Last year, I tackled the “12 Cookies of Christmas” challenge. It was good fun, at least to begin with, until it started to take over my spare time as I kept baking and cooking to be sure that I would get everything done before I jetted off up north for Christmas. Afterwards, I looked back on the experience and asked myself whether I would be doing it again this year…
The answer is yes. Frankly, it was always going to be yes. How could it not be yes? I don’t think you can properly enjoy the festive seasons if you don’t spend part of it in the kitchen with the aromas of spices and citrus filling the air, using every pot, pan, bowl, whisk and sieve, not to mention that really impractical utensil that just does that one thing to make biscuits. We’ve all got that implement.
To start with this year, I am going to kick off with something very straightforward – simple spritz cookies. The idea here is similar to the Dutch Utrechtse Spritsen cookies that I made earlier this year. You make a simple, soft dough, then squeeze through some sort of contraption to get an elaborate shape. Maximum impact from minimal effort!
I’ll ‘fess up to the fact that it took me a while to get into my spritzing groove. I made the mistake initially of thinking I had to hold the device clear from the tray, which produced all manner of strange shapes. It turned out the dough was a little cool, but after a few trips through the squeezer, it softened, and when I got the knack of holding it flush with the tray, out popped these perfect little beauties. The joys of trial and error.
If you don’t have a cookie press and don’t fancy investing in one, you can always pop the mixture into a piping bag and squeeze through a star shaped nozzle.
Above, the obligatory shot of the tray with one biscuit removed! I finished them off by sprinkling with some granulated sugar before baking, then dusting with caster sugar after baking to give them a little sparkle, but they don’t need any more decoration that that. One down, eleven to go!
To make Spritz Cookies:
• 175g unsalted butter, softened
• 100g caster sugar
• 1 egg yolk
• 225g plain flour, sifted
• 1/4 teaspoon salt, finely ground
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2-3 tablespoons milk
1. Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Don’t line with baking parchment – they contain enough butter to prevent sticking.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is fluffy and lightens in colour. Beat in the egg yolk, salt and vanilla. Add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thoroughly combined. You should have a soft, smooth dough.
3. Transfer the dough to a cookie press. Squeeze the press! Leave about 5cm between each cookie. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. If you find the mixture to stiff, remove from the press and knead with your hands until softened.
4. Bake the cookies until the edges are just starting to brown – this could be anything between 5 and 10 minutes depending on their size. When ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool for a minute before transferring to a wire tray.
Worth making?These are very simple cookies with a pure butter-vanilla flavour. Nice on their own, and chances are you’ll really appreciate them once you’ve gorged on candied orange peel and too much cheese.