I mentioned in my post earlier today that I had a holiday party last night. It was for a bunch of people from work, most of whom have eaten lots of the baked goods that I take to work. One person walked into the house, commented on how pretty our Christmas tree looked, then walked over to the kitchen (we have a pretty open floor plan) and said, "So this is Di's kitchen, where the magic happens!" =)
There's definitely something magical about Christmas cookies. I have fond memories of helping my mom make cookies during the holiday season. There were certain types that we always made every year. I don't have quite the same line-up now, but there are still some varieties that have to make an appearance. One of my mom's favorites was Spritz Cookies. They were usually in the shape of trees, and the dough was tinted green. My mom had an old school cookie press that required you to turn the handle on top to make the dough come out--definitely a workout with a stiff cookie dough. One of my sisters has the cookie press, but I do have the recipe. I don't make it much, though, since it uses all shortening, no butter. I just love the flavor of butter cookies, so I use a recipe from Cook's Illustrated that first appeared in the magazine in 2004.
The dough for these cookies is easy to mix up. First you whisk together an egg yolk, a bit of cream and some vanilla in a small bowl and set it aside. Next up is creaming the butter, sugar and salt. Once that mixture is light and fluffy, you mix in the liquid mixture. Finally, you stir in the flour. The fun part is playing with the cookie press. I have one much like this. It holds just enough dough for a pan of cookies, about 2 dozen of the small trees. I spooned a little bit of colored sugar on top of each cookie before baking.
I almost always bake cookies on parchment lined baking sheets, but that doesn't work for these--the dough from the cookie press won't stick to the parchment. So use an unlined, ungreased pan. For the best flavor, be sure to bake the cookies until they are just starting to brown around the edges--if they're still completely pale, they won't have that great browned butter flavor. I baked mine for 12 minutes at 375ºF.
The verdict? I love these. The butter and vanilla flavors are immediately apparent, and they have a lovely crisp texture. The only thing that you might not like about these cookies is how easy they are to pop in your mouth, since they're bite-sized. The good news is that the recipe makes at least 6 dozen, so you'll probably still have enough to share even after you eat a bunch yourself. Brianna paid me a high compliment indeed, making a point to say how much she liked these cookies. =)
Spritz Cookies - ingredients
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
225 grams (two sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
140 grams (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
285 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour
You can find the full recipe online at Cook's Illustrated, or in the current Holiday Baking newsstand issue.
Check back next weekend for a full round-up of delicious holiday cookies from our cookie exchange!
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