Whatever happened to cookie molds?
About 1980 or so, there was a molded cookie fad. Cookie molds—beautiful ones—were in all the cooking stores, and a lot of other shops, too. They were expensive. And then—presto!—all of a sudden, cookie molds weren't in the fancy stores anymore. You could still get them, though—at thrift stores. They were cheap.
So, what happened?
I can't say for sure, of course. But I know what happened to the shortbread pan I bought at the time. I made a couple of batches of shortbread in it, using a wonderful recipe my grandma brought from Scotland.
Those cookies turned out slightly uglier than homemade sin.
I hung the pan on the kitchen wall as a decoration. After a while, I gave it to the Salvation Army.
Something like that seems to have happened to a lot of people:
“My grandmother made these. I just loved them. I still have her molds, but I don’t know how to use them.”
“I bought a mold like that when I was in Europe. I never could make it work. I think I still have it somewhere . . . ”
“For years, I’ve asked all the bakers I know if they know how to make windmill cookies, but nobody does.”
Those were stories I heard as I was writing my book, Baking with Cookie Molds. And I heard variations of them over and over.
But I'm doing a fast-forward here. Quite a bit happened between that Salvation Army donation and writing a book about how to use cookie molds.
It was love. Wouldn't you know it? I married a children's author, Aaron Shepard. He'd written a book, The Baker's Dozen, about the traditional molded cookies that are made in Europe and some parts of America to celebrate December 6, St. Nicholas Eve. And one year, I decided to surprise him on St. Nicholas Eve with cookies like the ones in his book.
At first, though, the surprise was all mine, and it wasn't a pleasant one. Fortunately, I'd allowed myself plenty of time to learn how to make the cookies. My first efforts with my beautiful new St. Nicholas cookie mold were worthy of a comedy video. The overall result could have been achieved by skipping the cookie mold altogether and simply detonating a small bomb in a bowl of cookie dough.
Eventually, I figured out a way to make molded cookies work. My husband did get his St. Nicholas cookies for December 6 that year. And I was very proud of myself.
By then, I was curious. I started learning more about molded cookies, and then even more. I made batch after batch. Before long, I was scurrying around town, giving cookies to the library volunteers, the Sunday school, the firemen, and anyone else who'd take them. I became known as the "Cookie Lady," which is pretty good, as notoriety goes.
I worked out improvements and listened to other people's stories of cookie mold frustration. I ran across one forgotten techique—I shouldn't call it a secret, since it was once common knowledge—that made molded cookies about a hundred times easier.
And, in the spirit of The Baker's Dozen, I decided to share. So I wrote a book of my own, Baking with Cookie Molds, along with continuing my experiments and posting them on this site.
A year's worth of projects, experiments, and investigations in a monthly "magazine."
All about common ingredients and flavorings you might use in your molded cookies.
About tools and equipment you might use for your molded cookies.