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Archive for Monday, December 19, 2011

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Shoot ‘em up: With the right technique, cookie guns can produce rounds of treats

A cookie gun (or press) can be a handy tool for a Christmas cookie enthusiast.

A cookie gun (or press) can be a handy tool for a Christmas cookie enthusiast.

December 19, 2011

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Breaking Out the Big (Cookie) Guns

Sarah Henning gives a tutorial on how to use a cookie gun, which can be handy for cranking out cookies this holiday season. Enlarge video

Spritz cookies are one of the most buttery, delicate and delicious holiday traditions.

The little treats are basically sugar cookies, but instead of being formed by a rolling pin and cookie cutters, the dough is pressed through a “cookie gun,” also called a cookie press.

Never heard of one? They’re basically like those toys you can buy to enhance your child’s Play-Doh collection. You pick a shape you want your cookie to be, load an empty shaft full of dough and then “press” the dough through a disc template.

If you’ve never used a cookie gun before (or have tried and failed) but have designs on making an army of these little wonders, we’ve got some tips to keep your cookie gun experience from backfiring.

It’s all about the dough. When tackling spritz cookies, make sure you use a recipe specifically suited for a cookie gun. Don’t try to just adapt your favorite sugar cookie recipe. The dough has to be just the right consistency — not too dry, not too wet — to make it unscathed through the chute and well-formed on the cookie sheet.

Thus, be careful your dough doesn’t dry out while you’re working your way through the batch. You may want to keep your bowl of dough covered with a moistened dish towel as you work so that it doesn’t dry out in between “rounds” in your cookie gun.

Taking shape. Cookie guns generally come with several metal template discs for you to use to form your cookies. Some of these work better than others, so you might want to use your first cookie tray as a test for different shapes. Make a row in each design that catches your eye. This will take a bit of time because you’ll be switching out discs, but it’ll be worth it to see what shapes cook up in a way you like and what doesn’t work well for you. You can also play around with decoration and see what you like (see below for suggestions).

Let yourself do it over. The best thing about the cookie gun method? You can always scrap an ugly cookie, ball it up and shove it back into the shoot with the rest of the dough.

There are two types of cookie guns: manual and mechanical. I have both. I prefer my manual one because I have more control. That said, more control also means more room for error. If you are using a manual gun, you may have to work yourself into a rhythm with each “round” of dough. Some shapes may end up distorted or too thick or too thin. If this happens, keep going until you’ve worked your way through the dough. Then, pick up the misshapen cookies, roll them in a ball and shove the ball back into your gun’s shoot, along with more fresh dough. You don’t have to settle for a misshapen cookie.

Use parchment or a Silpat. In general, spritz cookie recipes make a lot of tiny cookies. The recipe I’ve included here makes six to seven dozen. When working in that volume, and with cookies that bake so quickly, I’ve found that you should do whatever you can to ease the transition between the oven and the cooling rack.

At the top of my list to make this easier? Parchment paper. My preferred method is to have two cookies sheets in the oven and two out of the oven in rotation. But sometimes this isn’t possible, and, even if it is, adding parchment paper or a reusable Silpat to your cookie sheet will help you on a lot of levels. While you could just grease each sheet, adding a removable physical barrier really speeds up time, and allows you to reuse cookie sheets without having to deal with charred dough/sprinkles getting baked on to the pan or screwing up how your second-batch cookies look. Plus, because there is such a fine line between these cookies being perfect and being overdone, the physical barrier most definitely improves your chances of getting through an entire seven-dozen batch without blackened bottoms.

It’s not 100 percent easy. Though you’re using a cookie gun to help you form the cookies, it’s still hard work. If you have a manual one, your hand will tire out. If you have an electric one, it’s a bit easier, but you might find yourself spending a lot of time trying to perfect your cookies because you have less control.

Don’t forget adornment. My preferred spritz cookie adornment is just some colored sugar, sprinkled on top of the cookies before putting them in the oven. I generally just sprinkle red or green colored sugar straight on the unbaked dough, though I know some folks prefer putting an egg wash on the dough first. You can also dip finished cookies in melted milk, dark or white chocolate.

Recipe

Classic Spritz Cookies

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 cups butter softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (clear, if possible)

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (clear, if possible)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk, vanilla and almond extract; mix well. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat until combined. Do not chill. Fill cookie press with dough and with desired disks, press cookies onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet on cooling rack. Remove from sheet; cool completely. Yields 7-8 dozen cookies.

Note: Serve them plain, sprinkled with decorations or sugars, frosted or dipped in melted candy!

— Recipe from www.wilton.com

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