Say goodbye to messy icing and tedious rolling and cutting
I hate frosting cookies. Absolutely loathe it. Unlike other, more forgiving aspects of baking, for me, cookie decorating has a well-proven zero-percent chance of success. I’m a decent baker (check it) but never, not once, have I managed to pull off a cute woodland creature or Christmas tree or butterfly or whatever that bears even a slight resemblance to the original. In other words, I Nailed It.
But the thing is, I have kids, and kids love decorating cookies. They live for it. Honestly if you gave them the option of a trip to Disneyland (currently not an actual option), a week’s worth of unfettered Netflix viewing (very much an option), and decorating a dozen cookies, it would be a hard toss up — which is only a little ironic because kids are actually terrible at decorating cookies. My son once glued three miniature M&M’s to the upper left corner of a star cookie with a smear of blue frosting and you would have thought he was Rembrandt.
I sort of get it. A fancy cookie is slightly more enjoyable and impressive-looking than a non-fancy cookie. But the effort to success ratio has just never been worth it for me — sugar icing is almost always too runny or too stiff and it sticks to everything, which is especially crummy if you want to pack and ship cookies to friends or family, the whole reason you’re going through the trouble of making fancy-looking cookies anyway. And so I have thus far doomed my children to a life of squidgy round drop cookies and lumpy chocolate chips.
Enter: cookie stamps.
I had never in my life heard of these until about a month ago when I went looking for a sandwich cookie recipe for a recent Eater project. I stumbled upon a King Arthur flour recipe for some maple shortbread cookies that, in the accompanying picture anyway, looked impossibly chic, with beautiful patterned, petal-like indentations that gave the shortbread a graphic pop but (and this is important) with zero icing, frosting, or other annoying baubles.
In the footnotes, the recipe mentioned the “option” of using Nordic cookie stamps to achieve the same look, which I immediately purchased. For around $30 and a few days wait, I became the proud owner of a trio of stamps and set to work.
The first thing I realized about the superiority of cookie stamps is that there’s no need to roll out the dough. (The rolling and cutting and re-rolling and re-cutting is another reason why cookie baking is sort of the worst.) With stamps, just form about a tablespoon’s worth of dough into a little ball and squish away. A few reviews had warned about the dough sticking to the stamps, but a quick dip of both the dough ball and the stamp in flour or powdered sugar helped with that a bit.
The cookies do still sort of stick, but that’s how I discovered what’s inarguably the best part of cookie stamping in 2020: banging stuff! After you stamp the dough, give a few rhythmic but solid thwacks of the edge of the stamp on the kitchen counter and watch your cookie pop out like magic. This time of year, any excuse to work out a little extra aggression is welcome. Doubly so if it involves a bunch of sugar and butter. (Just make sure there’s nobody trying to nap nearby.)
All in all, I found the cookie stamp experience not only way easier and arguably fancier than frosting, but it was actually fun. Even the kids (who kept asking when the damn frosting was coming out) appreciated the joy of slamming metal and quartz together a few dozen times. The resulting cookies baked up perfectly, looked very impressive, and the little red-handled stamps themselves double as cute kitchen holiday decor. And now I get to be the one to send obnoxiously perfect cookies to friends and family to overcompensate for the rest of my life that’s a pandemic-imposed hellscape. Best. $30. Ever.