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My Cookie Books!

Baking with Cookie Molds
Secrets and Recipes for Making Amazing Handcrafted Cookies

 

 

Cookie Molds Around the Year

An Almanac of Molds, Cookies, and Other Treats for Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Other Holidays, and Every Season

 

Around the Year with Cookie Molds

 

May

Gardens--Flowers, Birds, and a few Bugs

Antique and Out-of-Production Cookie Molds

 


May Issue Contents

Gardens--Flowers, Birds, and a few Bugs

Where to Look for Old Cookie Molds

Antique Cookie Molds

Recipe: Cinnamon Almond Cookies

Twentieth Century Pottery Cookie Molds

Kashigata and Moon Cake Molds

Recipe: Soft Brandy Orange Cookies

Metal Molds and Pans

They Sneaked in! Some irresistible new molds with gardening themes.

May Cookie Molds

 


Gardens--Flowers, Birds, and a few Bugs

The gardening season has finally come to the island. Looking out my kitchen window, it's hard to believe the yard was so full of snow only a few weeks ago.

I've lived in many parts of the United States, and I always notice other people's gardens. I've had quite a few of my own, as well. Everywhere I've lived, there were wonderful things growing, and also things that wouldn't grow. When I was a child in New Orleans, two things I'd read about but never seen were lilacs and peonies. Probably the summers were too hot for them. I saw them for the first time when I lived in Olympia, Washington, and felt as astonished as if I'd met a unicorn.

But New Orleans certainly had its gardens. Roses bloomed almost all year. And there were flowers I've never seen anywhere else--Magnolia Fiscata, a small yellow magnolia with a banana liqueur odor. Actual bananas, too, and as a child, I thought there was nothing unusual about growing bananas in the back yard. And an elusive one that took me ages to find--sweet olive, Osmanthus fragrans. I'd walk down a block and smell apricot, look for flowers or fruit on the plants around me, and see nothing. Finally I found it: a sleek shrub with white flowers no bigger than a raisin. It was unbelievable that something so tiny could cast so much perfume into the air.

And the tomatoes! Louisiana Creole tomatoes were the best I've ever had. I don't eat tomatoes much, since I left the South.

Here on the island my neighbors have sunny-looking plants, marigolds or zinnias, maybe. Lavender grows like a weed, and wild roses sprawl on empty land. Other kinds of roses require a lot of work to keep mildew away, though some people succeed with them. Fruit trees are everywhere--mostly pear and cherry, as far as I can tell. And California poppies--if they're really native to California at all--have made a very successful move north. Except that last year, I decided to add some fancy ones to the mix--red ones, white ones, double flowered ones. I planted them carefully, cared for them faithfully--and when they bloomed, every last one of my precious plants was an ordinary orange poppy! I gave up.

Gardens aren't just plants, of course--they're full of birds. We have lovely hummingbirds here--iridescent gold. I mistook them for beetles at first. The only hummingbirds I'd seen up till then were ruby throats, which are beautiful too. I've seen all sorts of birds--goldfinches, robins, crows, swans, even bald eagles. And of course, many I can't identify, since I'm not a real birdwatcher. I make up names for them: this one's a "Yellow-Legged Handrail Hopper," that one's a "Short-Tail Screecher."

Of all the birds in New Orleans, I most remember the mockingbirds. My sister and I saved a baby one when we were teenagers. I don't recall the details, and we probably did a lot of things wrong. But when it got old enough to fend for itself, we removed a window screen and tearfully watched it go. We might as well have saved the drama--the bird came back for a couple of years. It would greet us, sometimes fly into the house if a door was left open, and then out again, going about its business. I've saved a number of baby birds since then, but in my memory "Baby Birdy" is still the star. Our mom, still in the New Orleans area, has bluebird houses--the eggs in the picture above are from one of them.

There aren't many visible bugs on the island, though I'm sure bugs of various sorts exist by the million, even if they don't exactly come forward and introduce themselves. There are bumblebees, which I have to admit, scare me a little, though I've been told they're unlikely to sting. I loved some of the bugs in New Orleans--fireflies, which I've never seen anywhere else. Gorgeous butterflies. And dragonflies, locally called"mosquito hawks"--those I've seen everywhere, but not like the New Orleans ones--gold, blue, green, and even copper-colored. I wonder if they're still there.

This month, we're going to look mostly at old cookie molds in garden themes--the antiques and also ones that have been produced recently, but are no longer available. I'll give hints for how to find them and how to use them.

And then of course, since there are always a few exceptions to any rule, I couldn't resist a few that are still on the market.

So there's lots of cookies to try. You can't garden all the time--you'd get sunburned. Isn't that a nice thought after the hard winter we had?

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Where to Look for Old Cookie Molds

Cookie molds of various kinds have been made for centuries. The oldest, of course, are museum pieces. And until the Twentieth Century, most cookie molds were one-of-a-kind, handmade items. Most were hand carved from wood. Their popularity waned with the Industrial Revolution, when machine-made everything took the place of hand crafts and small artisans.

Decades later, the craft was revived, primarily with manufactured molds. Brown Bag Cookie Molds, which debuted in 1983, made pottery cookie molds and shortbread pans--the first mass-produced cookie molds I know of. One of their first molds was called "Beautiful Swan."

In the next few years, many companies climbed on the bandwagon. An amazing array of pottery cookie molds, cookie stamps, and shortbread pans crowded the shelves of cookware shops and the pages of specialty catalogs.

Pottery molds have been overtaken by other materials. In 2006, Brown Bag produced their "Swan Song" mold as their last cookie mold, although they continue to make shortbread pans and occasional molds as charity benefits. Most of their imitators have also stopped making molds.

But there are thousands and thousands of out-of-production cookie molds around. Some are antiques, others are just...used. You can find them on web sites such as Etsy and eBay--sometimes tagged as butter molds, soap molds, or other mistaken labels (and by the same token, not everything you see labeled as a cookie mold actually is one). There are often one or two in antique stores. Thrift stores often have a few, jumbled among mixed lots of used kitchenware. Some are underpriced, some are wildly overpriced. It's a treasure hunt.

As you look for old cookie molds, enjoy the journey! You may not find exactly the ones I found, but you're sure to find something good.

 

 

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Antique Cookie Molds

The two floral cookies pictured above come from a very large, handmade, antique springerle mold. Many old molds are very large--but if they're divided into several cookies, as this one is, there's no reason why you have to make all of them at once. You can press the dough into half the mold, or even make cookies one at a time.

The cookies below are from a smaller mold, quite old. It's metal faced--I have wondered why there aren't more of these, because they're the only truly old ones where the carving was mass-produced. This one is wood with a fairly thin, but very heavy, metal face. In addition to birds, this one features fishing, churning, a berry, and a home.

When you make multiple cookies with a mold, chill the formed dough well before cutting the cookies apart. Separate them from one another before baking, or they'll buckle as they bake.

 

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Recipe: Cinnamon Almond Cookies

These are fairly crisp, because they're made with melted butter. If you want a soft cookie, soften and cream the butter as I do in the recipe for Soft Brandy Orange Cookies.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (163 Celsius)

1 cup (225 grams) unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/2 cup (100 grams) white sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed (100 grams) brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon milk or cream
1 tablespoon molasses
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 4 cups (560 grams) all-purpose flour (plain flour)

1. Melt the butter and set aside.
2. Beat the egg in a large bowl until the yolk and white are fully mixed.
3. Mix the white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt and sift to remove lumps. Add to the egg. Beat until well mixed.
4. Mix the milk, molasses, almond extract, and vanilla extract, and add to the egg mixture.
5. Add the melted butter slowly and beat until well mixed. Don’t just pour it in quickly—the heat still in the butter could cook the egg!
6. Add flour slowly and mix in until you have dough that is solid enough to knead.
7. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface. Continue adding flour by kneading in a little at a time until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky.
8. Roll and form the dough according to the directions for your cookie mold.
9. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the edges have slightly browned and the top has begun to firm up.

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Twentieth-Century Pottery Cookie Molds

Here's a group of cookies made from mass produced pottery cookie molds. I've shown them plain here to highlight the mold designs, but just imagine them decorated in spring colors!

There are hundreds of other designs--for every holiday, every season and occasion, even for school teams, buildings, and states. The variety of designs is amazing. Here are a few fine ones in our garden theme--only a few of many. None of these molds are produced anymore, but all of them are available if you keep your eyes open. I've found many beautiful pottery cookie molds in thrift shops, and of course, online auctions are a great place to look.

Prices vary. Some out-of-production cookie molds are considered rare or collectible, so they're more expensive than similar ones that aren't unusual. The cookies are nice when they're decorated, if you like to do that, but I don't think it's necessary. Most of the molds are so well designed that they're equally pretty without coloring. Occasionally, you'll find one that was designed for paper art rather than cookies--these may be shallower and less satisfactory for baking.

 

 

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Kashigata and Moon Cake Molds

Japanese sweets, called Kashi, are made in these molds. They're not cookies, but the molds work well for cookies. Kashigata molds may have a top layer, and they're likely to be more expensive if they do still have this piece. It's probably used for leveling the kashi, but I haven't found the upper piece useful in cookie molding.

Moon cakes, also quite different from western cookies, were the original inspiration for Brown Bag cookie molds. Both are available in many designs, some very finely carved.

The cookie below is from an antique kashigata mold.

 

 

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Recipe: Soft Brandy Orange Cookies

Creaming soft butter and using mostly sugar for the sweetening produces a soft cookie. It may rise a little more in the oven and show the mold detail less sharply than a crisp honey cookie.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (163 Celsius)

1 cup (225 grams) unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 cup (200 grams) white sugar
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon milk or cream
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon brandy extract
1 teaspoon culinary orange oil
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
About 4 cups (560 grams) all-purpose flour (plain flour)

1. Cream the butter. Add the sugar gradually and continue creaming.
2. Beat the egg in a large bowl until the yolk and white are fully mixed.
3. Add the beaten egg and salt to the butter mixture.
4. Mix the milk, honey, brandy extract, orange oil, and orange extract, and add to the egg mixture.
6. Add flour slowly and mix in until you have dough that is solid enough to knead.
7. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface. Continue adding flour by kneading in a little at a time until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky.
8. Roll and form the dough according to the directions for your cookie mold.
9. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the edges have slightly browned and the top has begun to firm up.

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Metal Molds and Pans

Metal molds and mold-like pans are available, in antique shops and elsewhere, but not all of them work well for cookies. Be careful to get one with sharp detailing--often, pans are intended for chocolate molding, and aren't clear enough for cookies to look good, since they lose some detail when they bake.

Many metal molds and pans are too deep for cookies. I've had no luck at all in molding cookies in deep containers. Even if I use dough that I've rolled to a uniform thickness with rolling pin guides, the cookies come out lopsided. And retrieving the cookies from the bottom of a deep mold is nearly impossible.

But some do work. If a pan is well-detailed and no more than about 1/4 inch deep, give it a try. Pans can be used to bake cookies in, or you can mold cookies with them and bake them on a sheet. You'll get different results, so compare and decide which you prefer.

With the softer cookies that are sweetened mostly with sugar, you may prefer baking in the mold. Sugar-sweetened cookies don't hold a pattern as well as honey cookies to begin with, so it makes a difference if they're baked in the mold. However, you may have to put nonstick foil and pie weights over large cookies to keep them from bubbling and heaving as they bake.

If you bake cookies in a thin metal mold, be careful--they burn very easily.

 

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They Sneaked in! Some Irresistible New Molds with Gardening Themes

I meant to stick to old cookie molds this month, but some of the current ones are just too good. Here are a few cookies made with beautiful, garden themed molds that are still in production.

The small woman gardener is really a springerle mold. I often use springerle molds when I make soft, sugar-based cookies, because it's easier to get good results.

The round cookie is from a silicone mold that can be used either to bake the cookies in, or for molding cookies to be baked on a cookie sheet. Either works well.

 

 

 

 

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May Cookie Molds

Tulip Basket mold by Wilton

 

 

Large springerle mold, maker unknown

 

 

Small metal-faced springerle mold, maker unknown

 

 

Hummingbird by Brown Bag Cookie Molds

 

 

Wheelbarrow by Brown Bag Cookie Molds

 

 

Birdhouse by Brown Bag Cookie Molds

 

 

Daffodil Heart by Brown Bag Cookie Molds

 

 

Meadowlark by Brown Bag Cookie Molds

 

 

 

Beautiful Swan by Brown Bag Cookie Molds

 

 

 

Swan Song, by Brown Bag Cookie Molds

 

 

 

Kashigata mold, maker unknown

 

 

 

Metal bird mold, maker unknown

 

Bavarian Classic cookie pan by Wilton

 

 

 

Butterfly chocolate mold, maker unknown

 

 

Woman Gardener by House on the Hill

 

 

Kaleidoscope Butterfly by Zanda Panda

 

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Coming in June

Wedding Cookies

Molds that Reproduce Antiques

 

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