Spritz cookies elicit sweet memories of childhood
Last updated 12/9/2020 at 3:13pm | View PDF
Several years ago I found a reprint of a vintage Betty Crocker cookie cookbook at Yankee Peddler - the very same one my mom had when I was a kid. I later regretted not purchasing it. But then I found my mom's old volume, which is even better.
The "Cooky Book," as it's titled, was first published in 1963. My mom was not much of a baker, so we got out the book exactly once a year, at Christmastime.
My favorite part of the cookbook then (and now!) is the photos - full-page pictures of beautiful cookie arrangements and ones of individual cookies that run across the bottom of many pages. My eyes were always drawn to the fancier, more complicated cookies in the shapes of candy canes and Christmas bells and gingerbread boys and girls.
My childhood enthusiasm for fancy cookies persisted into adulthood, and more than once I've decided to act on it.
One year I made gingerbread reindeer cookies. Gingerbread has long been a favorite of mine, and when I saw a photo of the adorable reindeer with the white piping, I knew I had to make them.
I grew to hate that white piping. I hadn't really thought about how many legs reindeer have. Or all those antlers. Or that I don't have much experience piping icing, which makes for slow, tedious work.
Four years ago I was tempted by Martha Stewart's cinnamon log cookies. The cookies tasted good, and the experience generated enough copy for a December column. Unfortunately I spent more than four hours making cookies that were supposed to take 45 minutes. Even with that time investment, mine were more square than round.
I think this is why, despite my entreaties every year, my mom always selected the same reliable cookies for us to bake - holiday spritz. (To be fair, I think she let us make cutout sugar cookies one year, but only once.)
My mom liked the practicality of the spritz cookie. Mix up the five ingredients to make the dough, put it in the cookie press, twist the top a few times, and voilá! Perfect stars and Christmas trees pop out of the cookie press. No rolling pin or cookie cutters are necessary.
Mom let me have a little fun, dying some of the dough red and some green and sprinkling on colored sugar before we put them in the oven.
I have no complaints about spritz cookies. They are delicate and buttery and small enough that you can eat several without feeling too guilty. But let's face it, they are not very exciting.
Even today, as I flip through the cookbook's pages, I am more intrigued by thumbprint cookies filled with delicious raspberry jam or chocolate pinwheels or cherry almond macaroons.
But this year I will return to the tried-and-true spritz recipe on Page 21. I've ordered a new cookie press that will generate a dozen different designs. I'll make sure I have red and green food coloring and holiday sprinkles on hand.
And while I'm baking, I'll think of Mom. She won't be able to enjoy any of the cookies this year, as she'll be celebrating an amazing first Christmas up in heaven. I expect the memories I have of baking cookies with her when I was kid will make this batch extra sweet.
- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected]