I recently took up stamp collecting. Not philately but cookie. Yes, cookie stamps. If you are not familiar with cookie stamps, please allow me to explain.
Cookies can be categorized by how they are formed. There is a variety of general cookie types out there. Maybe the most familiar to us is the drop cookie. Dough is mixed, scooped with a spoon or cookie scoop, dropped on the baking sheet and baked. If you've made chocolate chip cookies, then you've made a drop cookie.
Next, there's the bar cookie. The dough is basically the same as a drop cookie dough but instead of scooping and dropping, it is spread in a pan, like a 13 x 9 pan, and then baked. Some bar cookies start with a crust which may or may not be baked before a filling is added. The common denominator in all bar cookies is the fact that they are baked in some type of pan or dish.
We can't forget about rolled cookies. The dough for these cookies is much stiffer than dough for drop or bar cookies. It needs to be in order to allow you to roll the dough out and cut it into shapes with a knife or cookie cutter. Christmas gingerbread cookies come to mind.
Refrigerator or icebox cookies are also popular. The cookie dough is quite soft after it is mixed. If you baked the cookies immediately after mixing, they would spread -- a lot. So after mixing, the dough is formed into long roll, wrapped in plastic wrap and chilled until firm. When you are ready for hot cookies, just slice and bake. Note: refrigerator cookie dough freezes brilliantly! I always have some in the freezer for those times when I need a quick batch of freshly baked cookies.
Are you familiar with batter cookies? If you make pizzelles or madeleines you are. Batter cookies can be thin, wafer type cookies, such as pizzelles, or cake-like in texture, like the madeleine.
Finally, we have shaped or molded cookies. Cookies in this category require more of a time investment by the baker because there is more hand work involved. Instead of simply scooping and dropping balls of dough on the cookie sheet, each cookie is shaped or molded by hand. For example, my sister makes cherry almond ball cookies every Christmas. Bits of almond flavored cookie dough are wrapped around a candied cherry. The balls are then rolled in an egg wash and chopped nuts before being placed on the cookie sheet and baked. These cookies are absolutely delicious but are a labor of love because of the individualized attention given to each cookie.
Another way to make a shaped or molded cookie is to use a cookie stamp. Cookie stamps make raised designs or impressions on cookies. The stamps are usually made of terra cotta or a ceramic material. Balls of cookie dough are placed on the sheet and then flattened using the stamp. Designs on cookie stamps range from simple to very detailed. The trick with using cookie stamps, however, is finding a cookie recipe which will hold its shape during baking without spreading too much. Too much spread and the detail of the stamped design will be lost. I learned this the hard way. The first time I ever made stamped cookies, I used this darling Westie stamp. The recipe I used did not have the right ratio of flour to butter AND also called for baking powder. When I baked the cookies, they both spread and puffed up. Needless to say, the design on the cookies was barely discernible.
Undaunted, I tried making stamped cookies again and now can make them successfully. This past weekend, I made stamped sugar cookies for St. Patrick's Day using the two Irish themed cookie stamps pictured above that I bought last year from King Arthur Flour. I really like these stamps. They are large so they are easy to hold. Plus, they are quite heavy so the impression in the dough is well defined.
When I made these cookies last year, I still didn't have a suitable sugar cookie recipe to use. The stamps came with a little booklet which included a recipe for Classic Sugar Cookies. The recipe had the same amount of butter as the other recipe I had used but had more flour and no baking powder. I decided to give it a try and I'm so glad that I did! The cookie dough is easy to mix and works well with the stamps. The impressions in the dough are clean and, most importantly, don't fade during baking. The photos to the right show cookies before baking (top) and after baking (bottom). See how clean the impression is after baking?
I chose to decorate these cookies with colored sugar. I made a simple wash of one teaspoon meringue powder and one teaspoon water. The wash is clear and does not alter the flavor of the cookie. I painted the wash on the area of the cookie that I wanted to decorate. After sprinkling on fine sanding sugar, I tapped the cookie to get rid of the excess sugar. There you are! Stamped sugar cookies to celebrate St. Patty's Day.
I hope you decide to give stamped cookies a try. Although there is more hand work involved with these cookies, they are worth the effort. I love the way they look. And, of course, the way they taste. Yum!