I was invited to an online Christmas cookie exchange by Lynn Palermo of The Armchair Genealogist. Thank you, Lynn. I love cookie exchanges.
I'm bringing Spritz Cookies to share. It simply wouldn't be Christmas at our house without these festive and delicious cookies. They are so delicious and so small and so easy to eat that unless we quickly pack them off to the homes of neighbors and friends they disappear (and reappear around our middles).
My mom first made these 50 or more years ago when she found the recipe in a booklet with her new cookie press. It's her recipe that I still use. It makes many dozen and they are easy and quick to make -- 18 or 24 can fit on a cookie sheet. Because they don't spread much you can place them close together. The hardest part is cutting the cherries (if you choose to use cherries). The second hardest part may be (depending on your cookie press and baking sheet) getting the dough to stick to the sheet when pressing them.
You can make these without a cookie press by making tiny balls about 1/4" in diameter and placing 8 of them in a circle with a hollow center on the cookie sheet. They will bake together and form a cookie. I often have to do that with the last of the dough. It's easier to use a cookie press. You can choose the shape that looks like a flower or any of the other shapes. We think this shape works best because some of the other shapes with narrow parts or sharp angles brown too quickly. I often find cookie presses at our local second hand store for a dollar or two. I buy them whenever I see complete sets because I know my daughters will want to make these when they have families of their own.
When I made these with my mom when I was a child we sometimes colored the dough; or used red hots or nuts in the centers; or put sprinkles on top which looked great when we pressed a Christmas tree (using green dough). But by far our favorite was and still is the cherry in the center.
Here's the recipe:
1 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg or 3 egg yolks, unbeaten. Beat well.
Sift and add:
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
dash of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla (or almond extract)
Fill a cookie press and press onto ungreased cookie sheet (unless a greased cookie sheet holds them better). [I have no idea why but sometimes it works better one way and not the other.]
Cut maraschino cherries in halves or thirds and place in the center of each cookie.
Bake in 400-degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until set but not brown. They'll brown quickly so once you figure out the time to bake them, take them out immediately. In the photo above, the two in the center are about perfect. The ones at the top of the photo are just a tad overdone. Those ones will taste okay but not as good as the ones that aren't brown at the edges.