Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Get Your Spritz On

When I was growing up, making Christmas cookies always meant a marathon of baking which would result in tubs of various kinds of cookies.  And then the dispersing of the cookies.

My mother used to save the boxes from greeting card sets (yes, those were the old days, when people actually sent Christmas cards and birthday cards). She would fill each small cardboard box with cupcake paper liners, then layer different kinds of cookies in each. To finish it off, she'd cover with plastic wrap and then tie a ribbon around it.  We'd have a stack of these cookie boxes that would be distributed to neighbors, friends, people who lived alone, people who were sick, and so on.

One of my favorite of all the cookies when would make were the press cookies, which Mother mixed up and loaded into her cookie press.  Three turns of the crank, and out would plop a shake on the waiting cookie sheet.  There were pale green Christmas trees. Pink Christmas wreaths. White stars. And light blue triangular things which I never could figure out what they were.

These were small cookies.  Easy to grab one or three. It was basically just a sugar cookies. But always good.

Well, times have changed. But maybe not so much.  Chef Ashley and I have a cookie baking marathon every year in early December, and are joined by other family members for the day in the kitchen.  Everyone has their favorite cookie to bake.

And it seems like I am always left with the press cookies.  I know that's not the right name for it, but it's what we called them.  Cookbooks label them Spritz cookies.

I'm a little more high-tech than my mother was.  My cookie press is battery operated. But there are the same basic shapes.

This year, Chef Ashley challenged me to add more color to be cookies.  And what resulted could perhaps be called tie-dye cookies.  Yes, I was liberal with the food coloring. And I struggled to get  three colors in the cookie press tube at one time. But I think the result was worth it.

My technique for these explosions of color?  I split the dough in three parts and colored each.  Then I rolled dough into fat snakes and stuffed one of each into the cookies press tube.

After that, it's all random. Every cookie is different.

If you have never made press (or spritz) cookies, I encourage you to try.  The dough is easy to make.  This recipe came from the book for my Hamilton Beach Cookie Press.

1/2 cup butter softened
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 ts vanilla
2 cups flour
1/4 ts baking powder
1/4 ts salt

Before you start mixing these ingredients, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  (I admit--the recipe says 375, but with my oven, I found that 350 gets better results).

Now you are going to need a mixer for this.  If you're lucky, you have a heavy stand mixer like a Kitchen-Aid.  A hand-held mixer will do also. 

Cream the butter and shortening together. hen gradually add the sugar. Beat this for five minutes, until it is light and fluffy.  (This is important--give it a full five minutes.) Then add the egg and vanilla, mixing at a medium speed.

In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt.  Add this to to well batter, in three parts.  By this time, the dough should be stiff.  Color the dough. Put it in cookie press and then press shapes out onto cookie sheet.  I like to use silicone pads on my cookie sheets, but if you don't have those, use parchment paper.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  They should just start to brown a tiny bit on the edges.  DON'T OVERBAKE.

Let them cool. Taste, and then share with family and friends.

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