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There is nothing to do with gardening in my home kitchen garden these days. It’s all about staying warm and trying to enjoy the holidays. We’re very big on Christmas cookies, and my wife usually bakes more than a thousand cookies of a dozen or so varieties. I also bake some, specifically two types of cookies I loved as a child: Cut out sugar cookies with stained glass windows, and spritz cookies.
This year, I set up my computer on the dining room table and visited with many imaginary friends as I mixed spritz cookie dough, shot cookies onto cookie sheets, and added dusting sugar and other sprinkles as decorations. I got a few questions from imaginary friends, and I offered that I’d upload photos to answer some of them:
I don’t know. I like to believe it’s because the inventor of these cookies was Hans Spritz, a young baker in the mountains of Bavaria who, except for these cookies, has been obscured by time. I Googled the name, and one web site, The Cilantropist (a name that I love), provided a lot of personal history and way too much detail… but all it added about the name “spritz” is that it’s short for “Spritzgebackenes” which, with my limited knowledge of German, I translate to mean, Cookies invented by a man named Spritz.
While digging around the kitchen for my cookie press, I found a cookie press I couldn’t identify. Then I found the cookie press I’ve had for years, and I realized that the other cookie press was a “jerky shooter” that had come with a food dryer I’d used when I wrote my book, Yes, You Can to be published in the coming spring (the link leads to Amazon where you can order it now for delivery once it’s available).
A cookie press is a caulking gun for cookie dough. Instead of a rubber nozzle that squeezes caulk into a continuous snake or ribbon, a cookie press has interchangeable extruder plates each intended to produce a unique design. Here’s how it works:
As a result of mistaking my jerky shooter for a cookie press, I decided that from that day forward, I’ll refer to my cookie press as a cookie shooter. Can’t help it, it just sounds right. You call yours what you like. If you don’t have one, look for them at department and cooking stores. One of my imaginary friends said she bought one last year for $9.99. This is a very low price to pay for a very useful kitchen implement. Amortized over the years I’ve owned my cookie shooter, it has cost about 60 cents per year. By the time they pry my cookie shooter from my cold, dead hand, I expect that number to be about 20 cents per year.
I prepared a video that shows how I work with a cookie shooter. Please have a look to get an idea of how this all works. As well, here’s the recipe I use when I make Hans Spritz’s famous cookies:
1 and ½ cups butter (Not margarine or shortening. Use butter or go home.)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon mint extract (the more traditional recipe calls for almond extract)
4 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Beat the butter and sugar till they’re smooth. Add the milk, egg, vanilla, and mint extract and continue mixing. Stir the baking soda into the sifted flour and add it gradually to the butter and sugar. Continue mixing while adding and for a bit longer until you have homogenous very soft dough.
Divide the dough into four parts and add two drops of food coloring to each part—usually a different color for each. Use a strong-handled spoon to mush the coloring through the dough until each portion has uniform color.
Load your cookie shooter, shoot dough onto UNGREASED cookie sheets, decorate, if you like, and bake for 8 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If the cookies start to darken, you’ve cooked them too long.
Let them cool on the cookie sheets. Then pop them loose with your fingers.
CAUTION: If you make your spritz cookies minty like mine, don’t store them with other types of cookies. All the cookies in a container will pick up the mint flavor after just a day or two of storage. This isn’t a problem if you use almond extract instead of mint extract.
Here’s a video that demonstrates how to shoot Christmas cookies onto a cookie sheet:
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