Spritz cookies are a holiday staple. The buttery cookies get their shape from a cookie press, a gun-like tube with design templates that squeeze cookie dough into shapes the way a pastry bag squeezes icing.

If you don't have a cookie press, you can still make spritz cookies; they just won't have the familiar star, flower, wreath, Christmas tree and other designs.

Peppermint Spritz

11/2 cups butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1 egg

1 tsp. peppermint extract

31/2 cups all-purpose flour

Red or green food coloring (optional)

Colored sugar for decorating (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.

3. Add granulated sugar and baking powder; beat until combined. Scrape sides of bowl as needed.

4. Add egg and peppermint extract; beat until combined. Also add food coloring if using a single color for the whole batch.

5. Add flour; beat until combined.

6. Fill cookie press and stamp out cookies onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle dough with colored sugar if desired.

7. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are firm but not brown.

8. Let cookies cool on a wire rack.

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A few caveats: Although the Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook (14th Edition) says this recipe makes "about 84 cookies," I found it made 144 cookies. I hope you like spritz cookies.

Also, watch your first batch carefully. In my oven, 7 minutes was enough to start browning the cookie edges.

A note about coloring the dough -- if you don't want 144 cookies in a single color, split the dough in half after adding 2 cups of flour. The dough will be creamy at that point and divide easily. Take half out of the mixing bowl and set aside. Add the color you want to the half in the bowl; mix until combined. Add 3/4 cup of flour to finish off that half of the dough. Repeat the process with the second color and the other half of the dough.

If you don't like peppermint-flavored cookies, replace the teaspoon of peppermint extract with a teaspoon of vanilla and an optional 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract.

For Chocolate Spritz cookies, reduce the flour to 3 1/4 cups and add 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder with the granulated sugar.

-- Reach Mel Barber at mbarber@yorkdispatch.com.