When I was growing up my mother usually made lots of cookies at Christmas. How lucky was I right? But here’s the thing about those cookies…98% of them were crispy. Even if they weren’t intended to be that way in the original recipe. My Mum doesn’t like “soft” cookies. They must be crisp to bordering on biscotti crunchy. She wonders now in my desire for a mix of cookies soft to crunchy. She will grudgingly try all my cookies and then say “this would be really good if it was crisp” to which the answer is often “Mum, this is a ______(insert traditionally soft cookie name like snickerdoodle etc.) it is supposed to be soft.” I usually get some kind of “hrumph” in return.
The 2% of exception to the crispy cookie situation at Christmas were gingerbread (which she tried to make crispy but usually my Daddy strongly requested she take out early) and spritz cookies which due to their buttery nature are usually a flaky not crispy cookie (not that she didn’t try).
Mum hasn’t make spritz (she usually makes chocolate ones) in years. I have a cookie gun and thought it would be fun for the kiddos and I to make shaped cookies that they could quickly decorate and weren’t quite the process of cut-out cookies.
This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s Vanilla-Bean Wreath Spritz cookies. A note about Spritz…depending on your cookie press some shapes are easier to make than others. I tried some very decorative shapes, but ended up having to scrap them as they didn’t turn out well. So I ended up sticking with Christmas trees which the kids decorated with vanilla sugar and green sprinkles. Martha’s recipe was double the recipe below and adds some cinnamon.
Vanilla Bean Spritz
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved or 1 TBSP vanilla paste
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sugar (vanilla sugar if you keep such a thing on hand)
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk
- vanilla sugar or colored sugar for decorating (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour and salt.
- Beat vanilla seeds (or paste) and 1/2 cup sugar with a mixer on medium speed until incorporated, about 3 minutes (sugar will clump together slightly). Add butter, and beat until pale and fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla extract and beat until fully incorporated. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture, and beat just until smooth.
- Divide dough into 2-3 portions. Pack 1 portion into a cookie press fitted with tree or another decorative disk (cover remaining portions with an inverted bowl or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature before using), and press shapes about 1 1/2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake until edges are just golden, 8 to 12 minutes.
- If using decorative sugar or vanilla sugar, sprinkle over hot cookies. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Repeat. Cookies can be stored in a single layer in airtight containers up to 4 days or frozen.