Thursday, August 1, 2013

Spritz Cookies – It's All In The Bagging!

Spritz Cookies – It's All In The Bagging!

Author: Chef Todd Mohr
Spritz cookies are my favorite cookie at the holidays.  I don't make them any other time of the year, just as I don't watch "A Christmas Carol" or "The Grinch" in July.  These cookies bring back strong childhood memories for me, mostly of my Mom's frustration with her antique cookie press.
If I had only known how to use a pastry bag when I was 5, I would have helped ease some of that maternal angst.  The correct use of a pastry bag is an easier way to make spritz cookies, and it allows you to make many different shapes with one bag.
Just like the other cookies we've been talking about this week, the key to making cookies from scratch is in the mixing method.  The Creaming Method is most often used for cookies, and these holiday cookies are no different.
The creaming method means creaming together fat and sugar, adding eggs, then liquid, dry ingredients, and any nuts, spices, or seasonings at the end.  The first stage of this procedure is most important, adding air to the fat and sugar mixture for a light and crunchy cookie.
When butter and sugar are creamed together correctly, it should look like ice cream on the mixer paddle.  If the mixture is granular, sparkles, or crunches when you taste it, return to the mixture and continue to incorporate air until it's very light and fluffy.
Spritz cookie dough does not rest in the refrigerator like the cookies for Santa we made with sugar cookie dough.  Sugar cookie dough needs to be very firm to be rolled out and cut into shapes.  With bagged cookies, the dough needs to be soft enough to push through the pastry bag opening.
The correct way to hold a pastry bag is by pushing all the dough toward the tip and twisting the top of the bag to force the contents outward.  I'm right-handed, so I place the twisted end of the pastry bag between my thumb and fore-finger of my right hand.
Squeezing with my right hand is what pushes the dough toward the tip.  The mistake most people make is exerting too much pressure with their other hand, thus pushing the dough upward.  My left hand is used only as a guide, and doesn't do any squeezing at all.
With even pressure from my right hand and a gentle guide from my left, I create a small spiral of dough about 1 inch in diameter.  Coiling the spiral on top of itself, a final push downward then quickly upward will leave an attractive first portion of spritz cookies.
I can decorate with colored sugar, candy pearls, or ice cream sprinkles and bake them for beautiful cookies that ARE the definition of holiday baking for me and so many others.

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