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Former owner of Reinwald's Bakery in Huntington shares holiday cookie recipes

After decades of supplying German butter cookies and Spekulatius to Long Islanders, Richard Reinwald retired from professional baking in September and sold his eponymous Huntington village shop. 
This was terrible news for loyal customers who counted on Reinwald’s European specialties for Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations. The upside? He finally had time to adapt some of his beloved recipes for home bakers, and has generously shared them in time for this holiday season. 

Reinwald is a third-generation baker who grew up over the family shop. When he was in grammar school, he had to grease the pans before he could go out and play. As a teenager, he wouldn’t get much sleep after coming home late on Saturday night, because he had be in the bakery at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning. It’s no surprise that he headed to college with relief. “I wanted nothing to do with the family business.” 

That changed when he graduated in 1974. “My father was born in Germany and my mom was first-generation. My dad said to me, ‘We’re going to Germany for 6 weeks. You watch the business while we’re away. When I come back, you can do whatever you want.’ ” 

During that time, he realized that he loved baking. He never left. His dad sold him the business in 1978, and for many years he relished being his own boss and determining his own destiny.

Although Reinwald can bake a vast array of cakes, pastries and cookies, he is most famous for his authentic German specialties. His original Spekulatius boards were over 100 years old. On an October trip to Germany, he was interested to see an array of Christmas items in local bakeries that were very similar to his own, including anise drops, springerle and cinnamon stars. 

Professional and home baking are worlds apart. “When my boys were in Cub Scouts and they were doing a chocolate chip bake-off, I said, ‘Come to the bakery.’ I had all of the ingredients, all of the equipment. I just felt, why should I bake at home when I have a bakery?”

 For this story, he discovered he didn’t own a lot of basic baking equipment. He had to borrow a rolling pin. To make round cutouts he used the cap of an aerosol can. Accustomed to baking in large quantities and measuring with a scale, he scribbled pages of calculations to get the right yields and volume measurements. In the process, he discovered all over again his passion for the craft.

 These recipes were developed using a KitchenAid mixer with a 5-quart bowl, which can accommodate plenty of cookie dough for generous holiday baking. If your mixer is much smaller or less powerful, consider halving the recipes. 

Follow Reinwald’s expert advice for the best holiday cookies:

Use premium butter: Richard recommends baking with Plugra, President, or other European-style brands with a high butterfat content. He finds that cookies baked with high-fat brands hold their shapes well, which is especially important for items like Spekulatius, with their intricate designs, and for cutouts with sharp edges.

Soften butter overnight: Especially in winter, when our kitchens tend to be cool, it’s best to leave butter out overnight on the counter to properly soften. If butter is too cold and hard, it will be difficult to incorporate into cookie dough, resulting in crumbly dough and misshapen cookies.

Try bread flour: It might seem counterintuitive, but some cookies benefit from high-protein flour usually used in breads. Use bread flour or blend some bread flour with all-purpose flour for cookies that hold their shape in the oven and won’t crumble after baking.

Scrape the bowl: It’s essential to scrape the bottom and sides of your mixing bowl periodically as you make cookie dough. Otherwise, you’ll be left with unincorporated ingredients and lumpy dough.

Pick up pasteurized egg whites: Egg whites whip up better when they are left on the countertop overnight. For safety’s sake, Reinwald uses pasteurized egg whites (they come in a milk container) from the supermarket for his fluffy meringue cookies.

Scrub with salt: Egg whites must be whipped in a scrupulously clean bowl. To remove traces of grease, Reinwald recommends scrubbing the mixing bowl with salt — like you are rubbing spices on a turkey — then rinsing it well.

Spekulatius

Spekulatius, baked by Richard Reinwald, Oyster Bay, Nov.
Photo Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

It’s especially important for these cookies that the butter is soft. Reinwald lets his stand on the countertop overnight before making the dough. He uses a wooden mold that leaves an imprint on each cookie. If you don’t have a mold, use cookie cutters to make cutouts.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
4 cups bread flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup almond flour 
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon mace
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, softened 
1 large egg
1/4 to 1/3 cup milk 
 

HOW TO:


1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the bread flour, sugar, almond flour, cloves, mace, salt, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon and baking powder. Mix on low until blended.

 2. Add the butter, mix on low for 1 minute, then add the egg. Continue to blend on low speed until combined. 

3. With the mixer on low, slowly add the milk, a few drops at a time, reserving some. The mixture will be very dry, like wet sand. Continue to mix until the dough holds its shape when you squeeze it, drizzling in the reserved milk as necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic and let sit at room temperature overnight. 

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Knead dough a few times, adding a few drops more of milk if necessary, until smooth. Use Spekulatius boards to shape and cut. Alternatively, roll out to eighth-inch thickness and cut with cookie cutters.

 5. Place on prepared baking sheets and bake until the edges of the cookies are golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

Cutout cookies

Cut out cookies of Santas, candy canes, and
Photo Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

This recipe can be used to create cookies for Hanukkah or Christmas, using any kind of decorative icing to make them festive.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for rolling out the dough
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon milk

HOW TO:

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar and butter. Beat until just combined. Beat in egg on low speed until just incorporated. Do not overmix. Add the salt, vanilla and lemon extracts and mix on low until just incorporated. Add the flour, baking powder and milk. Mix on low speed until incorporated.

2. Turn the dough onto a work surface, shape into a log, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. 

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. 

4. Cut off a manageable piece of dough — this will depend on the size of your work surface. Dust your work surface generously with flour. Press the dough flat with your hands. Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour and roll out evenly, lifting the dough from the work surface occasionally and putting more flour down as necessary so it doesn’t stick. Roll it out to slightly more than a 1⁄8-inch thickness. You don’t have to measure it, but it should be pretty thin.

5. Dip cookie cutters of your choice in flour. Cut the dough into shapes, transfer to prepared baking sheets and bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely and decorate with icing as desired. Makes about 48 average-size cookies.

Meringue kisses

Merengue kisses baked by Richard Reinwald, Oyster Bay,
Photo Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Make sure the mixing bowl is grease-free for the fluffiest meringue. To clean it, Reinwald advises rinsing the bowl to moisten it, rubbing it with salt, then rinsing in hot water and drying. 

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
1 cup pasteurized egg whites, room temperature
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
Juice of 1/4 lemon, strained
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

HOW TO:

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the egg whites on medium-high speed until frothy. With the mixer on, add the sugar in a slow, steady stream, lowering the speed if necessary so the sugar doesn’t fly from the bowl, and turning back to medium-high. Mix in the lemon juice. Continue to whip until the whites hold firm peaks, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix another minute.

 2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (these don’t really bake as much as dry). Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit a pastry bag with a No. 5 or No. 6 star tip.

 3. Pipe kiss shapes onto prepared baking sheets. (If you’d like to use these cookies as tree ornaments, pipe them in circles so you can hang them with ribbons.) Bake until dry, 4 to 5 hours. Cool completely on baking sheets. Makes 20 cookies

German butter cookies

German butter cookies and nut cookies baked by
Photo Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
8 ounces almond paste
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
5 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2  teaspoon lemon or orange extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups bread flour
 
HOW TO:

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the almond paste, sugar and a splash of beaten eggs. Mix on low until a smooth paste forms. With a rubber spatula, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the softened butter, salt and vanilla and mix until there are no more lumps. Continue to mix, adding the eggs a little at a time, holding a little of the egg back and scraping down the sides of the bowl twice during mixing.

 2. Add the flours and mix on low. Add just enough of the remaining egg so the dough comes together, and continue to mix until incorporated.

3. Preheat oven to 360 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit a pastry bag with a No. 5 or No. 6 French tube (this is like a star tip but with twice as many points). Pipe dough onto prepared baking sheets in star, shell, stick or S-shapes. Bake until edges of cookies are golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 120 cookies.

Nut cookies

Nut cookies baked by Richard Reinwald, Oyster Bay,
Photo Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

To finish these cookies, former bakery owner Richard Reinwald either sandwiches them together with a mixture of Nutella and softened butter or drizzles them with melted chocolate.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED: 
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs, divided
4 cups almond flour 
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

HOW TO:

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar, butter and salt. Mix on low until just incorporated. Add 1 egg and mix at medium speed for 1 minute. With a rubber spatula, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add 2 more eggs and mix for 2 minutes. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl again. Add 2 more eggs and mix for 3 minutes.

 2. Add the almond flour, all-purpose flour, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix on low until the dough starts to come together. Add the last egg and mix for 30 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, then mix another 30 seconds.

 3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit a pastry bag with a No. 4 or No. 5 round tube. Pipe cookies the size of quarters onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake until firm, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 120 cookies or 60 sandwich cookies.

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