Great-great-grandma’s Cookies: The Sweet Taste of Tradition
Today I would like to share with you a Christmas cookie recipe an old family tradition that I always cherish when the holiday season comes into full swing. Every year in early December, we start baking what is famously known as Plätzchen (Christmas cookies) – just like many other German families do during this time of the year. As you know, I’m a tough cookie (pun intended) when it comes to staying up to date with the latest food trends. In this case, however, I stick to a hundred year old tradition! We use an heirloom recipe handed down for generations within my family. I first came across the recipe as a little boy when my granny used to bake these Plätzchen. I can still remember each year when the comforting smell of fresh-baked cookies would fill our home. According to my grandmother, she was actually originally given the recipe from her grandmother. Now that’s an old recipe!
The name of the cookies is Spritzgebäck (also known as “spritz cookies” in the US), referring to the way the cookie dough is applied to the baking tray using a piping bag.
My grandmother, Alwine, typically used a small hand-powered food grinder with a special disc applied to the front in order to make the cookies.
To prepare the cookies, you just need to follow a simple, basic recipe. This delicious holiday dessert is soft and buttery, yet crunchy. They can also be decorated with molten chocolate if desired – which I highly recommend.
For the dough you will need
- 250g butter
- 250g sugar
- 1 free range egg
- 375g all-purpose flour (no rising agents needed)
- 125g ground hazelnuts
- 1 vanilla bean
- zest of one lemon
- pinch of salt
- Beat the butter until light and fluffy, add the sugar and the egg and continue to beat for another minute. Personally, I use an kitchen machine for this.
- Then, change from the whisk to the dough hook and add flour, hazelnuts, vanilla bean and salt. Mix until dough has a uniform consistency. Be careful not to overwork the dough, stop the moment it has an even texture.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight.
- Take it out of the fridge the next day and let it sit at room temperature for a little while until it can be piped through a piping bag (do not leave it out too long, otherwise the dough will be too soft to form a proper shape).
- Meanwhile, brush a baking tray with butter and lightly sprinkle with flour. Now, dress the dough onto the tray through the piping bag in any shape you like: circles, straight lines, numbers, or letters, for example.
- Bake at 175°C for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
If you want to go the extra mile, dunk half of the cookie into molten chocolate coating and let it sit until dry. The soft, cold, sweet chocolate and the crunchy, nutty cookie make a truly sensational combo! If you want to store the cookies for a few weeks, that is, if you manage to somehow not eat all of them at once, store them in a box in a cool, dry place.
Baking and enjoying the cookies together is a tradition for my family.
I hope you enjoy some quality time with your own families during the holiday season. If you have a cookie recipe to share, please let me know!