Cookie cutters are found in many home kitchens and are used throughout the year, but during the festive period the range and variety go into overdrive. From a straightforward star shape to an intricately detailed snowflake, your holiday cookie creations are bound only by your imagination.
Cookie cutters would originally have been made from very simple shapes, with the origins of the ‘modern’ cookie cutter dating back to 2000 BC. Original Egyptian molds, crafted from ceramic and wood, have been discovered and these would have been used to shape simple dough into something a little more elaborate than a run-of-the-mill circle.
Taking a small leap forward into the 16th century, one big fan of an occasional gingerbread man was Queen Elizabeth I of England, and this sweet and spicy gingerbread was allegedly the only man who remained constant in her life. Records from the time describe how her household would create miniature replicas of each of her guests, leaving just one question: When eaten, did they go head first? As with many things during this period in time, what was popular with Royalty was quickly adopted by the general population with gusto, and this led bakers to create tin cutters to help them supply gingerbread men to the masses.
Nowadays cookies are used throughout the festive season to decorate our homes, to feed the hordes of visiting friends and relatives, or simply to enjoy selfishly with a cuppa – and the range of cookie cutters perfect for these festivities is now endless. Here are just a few international options available to the home baker, collected during my travels.
Whilst a lot can be achieved with a sharp knife and some precision cutting, guaranteed results are without a doubt easier to master with a cookie cutter. Such is the case with delicate snowflake cookies; how could your Christmas tree look complete without them? This cutter from the Netherlands first caught my eye because of the intricacy of the design, and it was clear to me that without a very steady hand it would be difficult to achieve the results and detail available at one press of this cutter.
Still widely used today, there is the more traditional wooden cookie press. I purchased mine in Bruges, Belgium, where speculaas or speculoos (depending on your nationality) is the King of Cookies. Whilst the shapes may not be as detailed as some, the warming, mixed-spice flavours of the cookies it produces most definitely are. One shop that should not and cannot be missed when in Bruges is Juliette’s, an entire space dedicated to the tantalising speculaas (speculoos) cookie. Just a short walk from the Grand Place, it’s an easy shop to find if you just follow your nose. The scent of their own-brand mixed spice will reach you from quite a distance and draw you in the correct direction, eventually enticing you through the door.
Simple yet delicious, cinnamon stars are a feature at traditional German Christmas markets, with those in Cologne, Germany, being a particular favourite of mine. There is nothing that says ‘Christmas’ quite like spending an evening taking in the festive sights, sounds, and tastes of the season with a glass of Glühwein in one hand (for the warmth, you understand) and some cinnamon star cookies in the other.