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Spitzbuebe (Swiss Christmas Cookies)

The other day, Nathan and I finally watched the movie ‘Hot Fuzz,’ a British comedy/parody of Hollywood-blockbuster-style buddy-cop flicks. e.g. ‘Bad Boys’, ‘Point Break’. The movie started out a bit slow but then ended up being one of the funniest movies I’ve seen.

How does this relate at all to Christmas cookies? It doesn’t really, except that Spitzbuebe means ‘bad boys’, so I would have that stupid ‘Bad boys bad boys, whatcha gonna do …’ song in my head when I make these. Hopefully, that won’t happen to you. Anyway, Spitzbuebe are light and buttery shortbread cookies sandwiching a layer of raspberry jam and dusted with confectioners’ sugar. The only downside to them is that these delicate little things get stale relatively easily, so you can’t really keep them around for the whole holiday season. But this makes them the perfect cookies to bring to holiday parties and dinners!

Spitzbuebe cookies are a bit labor- and time-intensive to make at home, because you need to keep dough relatively cold or it becomes really difficult (read: sticky) to work with. What this means is that you can only work with a little bit of dough at a time, forcing you to bake in multiple small batches versus a few big batches.

One trick I’ve found to keep the dough cold, especially if you have a warm kitchen, is to stick a rimless cookie sheet in the freezer and use that as your work surface when rolling out the dough. Whenever you put another batch of cookies in the oven and are waiting for them to bake (~12 min), put the cookie sheet back in the freezer to rechill it for the next round of dough work.

Recipe adapted from the Dec 2006 issue of Saveur magazine. Since I think most home cooks own at most 1 or 2 baking sheets, I’ve changed the steps accordingly.

¾ lb (3 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar (do not try to substitute regular, granulated sugar)
3 egg yolks
3½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup raspberry preserves

Make the dough: In a large bowl (if using hand mixer) or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and 1½ cups sugar. First, use a low setting to combine the two ingredients and avoid getting powdered sugar everywhere. Once the sugar has been incorporated into the butter, increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy.

Add egg yolks one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition.

Reduce speed to low and add flour ½ cup at a time, beating after each addition to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with plastic spatula. Then stir the dough around one final time.

Lay a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and scrape all the dough onto one side of it. Fold over the plastic wrap and gently mold the dough into a rectangle. Wrap the whole thing in plastic, put on a large plate, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 325F. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper. Break off a chunk of chilled dough and leave the rest in the fridge, rewrapped in plastic wrap.

Form the cookies: Keeping your work surface and the dough lightly floured all the time, gently work the little piece of dough with a rolling pin, warming it up a bit. Once the dough becomes pliable, roll it out to a larger piece. I like to roll mine to about ⅛” thick, so you can start there and after baking your first batch, you can decide if you want to make them thicker or thinner. Cut out 3″ circles with a cookie cutter and transfer them to baking sheets, leaving about 1″ space between cookies. Gather all the dough scraps together and either re-roll it out to make more cookies (if you still have room on the baking sheets) or put back in the fridge to save for a later batch. Cut out a 1″ hole in the center of half of the cookies. These will become the tops where the jam will show through.

Bake the first batch of cookies until just pale golden (NOT golden brown), rotating the pans about halfway through. This should take about 10-12 min. Transfer to cooling racks, by moving the whole sheet of parchment with cookies still on them directly to the racks. Now you can reuse the baking sheet(s) (with new parchment paper) for the second batch of cookies. Once the second batch is done baking, the first batch will be cooled and you can transfer those to a plate, allowing you to reuse the parchment from the first batch of cookies. So, if you’re working with 2 baking sheets, you’ll end up using 4 sheets of parchment.

Assemble the cookie sandwiches: Once all the cookies are cooled (you can do this the same day or the next day), put the raspberry preserves in a small pot and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened and reduced by about a quarter, stirring often. This should take about 5 min. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.

To assemble cookies, set a batch of cookie tops on a surface and using a fine-mesh sieve, dust with powdered sugar. Spread a layer of preserves on the BOTTOMS (the side that was touching the baking pans) of the whole/non-holed cookies, to about ⅛” of the edges. Make a sandwich with a top and a bottom.

Usually, by the time I’m done with all the cookies, I run out of preserves and am too tired to do this last, optional step. But you can also transfer any remaining or additional preserves to a small plastic bag, snip off the end, and pipe a little more preserves into each hole.

Serve cookies immediately or arrange them in between layers of parchment or wax paper and store them in airtight container.


Yield: about 3 dozen cookies
Time: 2-3 hrs

7 Comments

  1. 1 September 2008 at 6:19 am

    Thank you for this recipe. I mention this Christmas cookie in my novel, The Unhewn Stone, which begins and ends on 23rd Dec in Bürglen, Uri. My hero, Stefan, has a scraggy old St. Bernard that he affectionately, and ironically, named Spitzbueb. Shortened to Spitz. — yes, I know this name is more appropriate for a lap dog, but Stefan’s Spitz is a rascal :).
    I have this wild idea that I’d like to serve Spitzbuebe and maybe even Chäschüechli at my book launch when it is released later this year.
    **May I use the cookie photo on my websites, please?
    Thanks again,
    Wendy Laharnar
    http://wendylaharnar.blogspot.com
    http://www.bebo.com/theunhewnstone

  2. Luciana said:
    1 December 2009 at 2:01 am

    I made your recipe last year for my family and they were a big hit! I had to really search to find your post again, but I am so glad I did. I will be giving out this cookie as gifts to all I know. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    • angi said:
      1 December 2009 at 4:25 am

      Hi Luciana,

      Thank you so much for the comment and I’m so happy you made these cookies! They’re a bit time- and effort-intensive but I think they’re worth it… in fact, your comment just reminded me that I should make these cookies again now that the holidays are near. :)

      By the way, in case it helps you find the recipe again, you can always click on the ‘Index of Recipes’ link on the homepage and you’ll see the recipes sorted by categories – these cookies are listed under ‘Sweet Things.’

      Happy holidays to you!
      Angi

  3. LIren said:
    16 December 2010 at 2:27 am

    Too late. I already have the “Bad Boys” song in my head. And it’s not going away (aaagh!).

    But wow, these cookies are just gorgeous, nothing at all like their name, unless of course, the tediousness is what is referenced. Thank you for the updated tips – that is definitely handy. While I wish I had more baking sheets, the fact is, I often find myself having to rotate batches, parchment paper, etc.! You make these cookies look so effortless – they came out beautifully!

    • angi said:
      17 December 2010 at 11:52 pm

      So sorry about getting that song in your head, Liren, but maybe cookies will cure it? :) These cookies are more tedious than others but I do love them so. Buttery, sugary, crunchy, and jammy – it’s got something for everyone, it seems.

  4. Luciana said:
    21 December 2011 at 8:49 am

    For the 4th year, I am making these delightful cookies. Your version is the best I have found with the best instructions! I did make them just a little differently this year, using one egg rather than 3 yokes and it worked beautifully. I end up making several batches, so having 12 eggs worth of whites is too much for me. I received this note from a friend:
    “OMG—this year’s batch is especially delicious. I have gorged myself and cannot stop eating!!!! Ahhhh! Thank you.”
    Thank you!

    • angi said:
      26 December 2011 at 11:59 pm

      You just made my holidays extra happy, Luciana! Thanks for the tip on using less eggs and saving on egg whites too. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season. :)

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