Spritz cookies are traditional German Christmas cookies made with a cookie press and lots of butter! My recipe only has five ingredients and a few secrets that make these the best buttery spritz cookies you've ever tasted.
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My family's spritz cookie recipe is better than your family's spritz cookie recipe. Why? Salted butter and egg yolks. These are my secrets.
Salted butter in a spritz cookie will change your life! This is a super old-timey 1960's Betty Crocker type recipe. I don't even know if they sold unsalted butter back then. This works, trust me. These cookies are rich and buttery with just the right amount of salt.
And I'm not messing around with just one egg to hold everything together. We're just using the yolks and you're gonna need three! They make the cookies rich and delicious. Many spritz recipes also call for almond extract, but you won't find any of that here. Only vanilla to enhance all that butter, instead of covering it up with artificial flavor.
So, you know how you sometimes need to just come home after a hard day and whip up a batch of cookies real quick to make it all better? These cookies are not those. Admittedly, spritz cookies are not the easiest to make, but they are worth it. They require some effort, a bit of organization, a cookie press, and butter. Lots and lots of butter.
The Story of My Family's Spritz Cookie Recipe
Every year, my paternal grandmother made an enormous, near unconscionable amount of Christmas cookies. Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, cherry winks, butter horns and spritz. Dozens upon dozens of them.
It was as if she had magic, bottomless tupperware containers that just kept refilling themselves. She never ran out and had enough to send everyone home with at least three dozen. I can't imagine how long this took her. I lived two hours away and was never around to help. It must have taken weeks.
Spritz cookies were always my dad's favorite (and mine). That's the only kind he wanted in his take-home tupperware container. When he got them home, he would hide them way in the back of the pantry. I remember when, as a teenager, I discovered his hidden cookie stash.
I thought, "Really? This forty-two year-old man is actually hiding grandma's Christmas cookies from his teenage daughter and his (second, and younger) wife? Really?" It wasn't like he just put them on a high shelf or something. He pushed them way to the back of the shelf in the corner and put bigger things in front of the container so you could not see it. It was purposeful. Very purposeful.
I used to carefully plot just how many I could steal while he was at work without him noticing. It was even funnier that he thought he was getting away with the whole charade.
My mom and I have made these cookies together for many years. We had a metal cookie press with a hand crank that was a ridiculous pain in the butt to use.
One year, we planned out our Christmas cookie making day and went to retrieve the cookie press from the cabinet over the fridge. (That's the cabinet you only open once per year, because the only things in there are the cookie press and a fondue pot.)
The metal cookie press was not there.
But this spectacular 1970's masterpiece was.
Isn't it fab? It makes canapés! It makes 'interesting salads'! A new era of ease and versatility! And in case you need any more suggestions:
Here's the thing: My mother has no idea where this came from. No idea. She borrowed it from someone? Someone gave it to her? Did you give it to her? Anyone claiming this thing? Well, too late. It's mine now. The plug gets real hot when you use it, but it's fine, it's fine.
- Flour: Standard AP flour
- Salted butter: Yes, salted butter! Using salted butter ensures that you get just the right amount of salt in every bite of every cookie.
- Egg yolks: This recipe has three egg yolks, which act as much more than a binder, and give the cookies a beautiful texture and added richness.
- Sugar and pure vanilla extract: Most spritz recipes have almond extract, but that can taste artificial. Just using vanilla complements the sugar and allows the buttery flavor to shine through.
- Food coloring, sprinkles, sanding sugar: These are optional if you choose to decorate the cookies.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cream together the butter, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla. Use an electric mixer or a fork.
Sift flour into mixture and combine. Once flour is initially mixed in, it's best to just use your hands to get all of the flour evenly distributed and bring the dough together.
Divide dough into portions and add food coloring if using. Again, use your hands to get it all mixed in.
My grandmother just made one big batch and swirled in a couple of drops of red and green food coloring, so all of her shapes were the same color. This saves a bit of time and energy, if you prefer.
Select shape, put dough into cookie press, and press cookies out onto cookie sheet.
Decorate if desired, then bake for 7 minutes.
Allow to cool slightly on the cookie sheet, then carefully transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Continue with various shapes and colors.
- You need a good cookie press. The cheap ones tend to break almost immediately. I'm never giving up my vintage 1970s splendor of a press, but this Marcato cookie press is made of anodized aluminum and steel, has a 10-year warranty and comes in fun colors!
- I like to use insulated baking sheets for Spritz cookies. Since they are so small and buttery, it seems to keep them from getting too brown on the bottom.
- Make sure the dough is room temperature. I use my hands to work the food coloring into the dough, and to get it into the press, so it's room temp when I'm getting it onto the cookie sheets. This is probably the most important.
- Don't use parchment paper or non-stick cookie sheets. This dough needs something it can stick to a little in order to come off the press. The cookies have so much butter in them, I've never had a problem with them sticking to a regular cookie sheet when they bake.
- When pressing out the cookies, start with the cookie press completely flush/in contact with the cookie sheet. Don't press the dough out if the press is still hovering above it. I literally twist my neck and get down at eye level with the cookie sheet when I'm pressing out the cookies so I can see when to stop pressing and lift the press off the sheet. I usually get one or two that are too much dough and one or two that are too little, then I get into a rhythm with them.
- Stop pressing the dough out and wait a beat before you lift the press up. That one little second of waiting seems to really help to set the cookie shape and allow the dough to release from the press. So the rhythm goes: Cookie press resting flat on cookie sheet, press dough out, stop, then lift.
What are spritz cookies?
Spritz cookies are a traditional German butter cookie made with a cookie press. They are often made at Christmas time because you can make festive shapes!
Should you use parchment paper when baking spritz cookies?
No. Do not grease the cookie sheet either. They will slide all over and loose their shape. They need something grippy to grip onto. And since there is so much butter in the recipe they come off the cookie sheet very easily.
Can you freeze spritz cookies?
Yes! They are very delicate, so to avoid breakage use this process: once they are completely cool lay them in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze. Then you can transfer them to an airtight plastic container and keep in the freezer for about a month. (If you put them in a ziploc bag, they will dissolve into crumbs.)
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- 1 cup salted butter softened
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 ½ cups flour
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Cream together softened butter, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla with a fork or electric mixer.
- Sift flour into butter mixture and combine. Your hands are your best tool to ensure that the flour is evenly mixed in and bring the dough together.
- Divide dough into portions and add food coloring, if desired.
- Choose cookie shape, insert dough into press, and press out onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake for 7 minutes until set, but not brown.
- Allow to cool slightly on cookie sheet. Carefully remove from cookie sheet and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
- Store in an airtight container.
- Don't use parchment paper and do not grease the pan. The cookies need something to hold onto otherwise they will dissolve into a pool of butter. I use insulated baking sheets when I make these so they cook evenly and don't get too brown on the bottom.
- You need a cookie press for this recipe. I have my vintage one that I'm never giving up. But if you're going to buy one, I'd recommend the best one you can find, because the cheap ones break very quickly. This Marcato cookie press is made from anodized aluminum and steel and has a 10-year warranty, as well as loads of good reviews. And it comes in fun colors!