Holiday Stamp Cookies
I am a self-proclaimed cookie lover and while I don’t discriminate, I have a weakness for sugar cookies the most. This year old-school holiday stamp cookies (aka, sugar cookies) are #1 on my holiday baking list. July 9th is actually National Sugar Cookie Day but I’m a bit perplexed by that. One would think any day in December would be more appropriate, considering the month-long cookie countdown till Christmas that occurs each and every year.
Sugar Cookies in History
A sugar cookie is a simple cookie, with the main ingredients being sugar, flour, butter, eggs, vanilla, and either baking powder or baking soda. Sugar cookies can be formed by hand, dropped, sliced, rolled, and cut into shapes or stamped. They are perhaps, the most versatile of all cookies out there. Most often, sugar cookies are decorated with additional sugar, icing, sprinkles, or a combination of these making them a welcome treat on just about any holiday.
American-style sugar cookies have been around since the early 1700’s, and are traceable to German Protestant settlers in Pennsylvania. Settlers created round, crumbly, butter cookies from basic ingredients that were easily shapable. These simple, yet irresistible cookies became an instant hit and remained a vital part of Pennsylvania’s history.
A Scandinavian Tradition
Historically, women in Scandinavian countries traditionally baked cookies for special occasions using carved stamps handed down from generation to generation of family bakers. It was customary to give decretive cakes and cookies to friends during the Christmas season, weddings, christenings, and other festive occasions. Some traditions never change. As a nod to history, the Nordiska Museum in Stockholm, Sweden has a collection of cookie stamps dating back to the 17th century in their permanent collection.
Eleanor Rycraft was the first American artist to introduce finely detailed, handmade-in-America terra cotta cookie stamps. Elenor and her husband, Carroll, started their company, Rycraft, in 1968. Eleanor patterned her ceramic cookie stamps in the manner of the antique wooden Scandinavian stamps handed down through generations. As a potter, Rycraft saw the possibility of using clay to make these cookie stamps using the designs made in the Scandinavian tradition.
When using any kind of cookie stamp, Rycraft, or otherwise, the cooking-making process remains the same. The dough is rolled into small balls and coated in sugar before being stamped with the desired design.
I don’t use Rycraft stamps myself, I use Nordicware cookie stamps which are just as wonderful, and slightly less expensive. These special heavy-cast aluminum cookie stamps come in all sorts of designs, including holiday-specific ones. Plus all Nordicware stamp handles are made from sustainably sourced American hardwood.
The takeaway, these holiday stamp cookies are a wonderful way to make festive, traditional holiday cookies, effortlessly. And perhaps the best part is they take less time to make, but taste just as amazing, as cutout cookies.