Easter Egg Tree Ornaments

Need a few ornaments to add to your spring Easter Egg Tree? These were made with M5117 Egg with Carrot and M5118 Egg with Flower and PaperClay. The PaperClay was pushed into the molds which had been brushed with cornstarch, released and dried for 24-36 hours on a fine drying rack, then sanded to smooth the edges and finally painted with acrylic paints.

With the paint dry, a loop of ribbon was glued onto the backside and then  a piece of coordinating paper cut to size was glued over the the ribbon ends to  give the back a more finished look.I chose papers that had colors related to the paint colors on the front of the ornaments. I really liked the paper in pinks, aquas, greens and lavender that reminded me of Faberge eggs. 

This could be a fun project for kids who are on spring break. Make the ornaments one day and sand  and paint them another day. PaperClay and 2 ounce bottles of acrylic paint are readily available at your arts and craft stores. Get out your bunny cookie molds too.

Happy Spring!

Connie

Valentines Sugar Cookie Test

Are you hibernating this week? This frigid weather is the perfect time  to do some test baking. I have fielded many a question about the use of a regular sugar cookie dough that can be used in the cookie molds. I will be testing several "sugar cookie" recipes to see if they will maintain a good imprint after baking while still having a nice taste and texture. You will be getting my thoughts and opinions and perhaps you will be inspired to test some of these recipe adaptations with your cookie molds.

So what are some doughs that might work? Generally, it is a given that cookie doughs that are high in fat and sugar will spread and rise.  A perfect example is a typical chocolate chip cookie dough which performs in exactly that manner. Sugar cookie recipes that have you scoop a ball or drop a blob of dough onto the cookie sheet are going to perform in the same manner. So, not likely to work well. Cookie doughs that have a higher proportion of leavening will rise more and cause more distortion to the printed design. Again, no. However, very stiff doughs like Springerle dough and higher flour ratio dough like gingerbread dough do work. And some doughs that use liquid sweeteners like honey, molasses and corn syrup have been shown to hold prints better.

For my first adaptation, I decided that I would  try a sugar cookie and adapt  a ginger cookie recipe that I had tried once many years ago with moderate success. It held the design okay, but not as well as I had hoped and I never got back to tweaking it. In this version I lowered the leavening (baking soda) , increased the flour slightly and of course changed the flavor profile by using light corn syrup instead of dark corn syrup, and vanilla and nutmeg instead of ginger, cinnamon and cloves. I did a very small batch for testing.

Here is the formula for this trial recipe:

  • 1/2 Cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 1/2 cup butter

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  1. Put sugar, corn syrup and water into a medium saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils and sugar has dissolved. Remove pan from heat. Stir butter and vanilla into the sugar mixture and stir until butter is melted and mixture is no longer hot.

  2. Whisk together the flour, nutmeg and baking soda. Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture and stir to blend thoroughly. Place dough in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight or at least 12 hours and up to 4 days.

  3. Heat oven to 375 (see variations in temperature in test notes). degrees F. Remove about one third of the dough and knead until it is slightly softened. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness (see variations of thickness in test notes). Place cookies on an ungreased shiny baking sheet. Scraps of dough may be kneaded together thoroughly and reshaped.

  4. Baked until there are light brown edges on the cookies, about 7 minutes for thin cookies. Allow cookies to cool slightly before removing them and place them on a wire rack. Cool thoroughly.

  5. Store cookies in an airtight tin.

Test Notes

  1. Rolled 3/8 inch deep, baked at 375 degrees F for 7 minutes.

  2. Rolled 1/4 inch thick, baked at 350 degrees F for 6 minutes, then dropped cookie sheet on counter and baked an additional 2 minutes.

  3. Rolled 1/4 inch thick, chilled in freezer 5 minutes, baked at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes.

  4. Rolled 3/16 inch thick, chilled in freezer 5 minutes, baked at 350 degrees F 7 minutes.

  5. Rolled 3/16 inch thick, chilled in freezer 5 minutes, baked at 325 degrees F 8 minutes.

  6. Rolled 3/16 inch thick, chilled in freezer 5 minutes, baked at 325 degrees F 6 minutes, then dropped cookie sheet and baked for 2 more minutes.

My Thoughts and Opinions

I was pleased with the design definition in all cases; but the least defined sample was #1 which prompted me to roll the dough more thinly for tests # 5 - 6. In fact the definition is much the same in # 2 - 6 and the best of these was #5.  The higher temperature of 375 browned very quickly, so if you want a whiter cookie, go with a lower temperature. In samples 2 and 6 I dropped  the cookie sheet to deflate the rising and then finished baking the cookies and found this to be unnecessary because it did not make the design that much sharper.

Sampling for taste and texture, I found that # 3 was drier (too thin??) and # 6 was a bit tougher, most probably because of more reworked dough. I thought the taste of all the cookies was similar, but wished  I had added more vanilla and think I will try a classic sugar cookie combo of almond and vanilla or lemon and vanilla on my next effort.  These were all soft in texture, rather than a crisp cookie. If you would like a crisper cookie, you could bake 1 - 2 minutes longer, but this cookie would get much browner than a Springerle because of the higher butter and sugar content. But that might be your preference.

My personal choice: number 5 with nice definition and a pleasing texture and taste.

If you decide to try a new cookie recipe or make adjustments, keep careful notes on your changes so that you can decide which changes make the best impact on your cookies.

Stay Warm and Happy Baking,

Connie

Cut It Out - Creative Cuts for Beautiful Cookies

It can't take much imagination for you to believe that I have LOTS of cookie molds. Some of my favorite cookie presses are beautifully carved images on rectangles of many different sizes. Because the historic and also the more recent original molds were hand carved with no size standardization, there are so many variables of dimensions and shapes that having a cutter for each of the molds is impractical.

For rectangular shapes I most often use my dough scraper to cut the rectangles and for round and oval shapes I employ my nested sets of cutters. I also have sets of nested square cutters, though there are not very many historic molds that are perfectly square.

But lately I have found myself using cutters that are not the shape of the mold. This technique has a few nifty advantages. One is that it can be a faster, more efficient way to cut the cookies and, BONUS, many of those cookies look even more beautiful. Thirdly, using a round or oval cutter on a rectangular mold can eliminate the flat areas around the carved part of the mold thus eliminating the flat puffy area of the cookies that bothers some perfectionists.

Here are some ideas for using molds with creative cuts:

This one is easy. I've been cutting this mold (M5803 Fireworks) with a round cutter since I first saw it. You just kinda know that this will be a prettier cookie when cut with either a plain or scalloped round cutter. You may have seen this design used to cut out fondant or marzipan to top a cupcake. Easy and WOW!

Here is another square mold.(M5149 The Bells) It's perfectly nice cut with a dough scraper. You might not say to yourself "I could cut this cookie round". But the cookie takes on a whole new charm when you do cut it out with either a square or round scalloped cutter. The same round cutter was used for the Fireworks mold above. These cutters are from Fat Daddio and come in nested sets in their own storage container.

Yes, here is another square mold that begs to be cut in the round. This one is M5159 Nativity and cut in the round is 3.25 inches diameter. I used one of my fluted round cutters from an Ateco nested set of rounds, also in their own storage container. For you crafters, this makes a really pretty tree ornament!

How about on oval cutter for a rectangular press? Yes, I like it. It's pretty and so much faster to cut. You'll have plenty of time to make the pies AND cookies! (M6084 Cornucopia of Fruit)

Here is another rectangular mold (M7017 Striking Grapes) that I find stunning cut in the oval shape with a fluted oval cutter.

On this mold ( M7430 Elizabethan Tulip) I used the oval cutter to isolate just the bloom part of the image. You might have fun experimenting with some of your larger cookie molds to get some smaller cookies.

This is fun! I will probably now be checking out multiple ways to do creative cuts. Try it.

Happy Baking!

Connie

The Anise Seed/Anise Oil Debate

I've had multiple conversations with many students, customers and cookie bakers concerning their questions and preferences for flavoring their Springerle cookies with anise seed or anise oil. Many of the preferences are based family traditions as in "my family always made them with____".  Insert oil or seed in the blank.  Some folks just want to know what to use and some just want my opinion.

Firstly, let me just state that my family tradition is anise oil and that I have always loved Springerle cookies and for a long time thought that was the only way to make them. But early in my public experiences, I found that there are  hundreds of variations on Springerle making. Some with leavening, some without. Some with powdered sugar, some with granulated sugar. Some with feet, some without. Et cetera. And some with anise oil and some with anise seed.

I have tried many Springerle recipes and still always come back to the one my grandmother gave to me. And while I had eaten samples of cookies with the anise seed backing, I had not made them, until recently. I knew the procedure and that the anise seed version needed to age to develop the anise flavor. I also know I liked the rustic look and crunch of the seeds adhered to the back of the cookies.

Here is my experience and how to make Springerle WITH anise seeds on the back: (I made my Springerle dough without any flavoring oil or extract.)

I sprinkled my cookie sheet liberally with anise seeds.

I sprinkled my cookie sheet liberally with anise seeds.

I formed my cookies as usual and placed them gently on the anise seeds.

I formed my cookies as usual and placed them gently on the anise seeds.

I pressed each cookie, again very gently, to slightly adhere the cookies, knowing that when I baked them the rising would push the seeds more into the cookie.

I pressed each cookie, again very gently, to slightly adhere the cookies, knowing that when I baked them the rising would push the seeds more into the cookie.

I dried the cookies for 24 hours as usual and then baked them as usual.

I dried the cookies for 24 hours as usual and then baked them as usual.

After cooling, I flipped a few cookies over and yes indeed the seeds had adhered.

After cooling, I flipped a few cookies over and yes indeed the seeds had adhered.

Kept safely from the cookie monsters, here they are in late August ready for the taste test!

Kept safely from the cookie monsters, here they are in late August ready for the taste test!

Now for the tasting!

Tasting # 1 – June 23, 2018
Shortly after baked and cooled. A barely perceptible anise flavor, but I knew the aging process was  required and many traditional recipes call for an aging period. (Including recipes with only anise oil as the anise flavor develops with aging.)

Tasting #2 – July 23, 2018
A more pronounced anise flavor. More subtle than I would like.

Tasting # 3 – August 27, 2018
Now we are getting somewhere! Definitely anise and I do so like the crunch of the anise seed on the bottom of the cookie. These are my conclusions from this fun project:

  • If you really like a mild anise flavor and the authentic rustic feel, anise seed backed cookies aged for at least one month might be your favorite version of this traditional cookie. Longer aging for stronger flavor.

  • If you like a stronger anise flavor profile, use anise oil. Even when you use anise oil, the flavor gets stronger as the cookie ages.

  • If you like a strong flavor AND the seeds use BOTH knowing that the flavor will continue to evolve as the cookie age.

And my preference based on these conclusions? I like strong flavors and particularly the anise and licorice flavors, but also the crunch of the rustic seeds. I also understand  that, historically, many people would have used seeds when the oil was not available to them. I also know some people who cannot eat seeds. So I will be baking my Springerle with anise oil only and also with both anise oil and some anise seeds.

And what will you be trying next???

Happy Baking!

Connie