Adapted from The Spiced Life.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Do NOT grease cookie sheets for this recipe, but parchment paper or silicone mats are fine. Have some cookie sheets ready.
Brown the butter and let cool for 5 minutes.
Mix the sugar into the butter--by hand is fine. Mix until incorporated. (If you use an electric mixer, do not beat a lot of air into the mixture.)
Once the sugar has dissolved, mix in the apple brandy.
Whisk the Chinese 5 Spice into the flour.
Gradually stir in the flour by hand: you are aiming for a dough that is not super soft, but also not too stiff to push through the cookie press. If the dough seems too stiff or crumbly, add more milk, ½ tablespoon at a time. Mine took an extra 1 tablespoon total.
Fill the tube of your cookie press and press the cookies out onto the un-greased cookie sheets, about 1½ inches apart. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar if using.
*I used Penzey's Chinese Five Spice, which is a combination of Chinese cinnamon (cassia), star anise, anise seed, ginger and cloves. You could make your own blend from those 5 spices or you could experiment with other blends. Do note that mine did not include Sichuan peppercorns, so these cookies as I made them are not at all hot.