Buttery, delicate cookies bring a bit of northern Europe to your holiday.
Seriously, are these not the cutest cookies you’ve seen? Pudgy and colorful, these delicate cookies can be flavored with either almond, citrus, or simply vanilla extracts. And for me, it’s as though hauling out our old cookie press calls out to the spirits of my Mom and Grandma.
My emotional ties to this recipe are twofold. With roots in Germany and Scandinavian countries—by some accounts as far back as the 16th century—these cookies connect me to my ancestry. It’s not unheard of to think that Reinhardt women may have made these with their families in Germany, where it’s common to have recipes handed down through generations, and for parents to set aside time to make the cookies with their children.
Which is exactly what my family did. Mom and Grandma mixed the dough and operated the cookie press while I got to help decorate the happy little creations. And after a tray or two of plain cookies were baked, Grandma would add in the green food coloring so we could make the wreaths and trees.
Someone hand me a tissue; I need to dab my eye.
But true confession time: I don’t make spritz cookies every year. Like most of you, Christmas baking is a fine balance between time and tradition. When my daughter was young and my Christmas list was focused on fulfilling hers, holiday baking was reduced to me buying a couple cookie mixes and churning out treats after she went to sleep. I’d look lovingly at the family’s vintage Mirro cooking press and its yellowed recipe book in the box, sigh, and move on to the next task.
But this year, as we all grapple with a pandemic and a physically distanced holiday, I really felt the tug to get out the Mirro, turn up the Christmas music, mix up the dough, and get to spritzing. By the way, did you know the name of the cookie (spritz) literally means squirt or “spritzen” in German?
And in keeping with the vintage theme, I used the recipe from the booklet that came with the press, which calls for shortening instead of butter, and I swapped the vanilla extract for almond. I also halved the recipe that made just under two dozen cookies. The dough was pretty crumbly and so I finished mixing it by hand and it came together quickly. I could then separate it into thirds, saving the final portion to color green for the Christmas trees. Note: the recipe card reflects the portions for four dozen.
Surprisingly, it was no struggle working with the cookie press. The first one or two cookies were misshapen before I felt like I was getting the hang of it. Two twists, lift. Two twists, lift.
As I filled each ungreased cookie pan, I remembered the year when I talked Mom into trying an electric press; it did not go well. You need that “human touch” to feel the right amount of dough squeeze through the tube. You may be tempted to line the sheet pan with parchment, but don’t because the cookies won’t release when you lift the press. I tickled me to see the finished cookies didn’t stick or break when removing, and the bottoms browned beautifully.
Another tip: To decorate the cookies, lightly wet a finger and gently brush the top of each cookie with water before adding sprinkles. This helps the sprinkles and candies to stick while baking. The raw cookies stuck to the tray while I gently brushed away excess sugary toppings.
After the cookies cooled, I had to taste one, and it took me back to a holiday many years ago. That delicate crunch and almond flavor was just as I remembered. To be honest, I became a little emotional. That’s how powerful a connector food can be. It was as if my Bubba and Mom were standing with me in my kitchen, smiling and saying, “pretty good, kiddo.”
Pretty good, indeed.