Spritz Cookies

Spritz are perhaps the most versatile holiday cookies. This recipe uses almond paste, instead of ground almonds, which gives them an incredibly rich and delicate flavor, but also means the dough is perfectly smooth. This makes it ideal for using in a spritz press or piping bag to make any shape you desire. The almond-scented cookies are delicious fresh from the oven, but I actually prefer them the following day. This means they are perfect for sending as gifts in cookie tins.
  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 40 min
  • Prep: 30 min
  • Cook: 10 min
  • Yield: 80 small cookies
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Ingredients

1 package almond paste (depending on the brand, you will find it in 7 or 8-ounce packages)

1/3 cup sugar

2 egg whites (1/4 cup)

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Colored decorator sugar

Directions

  1. Break up the almond paste in the bowl of your mixer. Add the sugar and mix on medium-low speed, using the beater attachment, until the almond paste is broken up into small pieces. It may become smooth at this point, if the almond paste is very fresh. Add one egg white and continue mixing until the almond paste is very smooth. Scrape down the bowl and add the second egg, mix to incorporate. Add the softened butter and beat on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides, then mix in the almond extract. Add the flour and salt, mix on low speed just until it is incorporated and very smooth. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment. 
  2. Piping Bag Design: If you are using a piping bag to make the cookies, fit the bag with a large star tip and fill the bag about 1/3 full of the spritz dough. Squeeze the dough out into simple stars. If the dough is not coming out of the bag smoothly, you can squeeze it back into the mixing bowl and add a teaspoon or two of heavy cream. Mix and refill the piping bag. It doesn't matter what size your stars are, just be sure they are all the same size on the baking sheet. If you make some small and some large, they will not bake evenly. I use my finger, dipped in a little water, to smooth the center of the cookie. This way you can fill the tops with jam after they are baked. Sprinkle with colored sugar or leave them plain, depending on the look you want.
  3. Spritz Press Design: The best thing about a press is the variety of shapes you can easily achieve using just one dough. I selected a wreath shape, but my press has dozens of options. If you switch shapes, be sure you have all the same size cookies on one sheet or they will not bake evenly. Fill the press according to its instructions and press the cookies out onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Sprinkle with colored sugar or leave plain, depending on the look you want. Bake the cookies for about 5 minutes and then rotate the tray. If you are baking more than one tray at a time, then also rotate from top to bottom in the oven. Because the two trays may have different sized cookies, you will need to check for doneness frequently. The cookies are done when they just start to turn golden on the bottom. Remove from the oven and cool completely. You can add a dot of jam to the tops of the star shaped cookies or dip half the wreath in chocolate. Or, just leave them simple and let the almond flavor shine.

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