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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Store cookies in an airtight tin.
Rolled 3/8 inch deep, baked at 375 degrees F for 7 minutes.
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.
Rolled 1/4 inch thick, chilled in freezer 5 minutes, baked at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes.
Rolled 3/16 inch thick, chilled in freezer 5 minutes, baked at 350 degrees F 7 minutes.
Rolled 3/16 inch thick, chilled in freezer 5 minutes, baked at 325 degrees F 8 minutes.
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,