“If God had intended us to follow recipes, he wouldn’t have given us grandmothers.” ~ Linda Henley
For twenty-plus years, December was no ordinary month on our family’s calendar.
It was a series of nut-filled, chocolate-covered, butter-rich weeks. A month of afternoons spent churning out cookies, fudge, chocolates, bars, and candies by the dozen.
When it began, I toddled around amongst the church ladies. When it ended, I’d acquired a college degree and two little ones of my own. Along the way, a series of fickle love affairs, with nearly every confection that could ever be made.
Some of our family’s favorites? Flops, kringla, peanut brittle, chocolate-dipped pecan bars with a shortbread crust, peanut butter balls, and caramel. Opening one of my grandmother’s cookie tins was like peering inside her jewelry box, with rows and piles of color and shine
I haven’t written much about the recipes we used to make. Mostly because I don’t eat much of them anymore. Mostly because I’d like this space to be full of healthy inspiration. This season though, I’ve felt a pull on my heart to
document a few of them here
I’m often asked why I started The Veggies.
Certainly, I love to cook, as well as write; although what keeps me going is something different altogether.
My sincerest wish is to leave a piece of myself behind for my children, grandchildren, and family. I’d love for them to one day read through the stories, and know a little bit more about who I was. The things I thought about, the life I led, how much they were loved, and some of
our family’s history
— — —
I’m sure you’ve heard of Spritz Cookies. They also go by the name Swedish Butter Cookies, and probably a few other names as well. They’re always the underdogs of a holiday dessert platter. The little colored numbers that sit quietly amidst a heap of far more impressive options, and always seem to be picked last
Every year without fail, once we start eating them, it’s nearly impossible to stop.
As holiday cookies recipes go, this one is as plain and bare-bones as they come. With only six ingredients and a mixer, the dough is ready in no time, and you’re ready to bake. Decorating can be as simple as putting different colored doughs into the press or adding a few sprinkles
The return on your investment will be impressive; a cookie that’s delicate, crisp, buttery, and terribly addictive. Although they’re nothing new, there’s a good reason why we still make them and justify eating a forest’s worth.
Think of it as accidentally saving the best for last
The recipe (along with the cookie press) my step-mom uses, was given to her by her mother (Mammaw), the year my grandparents moved to Ukraine to continue their missionary work.
“I’m not sure now if she gave-gave it to me, or if she gave it to me and I never gave it back”
(How we love our mothers)
After struggling through a few batches with dough that wasn’t quite right, I gave her a call. She lent me the retro cookie press, and tucked away in the box; I discovered the recipe; written in her handwriting, on the back of a Christmas list.
While I’d like to think her version is unique, there are lots of recipes out there for spritz cookies, and most are similar. So similar really, that I’m not sure any of us can take the credit. My grandmother’s uses powdered sugar, so we do as well.
It feels like the thing to do
As it turns out, the heritage of the Spritz cookie recipe is rich and runs deep. They’ve been a holiday staple as long as anyone in the family can remember. It was passed down to Mammaw from her mother, who got it from her mother-in-law (Mammaw’s father’s mother)
I couldn’t help but smile. This fun and whimsical cookie originated with the most proper of grandmothers, who wouldn’t dream of venturing “downtown” without a hat and gloves. At Christmas time, she always made them in green, red (pink really), and plain.
And Mammaw did too. It didn’t matter if they were celebrating in the U.S. or in Ethiopia, where they lived and served as missionaries for fifteen + years while my step-mom was growing up. These cookies were part of the tradition.
A fun historical side-note?
During the years in Ethiopia, she made them with margarine, as good butter was nearly impossible to come by unless she made it herself. The last few years they were there, she was able to buy good Norwegian margarine (the brand was Marianne), which she used for baking. She found she needed to add more flour when using real butter ..
as it seemed to do something to the consistency
— — —
Everyone smiled when they saw them; the kind of smile that comes with a hint of nostalgia. Whichever they ate first, the too-fat trees or lopsided wreaths, there’s no doubt;
they’ll have saved the best for last
A few tips and tricks for making Spritz cookies
While our family’s recipe doesn’t go to any great lengths when it comes to the process, there are a few well-known tips and tricks when it comes to perfecting them.
Cream the butter and sugar together (I mean really cream the butter and sugar). Most recommend a full five to seven minutes in the stand mixer to produce the lightest, crispest cookies possible
Repeat the thorough creaming process after adding the eggs
Mix in the flour by hand to avoid over-developing the dough (which makes for a tough cookie)
Make sure your dough is the consistency of play-doh.
Press the cookies out directly onto a cold baking sheet.
Over-mix after you’ve added the flour. Stop as soon as no dry flour remains
Chill the dough before putting it into the press.
Use non-stick spray, silicone, or parchment paper liners on your baking trays. The concept is similar to chilling a pie crust before baking; to help retain its shape
Spritz Cookies (A Family Recipe)
- 1 cup butter, at room temp
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 small, or 1 large egg (the more eggs, the more cake-like they will be)
- 1 tsp clear vanilla or almond extract
- 2 ½ - 3 cups flour
- Preheat the oven to 400° F
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the butter and powdered sugar. Cream
- Add the eggs one at a time, along with the vanilla (or almond extract) and cream again
- Add 2 ½ cups flour and mix until just incorporated
- Check the dough's consistency. You're going for something that resembles play-doh. Depending on the consistency, you may need to add more flour (up to 3 cups total)
- Lots of times we'll divide the dough into thirds and add food coloring (⅓ white, ⅓ red, ⅓ green)
- After adding the food coloring, check the dough's consistency again. You may need to add a bit more flour to compensate for the liquid the food coloring added
- Place dough into cookie press fitted with a template. Form desired shapes, 1 inch apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets.
- Bake 6-8 minutes