Spitzbuben (pronounced Spitz-bu-ben, for audio click here) cookies originated in Switzerland and gradually became popular in Germany. There are quite a few variations on them too, with some recipes using ground almonds or hazelnuts, whilst others are completely nut free. I chose to use almond meal in mine, as it gives the cookies a lovely flavour as well as giving structure, which is important in gluten free baking. Of all the different cookies, that I’ve made this holiday season, these have definitely been the boy’s favourite. Although, just to be different, our eldest had more of a preference for the spiced Pfeffernüsse!
These Spitzbuben cookies are a delicious almond flavoured shortbread, which are light in both flavour and texture. They are then sandwiched between a layer of jam and dusted with icing sugar. Although very crisp, on the first day they’re baked, they soften over the next few days and develop a wonderful melt-in-your-mouth texture. Traditionally these cookies were cut using a fluted flower shaped cutter, but you can use any shape cutter you have on hand. I also found that by bringing the jam to the boil, this helped it to set thicker once cooled, which meant the cookie base didn’t soften as quickly.
I must say that I had a bit of a chuckle when I read that Spitzbuben translates literally to “Little Rascals” in English! I’m not too sure why they would be called this? Although, perhaps it’s because only little rascals would dare to sneak one out of the cookie jar, while no one else was watching! Fortunately for me though, no matter how fast or slow they try to open the door, I know exactly when one of my ‘not so’ little rascals is in my pantry. Both doors have creaking hinges, which helps gives them away every time. But, boys will be boys, so they still like to try.
The amount of cookies you get, from your batch of dough, will depend up on the size of the cookie cutters you use, which in turn dictates how much jam you’ll require too. My round fluted cutter measured 6cm (approx. 2½ inches) and my square cutter measured 5cm (approx. 2 inches), with measurements being taken at the widest point. My love heart cutter measured just under 6cm (approx. 2½ inches), with the measurement being taken from where the heart joins at the top, through to the pointed tip at the bottom. I like to use all three cutters when making mine, as it makes a lovely combination of the different shaped sandwich when doing it this way.
For accurate cup measurements, I sift the potato starch and icing sugar before measuring, so that there are no lumps/clumps. All cup measurements are firmly packed.
Recipe Update: I’m currently using the Bob’s Red Mill brand of xanthan gum, as I’m no longer able to buy the Nu-vit brand. I have found by using this brand, I’ve needed to increase the xanthan gum by an extra ⅛ teaspoon. I have also found with the different gum, that I’ve needed to increase the length of time the dough needs to be refrigerated from 60 to 90 minutes.
Important Note: we have quite warm to hot days here in Australia during the festive season, which can make handling and rolling cookie dough quite tricky. If it is a particularly warm day, first roll out the dough as mentioned, before placing it back in the refrigerator and allowing it to chill for another 10 minutes, or until well chilled. This will make cutting and working with the cookie dough a lot easier.
I made 30 sandwich cookies. However, you may make more or less, depending on the size your cookie cutters.
144g (5.1 ounces or 1 cup) pure icing sugar (I use this brand)
96g (3.4 ounces or ¾ cup) superfine white rice flour
91g (3.2 ounces or ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon) almond flour/meal
55g (1.9 ounces or ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon) potato starch
40g (1.4 ounces or ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon) tapioca starch
35g (1.2 ounces or ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon) corn starch
½ teaspoon (2.5ml) plus ⅛ teaspoon (3.125ml) xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon (1.25ml) salt
140g (4.9 ounces or ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons) gluten and dairy free butter
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons (10ml) pure vanilla extract
Pure icing sugar, to dust
Approximately 70g (2.5 ounces or a scant ¼ cup) of apricot jam, warmed
Approximately 180g (6.3 ounces or ½ cup) raspberry jam, or jam of choice
Sift all the dry ingredients together into a bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and vanilla, before adding this and the butter to the dry ingredients. Work the dough with your fingers, rubbing the butter into the flour, until you have the consistency of breadcrumbs. Then work the mixture a little more with your hands, until it comes together in a ball.
Divide the dough in half and wrap it in plastic wrap, before refrigerating for 90 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 160C and line 2-3 trays with baking paper/parchment.
Work with one ball of dough at a time, leaving the other in the refrigerator, until you’re ready to use it. Remove from the refrigerator and roll the dough, between two pieces of baking paper/parchment, to 3mm in thickness. However, if it’s a particularly warm day, please follow the instructions in the notes above.
Cut out the shapes, peel away all the surrounding dough and set aside to reuse. Gently peel the biscuits off the baking paper/parchment, which should come away quite easily, and transfer them to the prepared trays. You can put them quite close together, about 3cm apart, as they don’t spread too much during baking.
Now use the smaller cutters to remove the centre from half of your cookies, which will become the tops when you sandwich them together. I find it easier to do this on the trays. That way, the cookies that have the middles cut out don’t loose their shape, while being transferred to the tray. The place pieces you cut out to your ball of dough, to reuse later.
Continue rolling the dough and cutting out the shapes, until the trays are full. Just ensure you refrigerate the rest of the dough until it’s needed, When the dough gets warm it does become a little harder to work with, so just pop it back in the refrigerator to chill.
Bake for approximately 12-13 minutes, they will be lightly brown around the edges. Once baked and removed from the oven, allow the cookies to cool on their trays for 3 minutes, before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Your cookies will have a slightly wrinkled surface, but don’t worry. You won’t see the wrinkles after you’ve dusted them with icing sugar.
Next, add the raspberry jam to a small saucepan and bring to the boil, before taking it off the heat. Then strain the jam through a sieve, to remove the seeds, and allow this to cool for about 8-10 minutes.
Warm up the apricot jam, before brushing it over the top of your base cookies. You then sandwich them together, with the ones’ which have the cut out shapes in the top.
Then using a fine mesh sieve, lightly dust the cookies with icing sugar.
Add the cooled jam to a piping bag, fitted with a small plain nozzle, and pipe enough jam to fill in the cut out shapes. If you didn’t want to pipe the jam, you can of course use a teaspoon. However, piping it makes this task so much quicker.
Just allow them to set completely, before eating.
Store in an airtight container. I like to put a layer of baking paper/parchment between each layer, so they don’t stick to each other.
Recipe by: The Gluten & Dairy Free Bakehouse
Note: all recipe oven temperatures shown are for a fan forced electric oven. Please refer to the below guide to help you adjust your oven accordingly. This recipe is shown in bold.
Oven Temperatures Chart
130C = 110C fan = 250F = Gas mark 1
150C = 130C fan = 300F = Gas mark 2
160C = 140C fan = 325F = Gas mark 3
180C = 160C fan = 350F = Gas mark 4
190C = 170C fan = 375F = Gas mark 5
200C = 180C fan = 400F = Gas mark 6
220C = 200C fan = 425F = Gas mark 7
230C = 210C fan = 450F = Gas mark 8