Tag Archives: spritz

{1} Christmas Spritz Cookies

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.

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Filed under Christmas, Recipe, Sweet Things

Farewell to Summer

It’s the last day of August. Forget the technicalities, I always think of this day as the last day of summer. The British weather has that odd habit at this time of year of offering tantalising glimpses of warmth (typically in the middle of the working week), only to dash those hopes with a sharp, fresh breeze and the first falling leaves drifting past your window (usually at the weekend). You fancy that you can still sit outside in the evening for dinner, but it’s just a little bit too nippy to manage that in complete comfort (although at such times, wine and deep-fried Camembert provide a rather good form of rapid insulation). Change is in the air.

However, to mark the passing of what has been an amazing summer in London, I thought I would post about the drink that we’ve been using to cheer ourselves through the Jubilee, the Olympics and now into the Paralympics. It’s called the Aperol Spritz.

In terms of appearance, this drink is not subtle. It really is that luminous orange colour. It is made with Aperol, an Italian aperitif infused with bitters and citrus, topped up with Prosecco, then served on ice with a wedge of orange. It it light, fizzy, perfectly chilled and the orange-and-bitter combination has a nice sweet yet bitter flavour to stimulate the appetite. That, and the bright orange colour makes it look just so, so cool.

I’ve actually had a bottle of Aperol in my drinks cabinet for a while. I first came across Aperol Spritz when I was visiting Milan a couple of years ago. I saw it in a bar during aperitivo time, and it really seemed like the perfect summer drink. The only downside was that it was rather too easy to drink, and in that lay hidden dangers when endeavouring to catch an early train to Switzerland the next day…although I did manage to swing by a wine shop and pick up a bottle to bring home with me.

I was also reminded of this drink again on a visit to the Gilbert Scott bar near work. We were not taken with anything on the menu (it was all lovely, but we were in the mood for something more celebratory). The idea of the Aperol Spritz popped back into my head, and yes, the waiter told us that they had Aperol behind the bar. Two of these, and we were enthusiastically toasting Team GB’s success that day at the Games. Any excuse…

I’ve also noticed that as I’ve been drinking the Aperol Spritz all summer long, it has also been popping up in magazines and on the web rather a lot. I’ve seen some discussion about what you should add to the liqueur to add the fizzy spritz element. Prosecco is the classic, but some people seem enamoured with the idea of using champagne. Surely better, yes? Well, I tend to disagree. While I would normally say each to their own, first off, this is a waste of good champagne. Second, I find Prosecco is lighter and lends itself to this cocktail rather well, and I am not sure the brioché or fleur d’amandier notes of Champagne come out as delicately when you mix them with an orange liqueur, add a slice of citrus and serve on the rocks. Just a hunch!

So do as the Italians do, and stick with Prosecco. Designer shades optional. And if you see it on holiday, pick up a bottle. You’ll be glad you did. Basta!

To make Aperol spritz:

• 1 part (50ml) Aperol
• 2 parts(100ml) Prosecco
• dash of soda water (optional)
• orange slice
• ice

Mix the Aperol and Prosecco plus soda water (if using), pour over lots of ice and serve with a wedge of orange.

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Filed under Drinks