For eating, for decorating and for showing off
Surprisingly, crafting elaborately detailed cookies made with cookie stamps, springerle molds and springerle rolling pins is not as difficult as it appears. Like other well done works of art, a good molded cookies starts with a flawless canvas (the dough), a first-rate design (the mold) and a teacher who is a master at the craft (Anne L. Watson). Watson, as teacher, is phenomenal and her groundbreaking book, "Baking with Cookie Molds: Secrets and Recipes for Making Amazing Handcrafted Cookies for Your Christmas, Holiday, Wedding, Party, Swap Exchange, or Everyday Treat,” the reason why. Watson's recipes for springerle, speculaas, lebkuchen, shortbread and more are tasty, detailed and meticulous. Her joyful recipe for "Creamy Coconut Cookies," for instance, with its "natural coconut taste" and exceedingly pliable dough, makes a nice alternative to traditional anise-flavored springerle. Of course, no matter how excellent a recipe, or workable the dough, the appeal of a molded cookie lies in the character and shape of the cookie mold. If you weren't lucky enough to inherit or be gifted with a centuries-old cookie mold, or aren't wealthy enough to acquire one from an antiques dealer, don't despair -- replicas of historic molds can be purchased at a relatively nominal cost. Companies like Elmhurst, Illinois' House on the Hill offers over 500 molds, along with essential baking supplies and ingredients, books and recipes to turn your cookie molding experience from a baking art into a baking obsession. And, after you bake your molded cookies, you'll surely want to decorate them with adornments such as edible paint and luster dust. A molded cookie is astonishingly beautiful. So beautiful in fact, that some folks would rather display them as art, than to eat them. Showing molded cookies off to family and friends is gratifying, but eating them is better.
Purchase "Baking with Cookie Molds" from House on the Hill (www.houseonthehill.net), 1-877-279-4455), or from book sellers, such as Amazon.com (www.amazon.com).
Special ingredients for baking and decorating molded cookies
Using high-quality ingredients for your baking projects will produce spectacular results you'll be proud of. Whenever possible, use exactly the ingredients a recipe calls for. Old-world springerle recipes, for instance, call for hartshorn (baker's ammonia) and anise oil. Also, it is vitally important to carefully read all the labels that are provided with ingredients and cookie decorations that you purchase to be sure you know how to use them and if they can be safely consumed. Believe it not, some decorations sold as adornments for food are not meant to be eaten. Americolor airbrush paint, lower right, is edible can be directly applied to the cookie surface for consumption, as is and is the Wilton luster dust, lower right, Source notes: Hartshorn and anise oil from House on the Hill (www.houseonthehill.net). Edible airbrush paints, vanilla extract and luster dust can be found in craft stores, such as Michael's, or via on-line sources specializing in cake decorating supplies, such as Bakedeco (www.bakedeco.com).
Should you browse House on the Hill's fascinating website, be sure to check out Connie Meisinger's superlative recipe for "Nini's Perfection Springerle, which also appears on page 148 of Anne L. Watson's "Baking with Cookie Molds."