The perforated metal discs making cookies
Baking is as much chemistry as art. This week's recipe, for the final Cookie Corner column of the year, demonstrates that fact in a test of a very basic cookie.
Spritz cookies are an old-timey Christmas tradition in households with German or Scandinavian ancestry; the name comes from the German for "spray" or "squirt." The buttery little treats are formed using a cookie press.
The press in my childhood home was a metal tube with a dial-like handle on one end. The perforated metal discs that fit in the other end shaped the extruded dough into bits that, when baked, formed Christmas trees and wreaths and other holiday shapes.
I finally bought a modern cookie press, a plastic one with a trigger handle, about a decade ago at a kitchen party. It was Christmastime, and I must have gotten nostalgic for those sprinkle-decorated spritz. By the time the press arrived, however, it was springtime. I put it away, thinking I'd pull it out later.
If this were a screenplay, I'd say: "Insert montage of pictures here to show 10 years going by ..."
I found the cookie press box a few weeks ago, on an upper shelf, stuffed between a cookbook and back copies of Bon Appetít. Time to put it to work.
If you don't have a cookie press, can you still make spritz cookies? That was what I hoped to learn. And to match our Week 4 flavor choice, I added peppermint extract to the dough.
I divided the first batch in half and colored one half pink, the other green. I put the pink dough in a gallon plastic bag, snipped off the corner, and pressed out candy-cane shapes onto my insulated cookie sheets.
The cookies didn't brown, and they also spread out; the taste was light, very like sugar cookies. Hmm.
The last bit of pink dough went onto a regular cookie sheet, and into the oven at the same temperature. These canes didn't spread, baked much more quickly and browned along the edges. But the density was exactly what I remembered as spritz.
Wow, who'd have thought the pans would make that much difference?
I put the green dough in the cookie press – which worked just fine – and used only regular cookie sheets. I didn't want those cute little trees to spread all over the pans.