Spritz Cookies (Spritzgeback)
2 cups butter, room temperature*
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, well beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
* You must use butter in this recipe. The secret of a great spritz cookie is a dough that is fat enough to press or pipe yet sturdy enough to hold it shape in the oven. It must be butter.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Refrigerate UNGREASED cookie sheets until ready to use. NOTE: Pressing the dough out onto cool, ungreased baking sheets makes it possible for each application to stick on contact. You will need to clean off the cookie sheets between batches.
In a large bowl, mix butter until creamy. Gradually add sugar; cream until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well; stir in vanilla extract. Gradually add flour to mixture, beating well after each addition.
The secret lies in the dough, which should be neither too soft nor too firm. It it is too soft, the cookies will have no definition, and if the dough is to firm, the cookies will bake too dry. To test the dough's consistency before baking a batch, press a small amount of dough through the cookie press cylinder.
* If the dough is too soft so that it doesn't go through cleanly, chill the dough for about 15 minutes.
* If the dough seems too firm, stir into the dough about 1 or 2 teaspoons whole milk.
* If dough becomes too soft during use, refrigerate dough about 5 minutes or until firm enough to hold its shape (the dough will crumble if it is too cold, and it won't stick to the cookie sheet).
Pack the dough into a cookie press fitted with desired template (disks can include wreath shapes, stars, crescents, etc). Begin cranking and twisting (if you use an automatic cookie press follow manufacturer's instructions) the cookie dough through cookie press, forming desired shapes, onto chilled ungreased cookie sheets about 1-inch apart.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time, or until light brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet until just warm, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Using a thin, wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire racks and cool to room temperature.
When cookies are completely cool, store airtight at room temperature for up to several days. Freeze for longer storage in airtight bags. These cookies will pick up moisture from the air; on a damp day it takes only six hours to turn crisp cookies into soft cookies.
Yields 6 dozen cookies.
* Use the flower or star shaped disc and top each with a maraschino cherry half before baking.
* Add a few drops of green food coloring to the dough and use the tree shaped disc, then top tree-shaped cookies with tiny colored candy sprinkles before baking.
Spritz Cookie Variations:
* Almond Spritz - Replace the vanilla extract with pure almond extract.
* Butterscotch or Camamel Spritz - Substitute brown sugar for white (only change).
* Chocolate Spritz - Add 2 ounces melted unsweetened chocolate to sugar mixture. Be sure the chocolate is cool before adding to mixture. Another chocolate variation is to substitute 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder for 1/4 cup of the flour and add along with the sugar to the beaten butter in the mixing bowl.
* Coffee Spritz - Add 1 tbsp instant coffee and 1/4 cup pecans with the sugar.
* Lemon Spritz - Replace the vanilla extract with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 teaspoon lemon zest (rind).
* Orange Spritz - Add 1 tablespoon grated orange zest with dry ingredients.
* Orange Pecan Spritz - Add 2 tbsp orange peel and 1/2 cup pecans when you add the flour.
* Peanut Butter Spritz - Reduce butter to 2/3 cup. Add 1/2 cup peanut butter
* Create a marble effect - Fill the press tube with a portion of regular spritz dough along one length of the press cylinder, and a portion of Chocolate spritz dough along the remaining length of the cylinder. Press out dough through a decorative disc onto baking sheets for an interesting marble design.