Spritzgebäck are a classic butter cookie popular in Germany and Scandinavia. The literal translation of "Spritz" means to "spray" or "squirt" which refers to the fact that these cookies are pressed or piped into elaborate designs. And while they are commonly considered a Christmas confection I would happily accept a plateful of Spritz any day of the year.
Prepare yourself for a cookie awakening. If you enjoy those blue tins of Danish butter cookies or little bags of Knott's shortbread cookies (so cute, but so full of preservatives) then you'll love Spritz. They are so so good! Addictive even. They smell amazing while baking and taste even better. Buttery golden cookies with a delicate crumb and just the right amount of jammy centers. Yes, please!
In my first baking class I made two full-sized sheet sheet pans of these Spritz cookies, even after splitting them with my teammates I still took home something like two dozen. Uri & I ate them all within a week. Seriously, you guys. We couldn't stop ourselves! Truth: As a toddler I would to sneak into the refrigerator and eat cold butter by the chompy mouthfuls. I seem to have a longstanding butter crush. Or is it a butter addiction? I've also have some German/Nordic genes from Moms side of the family tree. Hmm... Coincidence?
To make Spritz cookies at home you can use a pastry bag or cookie press. A cookie press is convenient and consistent for making a variety of shapes (flowers, stars, trees, and so on) but it is an optional gadget. In class we had great success making Spritz by hand using a 18" pastry bag fitted with No. 4 star tip, we then piped the cookies into 2" rings and 2.5" S-shapes.
Whichever tool you choose, have patience as you learn to pipe or press the dough, it is very thick and will take some practice to get the handling just right. Take heart knowing there is no harm in tossing practice cookie dough back into your bowl for the next go around, they will be just as delicate and delicious.
Spritzgebäck Butter Cookies (Piped Spritz)
Makes about 30 cookies, 2-inches in diameter
- 7 oz ounces Butter, softened
- 3.5 ounces Powdered Sugar
- 1 Egg Yolk
- 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 9 ounces Bread Flour
- Optional garnish: Apricot or Raspberry Preserves, Nuts, Candied Cherries, Sprinkles, etc
Important: The butter must be quite soft, or you will have trouble piping out the dough. I also encourage you to use Bread Flour rather than All-Purpose, as the higher gluten helps these cookies hold their shape as they bake.
Preheat oven to 375°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the softened butter and powdered sugar for several minutes on medium speed. Add egg yolks, one at a time, and vanilla extract. Continue to mix until fully incorporated. Add the flour and mix until combined and it is a smooth, pliable dough.
Place dough into a large pastry bag fitted with a star tip, only fill it about halfway or two-thirds full otherwise it will be very difficult to pipe the dough. Pipe 2" rings or 2.5" S-shapes onto cool sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Do not pipe onto hot baking sheets or the cookies will spread and loose their shape.
Piping tips: To ensure well-formed cookies, hold the pastry bag at an even height when piping. Press the bag with the palm of your hand, and at the same time twist the bag with your other hand, this will press the dough from the bag rather than you having to force it with your fingers. When making rings and S-shapes, wrap/swirl the ending piece of dough along the outer edge of the cookie.
Fill the cookies with jam or preserves: Make an indentation in center of rings and/or each curled part of the S. Fill a small disposable pastry bag (or a ziplock bag) with jam of your choice then pipe a small dollop of jam into each indentation. If using candied cherries or nuts, press directly into the cookie dough.
Bake at 375°F until lightly golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.
Store in an airtight container to keep them crisp.