The pages are a little yellowed from years of use, but they’re still almost perfectly intact. She’s taken care to keep this book safe.
Jeannette Werle runs her finger across the writing, pointing to a letter “G.” The recipe is written in Spanish, and the handwriting screams, “12-year-old girl.”
“I remember trying to copy it just the way my grandmother used to write it. I couldn’t get it just right,” Werle laughs, as she leafs through the handmade cookbook her father gave her as a child.
Werle spent her childhood in Managua, Nicaragua—it was here she found her passion for baking, as she’ll say it, thanks to her sweet tooth. Werle remembers when her grandmother took her on a stroll through the village—she left Werle on a bench outside a little bakery, walked in and emerged with a bag of cookies. She joined Werle on the bench to share them, and that’s when it all began. “I remember thinking, ‘This is really good,’” she says.
To Werle’s surprise, the bakery not only belonged to a friend of her grandmother’s, but the recipe had originally been her grandmother’s—she had given it to her friend as a favor. “After that, she had me write down the recipe and bought me my first cookie press,” Werle says.
Over the years, baking has become a labor of love for Werle, too. Her parents passed away during her childhood, and she lived with her grandparents during the majority of her adolescence. Werle went to college in Cleveland—during the winters, she’d have to take long bus rides to and from campus. “I would get off the bus and walk into the house and there would be this nice, warm arroz con leche (rice pudding) waiting for me. She used to do little things like that.”
This recipe for traditional Spritz cookies has been tweaked a bit over the years from what her grandmother originally gave her, but Werle swears this one’s the best. She makes them every December to give away or to sell at her Cake Rack Bakery in Findlay Market. You don’t have to have a cookie press to make these, and you can garnish them as you please.
- 3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ tsp. scant salt
- 1 tsp. good vanilla extract
- 2 large egg yolks
- 3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- egg wash (made by beating egg white with 2 tsp. water)
- green decorating sugar
- candied cherries, sliced thin
STEP 1: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy.
STEP 2: Add the salt, vanilla and egg yolks. Beat until smooth.
STEP 3: Add the flour and beat the dough until it is just combined.
STEP 4: Pack the dough into a cookie press* fitted with the wreath disk and place cookies about one inch apart on a cool, ungreased baking sheet.
STEP 5: Brush the cookies lightly with egg wash, sprinkle them with sugar and arrange the cherry slices decoratively on them. Bake the cookies in the middle of the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are pale golden.
STEP 6: Loosen the cookies from the cookie sheet shortly after they are removed from the oven with a thin spatula. You can leave them on the cookie sheet to cool.
Makes 120 cookies. Cookies may be kept in an airtight container and stored for up to 2 months in freezer.
If you don’t have a cookie press, roll the dough into small balls and flatten by pressing a fork vertically and horizontally on each ball of dough.
Photos by Emily Maxwell