Sunday, January 12, 2014
Good spritsen, that is, are hard to forget. Unfortunately bad ones are too. They continue to linger on the brain as well as on your taste buds. Those are the ones made with margarine, or sweeteners, or cheap chocolate. These imitators leave an odd taste in the mouth, a funky layer on your teeth and don't do the sprits any justice. Oddly enough, these sprits simulators are mostly baked commercially and are sold in large amounts from supermarkets, grocery stores and *gasp* even professional bakeries!
That's why it's so surprising that so few people bake their own sprits (originally a German cookie that is piped or pressed, gespritzt) at home. The ingredients are few, but should be of top quality. The dough is easily put together and the cookies bake in less than twenty minutes. Enough time to brew a fresh batch of coffee or boil water for tea, take the mugs out of the cupboard and invite the neighbor lady over. In the old days you could just knock on the wall and she'd know the coffee is ready, but with all these modern insulation techniques that is a thing of the past.
It's easiest to pipe the cookie dough through a star-shaped tip, but ultimately, it doesn't matter much what shape or size you give it. Just make them all the same size and height so that they can bake off at the same time.
2 sticks quality butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose or cake flour
2 teaspoons lemon zest (optional)
Cream the butter and the sugar into a pale, fluffy mass. Add the salt, stir once or twice, then add the whole egg and stir it with the paddle or by hand until the egg has been fully incorporated. Now mix in the vanilla extract. Sift the flour and divide it in two halves: add one half at a time to the butter and stir until it's absorbed. At this point you can stir in the lemon zest if you'd like.
Transfer the soft dough to a piping bag outfitted with a large star tip. Pipe the dough moving left to right on parchment paper, or pipe individual cookies. Just make sure they're approximately the same height and volume, so they can bake at the same time. .
Heat the oven to 350F. Place the parchment paper on a baking sheet and place it in the hot oven. They should turn color in about fifteen minutes, and are ready as soon as the edges start to color golden. If you baked long strips, you can cut these in individual portions (approx 3 or 4 inches) immediately when the cookies come out of the oven. Let them cool while you brew some fresh coffee or tea, and look forward to enjoying the fruits of your labor!