Thursday, December 9, 2010


 My husband found a beautiful little tree, put it in a stand and set it on a low table. We felt the tree was so perfect it didn’t need decorations. As I sat on the floor unpacking the boxes from home, when I came to a birthday gift for me, I put it under the little tree. We always had the birthday tree after that. One time it was a white tree with all blue lights. For the years we were in Oklahoma City we also had a small tree on the buffet which sheltered all the food from home. Dorothy Dobson, c. 1990

I found the following recipe for Spritz Cookies in Mother's oldest recipe box -- the one from the '30s.

2 1/4 c sifted flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 c shortening (part butter)
3/4 c sugar
1 egg (or 3 egg yolks), broken
1 tsp almond extract
Sift flour with baking powder and salt. Cream shortening, add sugar gradually, beat 'til light and fluffy; add eggs and almond extract. Add dry ingredients; work with hands if dough seems crumbly. Force dough through cookie press onto ungreased sheets. Bake at 400 -- 7 to 10 minutes -- until set but not brown. 6 dozen.
And "force" was the word, too. My mother didn't work out (a term unknown in that day, wasn't it?) and  she  wasn't a particularly strong woman, but at Christmastime she could force that dough through the manual cookie press with the best of them. My sister, Nina, was often there to help, but I remember Mother handled the press. She formed strips of dough into wreaths and canes -- most important -- and also camels, stars, and trees. We painstakingly cut red and green candied cherries and used the pieces to decorate the cookies. We also used "red hots" and colored sugar. 

Even then -- in childhood -- I knew this was a tradition I would never adopt. So much time and effort into something that disappears into the mouth and is gone forever. I know, I know -- there are many people who find satisfaction in this work, and I'm so glad. It's just not my thing and I admit it. I do have a cookie shooter that I use very occasionally.

When I first saw "Pinkie" amongst the 1946 Christmas cards, I thought surely it was a mistake., but as you can see, the greeting inside the card is meant for Christmas.On the back is a notation: "adaptation of a precious old masterpiece." KW


Leah said...

Kathy: Maybe your mom baked so much when you were litle because everyone in that generation did. It was a different time as we all know.

I saw the original Pinkie at the Huntington Library/Museum in San Marino, CA, near L.A. Both Pinkie (57 in. x 39 in.) and Blue Boy (70 in. x 44 in.) were displayed together. They were so large that I was stunned. When I stood just a few feet in front of them, I understood why they are so's their spectacular beauty. In grade school in the 1940's we were given little 3 x 5 glossy copies of many art treasures when we studied art history. Pinkie and Blue Boy were among these little prints. To be able to see the actual paintings was a joy.

debdog42 said...

I loved your mom's spritz and she gave me the recipe one year when I asked, it's different from the one you posted. I try to make them most every year and they old spritz "gun" I have has a handle that works by squeezing down on it. I however do not decorate them like grandma did! LOL! I don't even make wreaths, I prefer trees and a disc that makes little "people". Sometimes I sprinkle them with sugar but they are good plain.

Kathy said...

I think you're right about the baking, Leah. Everyone did. And Christmas goodies were special -- we had those only once a year. And in the '50s, Mother delivered perhaps half a dozen plates of cookies to friends and neighbors. And if carolers came to the door -- as happened at least twice, a plate of cookies would be passed to them.

I wonder if Pinkie and Blue Boy weren't especially recognizable to the American public. Seems like those images were often presented. For instance, I remember a two-pack set of playing cards -- one Pinkie, the other Blue Boy.

Chris said...

Well, I've already made one batch of spritz and thinking I might make another very soon. Dan and I both love them.

I had a bit of trouble with my first batch last year, but then I realized I hadn't let my butter soften enough. Now my Pampered Chef cookie press turns them out with nary a problem. I like to make the wreathes and I do decorate them with some red and green sprinkle shapes I got at a shop in Boise. I used to use the candied cherries, but these are much easier as there is no cutting. I also make trees and flowers and the flat, corrugated "magic carpets" as we call them. A shake of colored sprinkles on them and we're good to go.

Kathy said...

Mother sought better recipes as time went on. If we wanted to compare, I would start with the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook published in 1950. That was the one she used most.

debdog42 said...

The recipe she gave me is from Better Homes and Gardens, is called Swedish Spritz and uses orange extract. I always wondered why the cookies tasted so good! I'm sure this is the recipe she used since I first met her.

drMolly, the BeanQueen said...

My mum made these, too, & I remember them as a part of Christmas along with the gingerbread boys and the fruitcake. Lovely, lovely memories!!

Leah said...

Pinkie and Blue Boy took on a life of their own. They have entered pop culture since they are parodied in art today. Read what Wikipedia has to say about them and even tells how people began to link them together in their minds, even though they were painted by different artists. The English people aren't happy that we have them here in America. I'm not even going to get into that.

Leah said...

Speaking of once a year baking, I think of all the things we do for the holidays...Christmas cards, buying gifts, shipping packages, music events, parties, decorating the house, trimming the tree, outdoor lights, etc. etc. We all spend way too much money and are regretful in January!

In Calif, Palm trees are decorated...not at the top...that's too high. Little strings of white ights are wrapped around the very tall and bare trunks in a spiral fashion.

Since coming to Calif, I've worked with people from all over the world. When you try to explain what we do in America during December, you step back and say, "This is too much work!"