Are you looking for a Christmas cookie that looks festive, tastes great, ships well, stays fresh and yummy for ages and oh, yeah, is quick and inexpensive to make a LOT of? Would you like to crank out 10-12 dozen gift-worthy treats in less time than it takes to do a load of laundry? They say you can’t have it all, but with Spritz Cookies, you really can.
Spritz are my #1 favorite Christmas cookie, the only one I make every year. If you avoid making Spritz because you think they are time consuming, fussy, and require an expensive gadget or hard-to-master techniques, let me tell ya, nope, nope, nope and more nope! You can do this! If you have failed at these in the past, I’m here to tell you all you need to make delicious, adorable Spritz cookies is a great recipe, the right (inexpensive) tool and a few tips and tricks. And some fun practice. I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to crank these out like a pro.
First, a great recipe.
I have been making Spritz as long as I can remember, and I’ve tried and tinkered with a LOT of recipes (my man is a very willing Spritz Cookie test subject). This recipe is our favorite. The dough comes together in minutes, doesn’t need to be chilled, is easy to work with and makes cookies with nice, distinct edges (Spritz cookies that puff or spread = Spritz Cookie Fail). Oh, and they are sooo buttery ‘licious you may need to make two batches just to have any left to give away (no comment). This recipe makes 10-12 dozen.
- 2 cups (4 sticks) butter, room temp (don’t use unsalted)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp almond extract (totally optional)*
- 1/2 cup cornstarch (the magic ingredient for crisp Spritz)
- 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
In a large mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla (and almond extract if using) and beat until thoroughly combined. Scrape down bowl sides to make sure everything is incorporated. On low, beat in the cornstarch. When the cornstarch is completely incorporated, add the flour and mix on low till just combined – do not overmix. Scrape down the bowl to make sure you don’t have any dry pockets.
The dough should be fairly stiff (stiffer than chocolate chip cookie dough, but not as dry as pie crust) and look like this:
You’re now ready to press, and that took 10 minutes tops. Totally easy, yes or yes?
A word about tinting. If you want to divide the dough and tint it, knock yourself out. I find that fussy and I don’t like the way it looks with a lightly browned edge. Just my personal preference, so you do you.
Second, you need the right tool.
Here’s where the wheels can really come off. If you have a cookie press that looks like this, RUN!
This type of press (which a plunger you push by hand) is great for piping whipped cream or frosting, or filling manicotti. It is a NIGHTMARE for trying to make cookies.
What you need is a gadget that looks like this:
The “right” type of cookie press has a trigger mechanism. See the little “teeth” on the metal plunger bar up top? Each time you squeeze the trigger, those little teeth engage and plunge out exactly one perfect spritz cookie’s worth of dough. Most presses will come with several die for different shapes, and bonus points if yours also comes with a set of nozzles for filling canapes and deviled eggs – hey this ain’t no “unitasker”! Don’t spend a lot here. Mine cost $15 and I believe I’ve had it longer than I’ve been married, which will be 27 years this Christmas!
Third, you need some tried and true tips and tricks to speed things along
Preheat your oven to 350 and line several heavy gauge cookie sheets with silpats or parchment paper (silpats are easier to work with – the edges don’t curl up on you).
The press might not come with instructions, so here is how to use one:
Take it apart and release the plunger all the way back
Place your chosen die inside the cap and screw onto the barrel
Grab a blob of dough roughly the same size as the barrel of your cookie press and roll it on the counter into a log a bit smaller in diameter.
Plop the dough in the barrel. Tap it down on the counter and smush out (so technical) any air pockets with your fingers. Be sure to leave about 1″ of space at the top to insert the plunger
Insert the plunger and screw the press shut. Yes, a bunch of dough is going to squish out the end. If it doesn’t, squeeze the trigger till some does. Is this taking anyone back to their Play Doh days?
Scrape off the squished out dough, toss it back in the bowl, and you are good to go. Your loaded weapon should look like this:
Place the press right into the corner of your pan, and squeeze the trigger two times – do this for the first, and ONLY the first, cookie. This primes the pump. *Note: you need to do this priming step each time your refill your press*
You’ll get a jumbo cookie which you can either scrape off and toss back in the bowl or leave as a treat for the cook (my vote).
For each subsequent cookie, place the press as close to the last cookie as you can, always making sure the entire circumference of the press is resting on the cookie sheet. Squeeze the trigger once and quickly lift off. The cookies will not spread, so the more you can get on a sheet, the fewer batches you will have to bake off.
If you are right handed, it’s easiest to begin in the top left corner and work your way down and then across the sheet to the right, and vice versa if you are a leftie. Once you get the hang of it, you can zip out a tray in about a minute. That takes a bit of practice, so be patient with yourself and enjoy the zen of learning!
If you have trouble getting your cookies to “stick” (a) your dough may be a bit too warm (if your kitchen is warm and humid) so chill it for 20 mins max (you don’t want it hard or you won’t be able to get it thru the press). Or (b) you may have a bit of butter, etc. on your silpats from your last batch of cookies. They have to be meticulously clean or your Spritz will NOT stick and you will go nuts trying.
Don’t worry about those little “peaks” of dough on each cookie. They help contain the sugar sprinkles, and you will pat them out a bit after decorating.
You can top the Spritz with any number of things: colored sugars, sprinkles, chocolate jimmies, nonpareils, edible glitter, etc. Or you can leave them plain and drizzle or dip in chocolate.
After you put on your sugar, sprinkles, etc., verrrrry lightly pat each cookie to get the sugar to adhere and flatten those peaks a tiny bit. Do NOT flatten the cookies! This year I bought some edible glitter and I am loving the look (center row)
Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, or until cookies are ever so slightly browned on the edges. You can go to lightly browned edges if you like ’em extra crispy.
Okay, get those babies off the sheets right away.
Here’s the only fussy step – you will have to wash the silpats very well between batches (or use a new sheet of parchment) so that your cookies will stick to the sheets and you won’t have color contamination from the last batch. I also run cold water over the pans to cool them.
You can change die between batches or mid batch if you want to try a lot of shapes. Be aware that the more complicated the die pattern, the harder it is to press it nicely. In the top pic of my set, the 8-petaled flower is a pain in the patuckus, so I rarely use it.
At the end, you will be left with one blob of dough. I always shape it into a monster Spritz topped with peppermint crunch for myself.
I also do a dozen or so regular spritz topped with peppermint crunch (smashed candy canes you can buy in a jar).
The peppermint Spritz are just for us, because while DELICIOUS, the peppermints melt and look terrible!
I am, however, calling the edible glitter a big success because it looks great and doesn’t taste like anything but sugar (I was a little worried it would taste weird).
If your not an almond extract fan, can you use peppermint or lemon extract instead?
Heck yeah! Occasionally I make these at other times in the year and do just that – flavor them with lemon or orange oil or fiori di Sicilia, which has a floral-citrus taste. Totally yum! I will say that the butter flavor on these is so pronounced you may need to use more than you think. So maybe peppermint or citrus oils would be a good way to go (and helloooo – citrus oils would be great in your beloved spritzy water!). Wow, that is a really good idea about putting the mint in the dough! I use the peppermint crunch on top because it makes the cookies taste like a buttermint, but they look bad. I never thought to put a few drops of peppermint oil in the last batch. Thanks for sharing!