These are my Honey Girl’s favorite Christmas cookie and the first thing I bake each season. When my Dear Husband and I were first married, my sister-in-law Osa gave me a little Spritz press and inside the box was tucked a little printed recipe. It’s a magical one. The dough is supple and soft, it isn’t sensitive to temperature changes, and it couldn’t be less fussy. You start with cold butter and a handful of pantry ingredients, so there isn’t even a need to plan ahead. The results are a tender little butter cookie the size of a quarter, hardly sinful, with a hint of almond. I decorate them with gumdrop dots, which is as my Honey Girl always likes them, but you could simply sprinkle them with some sparkling or colored sugar or pop a red hot on top and they would be lightning quick to make. The gumdrops are a little bit pitzyputzy to roll, but they are awfully sweet, and because the gumdrop dots are so tiny, they don’t interfere with the delicate flavor or texture of the cookie.
Music for baking Spritz
When our Honey Girl was five or six, we made a trip to the enormous Virgin Records store in Tokyo. She begged for this CD, Christmas with the Stars, and we bought it despite its relatively hefty price tag in yen. It has been a favorite for years and is not at all the kind of syrupy pop-star mix the title might imply.
Some people have told me that Spritz are the bane of their baking lives; they struggled with them once and threw the press in a snowbank. But I think there are a few things you can do to make working the press go very smoothly.
A Spritz press extrudes dough through dies of various shapes. To use one, you fill the cylinder with dough, screw on the top, pull back the pin, and begin clicking the lever until the dough begins to emerge from the press. When your press is empty, refill it, pull back the pin again, and click away.
Get to know your press. In my experience, every Spritz press has a rhythm. One of mine is click…one…two…release. The other is click…one…two…three…release. Spend a few minutes with a mindset of playing until you find the perfect rhythm.
Start with a well-packed press. Grab a small amount of dough and squeeze it roughly into a cylinder. Drop it into the cylinder of the press, pressing it down firmly. When the press is full, give the dough a few more firm pushes so that you are certain there are no gaps or air pockets in it.
Run your thumb across the top of the dough to level it and around the threads of the screw top to wipe away excess dough. Then, with a little muscle, screw on the lever end of the press.
Dough will begin to extrude from the press. Pull off this dough before you begin.
Then, place the press on the top right hand corner of your baking sheet and give it a click. Wait for your press’ perfect rhythm and pull the press back quickly, placing it immediately in place for the next cookie. I work towards myself in close rows. This dough does not spread, so you may place the cookies very close to each other. If you squish a cookie with your press, simply toss it back in with the dough and make another in its place.
When you pull the press away, pull it very quickly to the side. If you’re slow or if you don’t pull to the side, the dough will pull away with you.
Plan to throw the first cookie of each fresh press of dough back into the dough bowl. It’s usually a little too big or too small. Simply grab it, toss it, and put your press back in place quickly.
The real key to Spritz is the rhythm. If you keep the click, wait, pull to the side, and quick placement on pace, every cookie will be perfect. If you get off rhythm, just throw the mishapen cookie back in the dough bowl for the next time around and keep going.
Start with cold butter and use the dough immediately. Do not refrigerate it or it will be difficult to work with.
If you don’t have three or four baking sheets, after you have removed the cookies from their baking sheet, pop the sheet into the freezer for a few minutes to chill.
The cookies are done when they have a dry appearance and seem firm when you give them a little nudge. They will not be brown.
This dough will work equally well in a conventional Spritz press or in one designed for mini Spritz. Simply increase your baking time by a couple of minutes.
I pat out the last bit of dough, cut out a few hearts, and top them with a few slices of gumdrop. When the Spritz are packed away in tins and waiting for Christmas in the freezer, and your loved ones come home to the smell of butter and sugar and almond, you can offer them a little treat, too.
Tips for rolling gumdrop dots:
You will only need 1 gumdrop to make 250 tiny dots.
Slice the gumdrop thinly and drop the slices into a little dish of sugar.
Sliver your slices into thin reeds and drop them into the sugar.
Dip your fingers in the sugar. Take a little reed and pull off a tiny piece of gumdrop. Roll it into a ball between your sugary fingers and place it into the center of a Spritz. You don’t need to press them down.
Rinse your fingers frequently as they become sticky, and roll them in sugar frequently while you are working.
Minnesota music for baking Spritz:
The Dale Warland singers were a fine a cappella chorus based in the Twin Cities and they recorded and performed for 31 years until 2004. Their Christmas CDs are lovely.
This recipe is part of the Cookie Baking and Candy Making Plan for Christmas 2010 (here).
Teeny Tiny Spritz Flower Cookies
Yield: 250 cookies
1 ½ c. unsalted butter
1 c. sugar
2 T. milk
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. almond extract
1 t. baking powder
4 c. all purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur.)
1 red gumdrop (or sparkling or colored sugar, or red hots, or other decorations)
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- In an electric mixer, beat together the butter and the sugar until they are pale and fluffy.
- Add the egg, milk, and extracts and beat them together thoroughly.
- Add the baking powder and gradually add the flour, beating until it is incorporated.
- Work with the dough immediately. The dough is easiest to work with if it has not been refrigerated.
- Form the cookies onto an ungreased baking sheet using a Spritz press.
- Bake for five to seven minutes, or until the cookies have a dry appearance.
- Storage tips here.