Sunday, December 19, 2010

Spritz Cookies

One of my favorite kinds of cookies to make with Mama B at Christmas time was always spritz cookies. It's the only time of year we made them, so the adventure began by digging to the back of the kitchen cabinet among lid-less tupperware and rolling pins in search of the amazing contraption I just learned a few years ago is actually called a cookie press. To a seven year old, it was simply "the weird thing-a-ma-jig that we use to make the spritz cookies every Christmas."

But it wasn't actually called a thing-a-ma-jig, and by sometime in high school, I finally got curious enough to ask my mom where she got it. I figured it might have been her grandmother's, like the ancient loaf pans we use for pumpkin bread. So I was completely surprised - confused, even - when she said it had belonged to Grandma B, DaddyBob's mom.

My memories of Grandma B don't include her in the kitchen, because I never knew her as the woman she was before Alzheimer's disease. DaddyBob says that Grandma B used that cookie press to make Christmas cookies, and so I now have a glimpse of who she was before the dementia changed her.

That's a pretty neat contraption - it makes cookies AND helps a granddaughter and grandmother who hardly knew each other connect in a way they never could in life. Making spritz cookies has always been special to me for this connection.

Katie and I now have our own cookie press for our own Christmas baking extravaganza.  I love making spritz dough; it comes together so quickly and has just the right amount of almond flavor to make the cookies melt in your mouth, but not overwhelm you. When we were small, Katie, Mama B and I made Christmas trees and candy canes and stars; mine and Katie's favorites are now Christmas trees and poinsettias. The red and green together are so festive.

Another reason I love these cookies is because over the years, spritz cookies have become one of the Christmas cookies I'm responsible for. Somehow, the spritz cookies have chosen me as their keeper, for while mine turn out well, the cookie press never works for Kate. Sometimes, I like to think of it as Grandma B's special gift to me, and me alone. Thanks, Grandma!


Spritz Cookies
slightly adapted from Betty Crocker
Makes about 5 dozen cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
red and green food coloring
sprinkles or sparkling sugar for decorating

1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cream butter and sugar together.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Add food coloring if desired.

3. Place dough in cookie press and form cookies on ungreased cookie sheets.  Decorate with sprinkles.  Bake for 5 minutes, until cookies are set but not brown.

4. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute, then place on wire racks to cool completely.

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