But my most favorite thing that December brings, is the perfection that is spritz. Spritz cookies are one part nostalgic (because my Chicago grandmother used to make them every year) one part sprinkle (and what, may I ask do sprinkles not make better?) and an equal pinch of festive and delightful.
Spritz in their pure form are the simplest of butter cookies – butter, sugar, egg and flour. My grandma added cream cheese and I love the slight flavor it gives spritz so I have continued the tradition. But then the crazy happens. Add a pitch of salt, a splash of vanilla or anise or heck – add both. Divide the dough and give each a drop of color to make green trees and red stars. Find your press. Stamp out cookies. Then sprinkle.
I usually go overboard with the sprinkles which is like the same feeling I get when faced with a buffet line. I wish I could commit to well-composed plate with just a few items. This never happens because I usually get too excited and find myself pulled in every which way and direction. In the end, my plate such a random assortment of food items that I promise myself next time it will be different.
As you will see in this little video, when it comes to sprinkling the more tiny bits of sugar the better. But let’s talk about this video! Since spritz making is one of my favorite holiday activities, I thought I would share the process with you from my tiny kitchen. Sometime cookie presses can seem intimidating – they have so many parts! Don’t they seem finicky? But once you introduce yourself to a press, it will be your lifetime friend. Mine is a vintage Marcato press that I found it on Etsy for $5 dollars (which is the deal of a lifetime) but because I only use mine once a year, I can never figure out how it works. Also because I know you are wondering. Yes, I really do keep my sprinkles in my closest.
Finally, I would like to give a big shout-out and huge thank you to Mackenzie Smith for her work behind the camera, for editing this holiday dream, and for hanging out in my tiny kitchen and eating cookies with me. And to Josephine Floyd for being the best key bounce holder anyone could ask for and for her fabulous sprinkling work as a hand model.
Happy spritz-making! I hope everyone has a lovely holiday filled with cookies and bourbon and see y’all in 2014!
Cream Cheese Spritz
Makes about 4 dozen tiny cookies
2 sticks (1 cup or 226 grams) butter, softened
4 ounces (about 1/2 cup or 100 grams) cream cheese, softened
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or 1/2 teaspoon anise extract)
2 1/2 cups (312 grams) flour
food coloring + sprinkles + colored sanding sugars, for decorating
Cream together butter, cream cheese, and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk, vanilla, salt, nutmeg and almond extract* until incorporated.
Add the flour and beat for a minute or so until it is almost all combined. At this point I usually divide the dough into thirds for coloring. I start with red and add a few drops of food coloring to the dough and beat until combined. Then I clean the beaters, wipe out the bowl, and repeat with the green. *You can also omit the almond extract (in the above step) and add any flavorings, such as anise, along with the food coloring so that each color has a different flavor.
At this point you can wrap the dough in plastic and chill for several days. Just be sure to let the dough come to room temperature before pressing them out. You want to dough to be soft enough so that your cookies will come out of the press nice and easy.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350. On an ungreased cookie sheet (this is important because otherwise the cookies won’t come off of the press and stick to the sheet like they are supposed to) stamp out as many cookies as will fit. You can fit them fairly close together. When you’ve filled a sheet, sprinkle with colored sugars and other festive decorations.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until the edges are stiff and the cookies are lightly browned on the bottom. Let cool on the sheet for several minutes, then transfer to a rack. Store cookies at room temperature in a covered container for a week or two.