The jewel of the Swiss Christmas cookie tray is surely the Spitzbuben, with its elegant dusting of powdered sugar and bright ruby centre. According to the Kulinarisches Erbe, Spitzbuben are a relatively modern cookie in Switzerland, and were likely developed and named in the 20th century. The term Spitzbub refers to a mischievous boy, and the cookies may be so named because jammy faces were originally cut into the dough.
The ideal cookie base is crispy and buttery. Elisabeth Fülscher, who was one of Switzerland's premier home economists, uses a Mürbeteig, and excellent pictorial instructions are provided here. My mum sent me her recipe, which is similar to Fülscher's, save for the addition of egg yolks. Fillings vary—I always prefer raspberry, my mum goes for the traditional red currant, and this year my unconventional friend Carmen filled hers with chocolate and caramel. Not bad!
But who says Spitzbuben shold have all the fun? Here's my recipe for the female equivalent, Luusmeitschi.
375 g flour
125 g sugar
pinch of salt
250 g butter, cold
2 egg yolks
Mix the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. Add the cold butter in pieces and rub into the flour mixture with your fingers until it is quite sandy.
Separate the yolk into a small bowl and break it up with a fork. Pour this into the sandy mixture and use the fork to mix the dough until it comes together into a ball. Separate the dough into three discs and wrap in plastic. Let cool in the fridge for an hour.
When you are ready to roll:
Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F / gas mark 4
Roll out dough to be about half a cm thick and cut out cookies, trying not to work the dough too much when you re-roll, and leaving any dough that you are not using in the fridge. In half of the cookies, cut an additional hole (or three) to make the top.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden.
Separate the tops from the bottoms. Dust powdered sugar over the tops. Smear a little jam (about half a teaspoon) on the bottom half and gently press the two parts together.
If you tend to have warm hands, take a break while rubbing in the butter so as not to melt it. Just pop the bowl in the fridge and run your hands under cool water for a minute.
Try to roll out the dough within a couple of hours of cooling, as longer in the fridge will dry it out. An hour is sufficient, but if you need to make it in advance, you can freeze the dough—just leave it in the fridge overnight to defrost.
Although jam is traditional, any filling will do. Nutella? Peanut butter? (to my mother's horror...)
Don't use too much jam and don't spread it all the way to the edges. A small blob in the centre is enough.
These cookies will keep for about a week before they start to dry out. Store them alone in their own container and not with other cookies.