed in the dark. They would hide among the branches and I would try to search them out from among all the glittery objects. They weren't flashy or shiny. They just had a soft glow. To me, though, they were the real stars of the tree. I know it pleased my grandma that I loved them so. Don't we all get pleasure from knowing we've made someone happy? Especially when doing so is as simple as hanging out an ornament - or making these little bites of buttery old-world tradition. Wouldn't you like to make someone smile today? Go get your butter out so it can be softening as you read on (tip - it'll soften quicker if you cut it into smaller pieces) -
I love this old Mirro cookie press. It's been around for forever. It still works perfectly and squirts out buttery Spritz cookies as well as wonderful memories of baking with my aunts and grandmother.
That's what gave the cookies their name, you know. Spritzen - in German - means "to squirt." These lovely cookies come from Germany - as do most of my ancestors! I was raised on lots of delicious cabbage, pork, breads, mustard and all things pickled. The food was hearty and filling. But these cookies are anything but that. They are light, delicate, and melt in your mouth.
What makes them so sublime is the fact that they are, in essence, butter. Or I should say - BUTTER! There are a few other ingredients, but their main purpose is to hold the butter together just long enough to keep a shape while you bake them. My cookie press has shape disks for trees, butterflies, fancy hearts, and even a camel, to name a few. They are not just for Christmas - but Christmas is when I think of them the most. They were present at every family Christmas gathering and I would try to sneak as many of them as I could. There was also fruit cake, of course, - Nein, danke! I'd let them have as much of that as they wanted! But the Spritz cookies were mine - all mine! To throw everyone off I'd let them have some, too. They just didn't realize that, in my little girl mind, I was sharing my bounty with them! What a stinker, eh?
We should just get busy and make some in case you've never had them. Don't let a contraption like the cookie press throw you off. They are a cinch to use. You can also use a large star tip and a pastry bag if you don't have a cookie press. Just squeeze them out in the shape of a figure 8 or in small circles to create a wreath. Whatever device you choose to use, it definitely helps to have Bing singing in the background to set the mood and get your mind reflecting on Christmases past. What cookie traditions do you have?
Butter Spritz Cookies
Printable Recipe Card
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 c. powdered sugar
2 egg yolks
1 t. almond extract
1 t. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Whisk together the flour and salt and set aside.
In a mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir in the egg yolks followed by the vanilla and almond extracts. When combined, add the flour and salt and stir, gently, just until it's combined.
At this point you can color your dough, if you choose. Divide the batch into however many colors you want and use a fork to stir in food coloring.
Unscrew the end of the canister of the cookie press that holds the shape disk. Insert disk, on the inside, and give a turn until it's locked in place. Fill the canister with your dough and replace end back on canister.
Do not line the cookie sheets with parchment paper. Your dough will not stick as the parchment is designed to let dough release. Don't worry - they will remove from your cookie sheet just fine, thanks to all the butter! It will probably take a few tries to see just how much you need to turn the handle for each cookie. Too much dough and they just become a blob. Too little dough and they won't release from the press. You can just scrape those practice ones up and return the dough to the canister. No waste! They can be about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake them for 6 - 8 minutes - but check them at 5 minutes. I bake for 3, turn the pan, and bake another 3. That works perfect. You don't want much brown on these.
I realized after I put them in the oven that I forgot to take a picture of how they looked on the cookie sheet before I put them in to bake. So - to show you how they look before baking I squirted one out on this little plate:
Awww! It's so cute! If you're going to decorate with any sort of sprinkle, now is the time to do it! Spritz then sprinkle! I thought these little snowflake decorations would be festive!
This is how they look when they come out of the oven:
Let them cool then slip them off the cookie sheet with a spatula and set an armored guard around to watch over them. Otherwise they'll probably disappear before your very eyes. Because they are so little, people seem to have no qualms about pocketing two at a time as they pass through the kitchen.
You can decorate them after baking, as I did the little yellow ones.
The press created a little space in the center. I happened to have some sparkly decorating icing from the store on hand so I used that as a "glue" to anchor these little sugar pearls. Now, these girls look like they could go to a shower or any girls night out, don't you think? On other occasions, I have filled that little center with a pretty red jam, raspberry being my favorite.