For a number of reasons, spritz are a serious contender for the title of my favorite cookie. They suit my taste exactly; crisp, made primarily of butter, perfectly balanced with a nice hit of vanilla and salt. Best of all, they appeal to the geeky, perfectionist baker in me, because learning to make perfect spritz cookies is a marathon, not a sprint, and I'm still only on mile 13. I love a good challenge in the kitchen.
There are a few different reasons that spritz lay down the gauntlet for bakers. First, the dough must be mixed using careful, specific techniques to ensure that the cookies will hold their shape in the oven and be so crisp that they snap between your teeth and melt on your tongue. Then, once you've got the dough perfected, you're presented with the challenge of piping the dough into detailed, uniform cookies using a tool called a dough press. Piping the cookies effectively involves a lot of trial and error to get it right, but it's incredibly satisfying when you finally get it.
Here are some dos and don'ts for making spritz:
- Cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly before beating in the egg, and then give it another lengthy creaming.
- Mix in the flour by hand to avoid over-developing the dough (which makes for a tough cookie)
- Only pipe the dough onto cold, clean metal sheet trays each time.
- Get a rhythm going as you pipe and move rapidly.
- Skimp on mixing in the early stages, with the butter, sugar, eggs, and flavoring.
- Overmix after you've added the flour.
- Use non-stick pans, parchment or silpats (the dough needs to stick when piping).
- Re-use pans without washing them and drying them thoroughly.
For detailed step-by-step tips, click through the slideshow before you get started. Remember, this is a challenging cookie, but as with any race worth running, getting there is half the fun. (And this is a delicious race all the way.)