Italian Butter (Spritz) Cookies

I do admire people who post Christmas cookie recipes prior to Christmas! 😉

This recipe was adapted from one of my absolute favorite books, Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland by Shauna Sever. I used almond extract, Irish butter, a cookie press, and baked the cookies on convection. Simple and classic.

They can be made in any shape to suit the season. The original recipe also suggests topping the cookies with sprinkles, sparkling colored sugars, or drizzling or sandwiching them with chocolate.

Yield: about 3 dozen cookies

  • 8 oz (225 g) unsalted European-style butter, at room temperature (I used Kerrygold)
  • 120 g (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp pure almond, lemon, or anise extract
  • 256 g (2 cups, spooned and leveled) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • sprinkles or sparkling colored sugars, optional
  • melted dark or white chocolate for drizzling, optional
  1. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F (180 C), preferably on convection.
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone liners or parchment paper. (Silicone liners make piping a little bit easier because the they don’t lift up as the cookie press or piping tip pulls away.)(I used both!)
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy.
  4. Add the confectioners’ sugar and continue to beat until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and beat in the egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and the additional extract of your choice. Blend for 1 minute more.
  6. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the flour, salt, and baking powder. Scrape down the bowl well and make sure the dough is well mixed.
  7. Immediately transfer the dough to a cookie press or a heavy-duty piping bag fitted with a large open star tip, such as Ateco #826.
  8. Spritz the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets. If using a pastry bag, pipe the cookies into desired shapes- aim for cookies about 2 inches (5 cm) wide, spaced about 2 inches apart.
  9. Decorate with sprinkles or sparkling sugars, if desired.
  10. Refrigerate on the sheets for about 15 minutes, or freeze for 5 minutes. (I placed the parchment on a plastic cutting board in the freezer.)
  11. Bake until lightly golden at the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Cookies on parchment will brown faster; those on silicone mats will need a little more time to color.
  12. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheets for 2 or 3 minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely. To finish non-sprinkled cookies, drizzle or sandwich with melted dark or white chocolate, if desired.

Vanilla Bean Spritz Cookies

Classic butter cookies are my husband’s absolute favorite, so I had to try this vanilla bean version. He loved them! They are dangerously easy to make too.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used the ground cinnamon option, varied the shapes, and topped the cookies with festive colored sugars prior to baking.

Because the cookies are quite fragile, the original recipe suggests making them into sandwich cookies, filled with chocolate, Nutella, or thick jam, to increase their stability for shipping. We ate them as is!

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies
  • 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), preferably cultured, softened
  • 1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup/55 grams light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or use 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or orange zest, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom, OR 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
  • 2 1/4 cups/290 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • decorative sugar, for sprinkling, optional
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the egg, vanilla and the zest, spices or almond extract (if using), and mix until well combined and smooth.
  4. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add flour and salt until just incorporated.
  5. Load dough into a cookie press. Following the directions that came with your cookie press (models can vary), push the dough onto ungreased baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch between cookies.
  6. Sprinkle cookies with decorative sugar.
  7. Bake until firm to touch and golden brown at edges, about 8 to 9 minutes, or longer (up to 17 minutes) depending upon the size of your cookie press.
  8. Transfer cookies onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Our festive 2020 “Gingerbread Mansion” (photo above). 🙂

Spritz Butter Cookies

IMG_1598

I have had difficulty with cookie press dough in the past. The consistency of this dough was absolutely perfect and easy to punch through the press. So, of course, the new problem was that half of my little Christmas tree cookies had a practically unrecognizable shape! I opted to make these little “wreaths”- and had absolutely no issues with the shape. 🙂 This recipe was adapted from the Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. According to the author, the cornstarch makes the cookies more delicate and easier to push through the cookie press.

These were my husband’s favorite Christmas cookie this year; they reminded him of “fresh” Danish butter cookies. Buttery with a hint of almond. Lovely!

  • 44 g (1/2 cup minus 1 T/1.5 oz) blanched sliced almonds
  • 257 g (9.1 oz/2 cups plus 2 T) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 30 g (1 oz/1/4 cup) cornstarch
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 150 g (5.3 oz/3/4 cup) superfine sugar
  • 2 sticks (16 T/8 oz/227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp pure almond extract
  • sugar sprinkles for decorating, optional
  1. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (convection) for 30 minutes or longer before baking.
  2. Spread the almonds evenly on a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes, or until pale gold. Stir once or twice to ensure even toasting and avoid over browning. Cool completely.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and salt.
  4. In a food processor, process the almonds until fairly fine. (They have to be able to squeeze through the cookie press!)
  5. Whisk the almonds into the flour mixture.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a flat beater, beat the sugar and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  7. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract and beat for 30 seconds, or until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  8. Add the flour mixture and pulse in just until blended. Do not over mix.
  9. Scrape the mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap and use the outside of the plastic wrap to knead together the dough until it is completely even and soft enough to pipe smoothly.
  10. Form sections of the dough into a log and put into the tube of a cookie press. (Cover remaining dough.)
  11. Using the press, place cookies on parchment-lined cookie sheets 1-inch apart.
  12. Decorate with sugar sprinkles, if using.
  13. Bake cookies for 6 to 7 minutes (convection) or up to 10 to 12 minutes in a standard oven, or until pale gold.
  14. Cool on a wire rack.

Note: Cookies can be stored airtight at room temperature for 1 month; refrigerated or frozen for 6 months.

IMG_1587

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

Pistachio Semifreddo

IMG_7045

My husband and I have enjoyed celebrating several wedding anniversaries at Volt (restaurant of Bryan Voltaggio of Top Chef fame) in Frederick, Maryland while in the Washington, DC area at Christmastime. This year we splurged for the tasting menu to celebrate our FIFTEENTH anniversary! 🙂 One of several desserts we were served was a semifreddo rolled in dark chocolate and pistachios. It had a celebratory candle in it, and was our favorite! It was my introduction to this Italian semi-frozen dessert. Delicious and different. I went home that evening and searched for a recipe to make it myself.

I selected this recipe from Gourmet because it had rave reviews and was similar to the Volt version. Importantly, shelled pistachios are available at Trader Joe’s, making the task much more doable as well. I made it to serve with Pizzelles on New Year’s Eve at a friends’ house. It is such a special dessert and is simple to make. I will definitely make this one again. Great!

Yield: Makes 2 quarts

  • 1 1/2 cups shelled salted pistachios (6 1/2 to 7 ounces)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 2 cups chilled heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  1. Pulse 1 cup pistachios with 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor until very finely ground. Add remaining 1/2 cup pistachios and pulse until just coarsely ground.
  2. Beat egg whites in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Beat in remaining 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, a little at a time, then increase speed to high and beat until meringue just holds stiff, glossy peaks.
  3. Beat cream with almond extract in a wide bowl with mixer at high speed until it just holds soft peaks.
  4. Fold meringue into cream gently but thoroughly, then fold in nut mixture in same manner. IMG_7004
  5. Spoon into a 2-quart dish, cover with plastic wrap flush on the surface. Freeze, covered, until firm enough to scoop, about 4 hours. Let soften slightly before serving. IMG_7006

Note:  The egg whites in this recipe are not cooked.

One Year Ago:

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