Butter stuff. That’s the literal translation of Butterzeug, my favorite cookie. Mom made them for Christmas, sealing them in airtight containers and storing them on the screened porch. We’d sneak out and steal a few every day, so that by Christmas Eve, the confectionary vessel contained hints of cookies past, a legion of crumbs flanking a lone Plätzchen. I still like to eat them chilled, recreating the criminal delight I took in devouring winterized goodness. You can feel free to eat them however and whenever you like because butter stuff has a place in every season.
Butterzeug requires the use of Butterschmalz. Say that 5 times, really fast. Come on. I dare you.
Butterschmalz is clarified butter. You may also know it as ghee. Right now, you’re thinking, “Screw it. I’ve got plenty of regular butter in the fridge. I’ll just make these without that cockamamie stuff.” To which I reply, in a heavy German accent, “NEIN! Don’t you dare!”
If you’ve ever taken a whiff of butterschmalz, you’ll know that it has a gorgeous, nutty aroma that’s knee melting. That’s one thing it’s got going for it, a glorious scent and flavor. Also know that butterschmalz or ghee or clarified butter is composed of milk solids, the moisture having been taken from the butter. This gives anything made with that nutty flavored beauty a longer shelf life. Less moisture, longer lasting butter stuff. It’s also got a higher smoking point, so you can use the leftovers for sautéing.
1 stick butter
¾ cup butterschmalz
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of half a lemon
1 egg yolk
3 ½ cups AP flour (plus a little extra for rolling)
Cream butters and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and egg yolk and cream again until fully incorporated. Add salt, vanilla and lemon zest and slowly add flour. Wrap in cling film and chill for about ½ hour.
Roll dough on a floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. You want these to be hearty cookies, not thin and whimpy things. They can be crumbly so adding a bit of thickness gives you stability. Using a flour dusted cookie cutter, stamp your cookies and space on the cookie sheet about an inch apart. These don’t really spread and if you refrigerate them for 20 minutes you’ll guarantee a lovely shape.
Bake at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t allow them to brown, it’s ok if the edges acquire a hint of golden.