I came across my favorite holiday cooking gadget at a summer garage sale. It is a strange contraption, a sort of round aluminum tube with a twist-handle on one end and a series of metal disks with punched out shapes for the other end.
When I found it, I recognized it immediately as a cookie press, used for making spritz cookies, also called butter cookies. Spritz cookies are perfect for winter holidays – attractive, fairly small and extremely addictive.
When I was small, I remember making these cookies with my mother. I would stand on a stool next to her and take my turn at cranking the end of the cookie press or dusting the cookies with sprinkles before they went in the oven. My memories of making these cookies were much stronger than my memories of eating them, probably because it is a unique and involved process.
Making them myself feels very much in the holiday spirit. Our Christmas tree is up, although only half-decorated. Outside, a half foot of snow is on the ground, and more is coming down. My little brother is home from college. I’m in the same kitchen that I grew up in, creaming together butter and sugar for Christmas cookies. To me, this is one of the best parts of the holiday season.
Like most cookies, bringing the ingredients together is fairly easy. Cream the butter and sugar, add an egg and stir in the flour. These are ordinary instructions for most cookie recipes. The spritz cookies that were a familiar part of my childhood have the added step of pushing them through a cookie press. This is deceivingly simple. It’s easy to push too much dough through the cookie die, which is rather like a stencil for cookie dough. If there are too many oils on the cookie sheet, the sheet is too hot or for no apparent reason at all, the cookie dough may not stick. Instead, I have to peel it off the cookie press and try again.
The end result of this process is a heaping plateful of dainty swirls and Christmas trees decked out with sprinkles. These are definitely worth the frustration of getting these little cookies onto the baking sheet.
1 cup butter
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp almond extract
2 ½ cups flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the almond extract and the egg.
Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt about a half cup at a time. If you add too much at once, it will fly everywhere and make a huge mess.
If you have a cookie press, load it up and use according to the manufacturer’s directions. Typically, the best results are when there is just enough dough moved through the die to stick together and also to the baking sheet. If you don’t have a cookie press, these can be made as a much less decorative drop cookie.
Feel free to use food coloring added with the egg, or sprinkles before baking for a more festive look.
Bake 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
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