On the first day of Christmas, ¯¯ my true love gave to me ¯ Lily’s Swedish Vanilla Spritz.
I had long been searching for the perfect, tender, melt-in-the-mouth pressed cookie recipe when I encountered this one in the home of my Finnish mother-in-law, Ellen Hill Bradley. Ellen got it from her English mother-in-law, Lily Hawkinson Bradley—a lady of some distinction in the culinary arts. Where Lily got it, only heaven knows, but perhaps it was from a Swedish friend, as the Swedish reference has traveled with the recipe for many decades.
It’s as close to perfection as you will get—rich, buttery, and utterly delicious. Ellen, ever gracious and elegant, served these to afternoon guests alongside an antique silver teapot filled with freshly steeped Darjeeling. In memory of this real-life angel, who graced our lives with laughter, joy, and generosity, this is still the way I like them best.
This year for these cookies, I was inspired by the beautiful Christmas tree pictured below and chose silver, chartreuse, teal, ice, and sparkle as the color theme for the cookies and the gift packaging. It’s always fun to start with a visual idea or point of reference.
Lily’s Swedish Vanilla Spritz
This recipe corresponds to what in France is called a sable. Notice that there are no leaveners or egg whites. The addition of egg whites to this same formula produces a less tender cookie, although still delicious.
Spritz are one of the few Christmas cookie doughs that do not require chilling before forming. The dough must be very soft and at room temperature in order to easily force it through the cookie press. However, even though spritz are rather quick to produce, they are always better (rounder flavor, better texture) after several days or even weeks of proper storage. So do plan on making them well in advance of when you plan to serve them.
3 cups King Arthur’s unbleached, all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1½ cups fresh unsalted butter, cool room temperature (15 minutes out of the refrigerator)
1 cup superfine sugar
2 large eggyolks, cool room temperature, lightly beaten
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved
colored sanding sugar or sprinkles
silver luster or edible glitter
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1.In a medium mixing bowl, sift the flour and salt together. Reserve.
2.Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly, about 3 minutes, until lightened in color.
3.Add the egg yolks and vanilla bean seeds, and continue beating until creamy.
4.Add the flour mixture and mix very briefly in short bursts, only until incorporated.
5.Put the dough into a cookie press and force the cookies out onto a parchment paper-covered baking sheet.
6.If desired, either sprinkle with sanding sugar, or brush first with a little beaten egg white, and then sprinkle with sanding sugar. The latter method adds a shine to the top of the cookies and dissolves the sugar just a bit, which is a nice effect.
7.Bake on the middle rack of a 400° oven until set but not brown, about 9-10 minutes. The cookies should just be starting to color on the bottom. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks.
8.After cooling completely, store in air-tight cookie tins, with rounds of wax paper between layers, in a cool location. These cookies keep for weeks and actually improve with age. they may also be frozen for several weeks at least.
Makes about 9 dozen small cookies.
·Instead of vanilla bean seeds, add finely grated zest of 1 large lemon, lime, or orange along with a few drops of corresponding lemon, lime, or orange oil to the butter and sugar while creaming.
·Instead of vanilla bean seeds, add 1 tablespoon espresso power dissolved in 1 tablespoon of boiling water and cooled, along with 2 teaspoon vanilla extract to the creamed butter and sugar.
·Add a few drops of food coloring to the butter and sugar while creaming.
·Shape the dough into a 2-inch diameter log on a long sheet of plastic wrap, enclose in the wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. When the log is firm, remove the plastic wrap and roll the log in colored sprinkles or finely chopped almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, or walnuts. Cut scant ¼-inch disks and bake as directed above.
Come Back for More
Here is the LunaCafe Christmas 2008 Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies extravaganza. Beginning on December 1st, I will post daily until we complete the list on December 12th. If you bake along, one cookie a day, you will have a wonderful selection of holiday cookies to share with family and friends, with time to spare.
On the 1st day of Christmas: Lily’s Swedish Vanilla Spritz
On the 2nd day of Christmas: Orange Vanilla Sugar Cookies
On the 3rd day of Christmas: Triple Lemon Teacakes
On the 4th day of Christmas: Once in a Chocolate-Spice Moon Cookies
On the 5th day of Christmas: Peppermint Stick Shortbread
On the 6th day of Christmas: Lemon-Lime Clove Sugar Cookies
On the 7th day of Christmas: Almond Black Cherry Shortbread
On the 8th day of Christmas: Green Tea and Rose Spritz
On the 9th day of Christmas: Almond Butter Poinsettia Cookies
On the 10th day of Christmas: Lemon OrangePecan Thumbprints
On the 11th day of Christmas: Candy Cane Butter Cookies
On the 12th day of Christmas: Ellen’s Swedish Pepparkakor