Well, a couple of weeks ago I started my new job, so things have been a bit hectic and I've neglected my cooking and baking. But no more as I finally went ahead and bought myself a cookie press. My Mum's had one as long as I can remember and she used to make lots of lovely bickies. However these days are past. I think the reason to some extent is that it can be a fiddle until you find the knack for it and I suspect quite a few people just give up.
The cookie press was on a special offer and in addition to the 12 different patterns the press came with, there was the "Spring edition" pack with 6 more patterns on the theme of Spring. So I bought those too.
There were three recipes in the main pack, each claiming to result in a ridiculous amount of cookies - 12 dozen! So I chose the simplest one and halved it.
Makes about 75
170 g unsalted butter at room temperature
125 g granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 egg, preferably large
½ tsp vanilla extract
250 g plain flour
- Set the oven to pre-heat at 180 °C fan (200 °C otherwise) and place three baking sheets in the fridge to cool.
- In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar and salt until it goes light and fluffy.
- Add the egg and vanilla extract and incorporate well.
- Mix in the flour, a little at a time to get a soft dough.
- Select a cookie pattern and insert into the press.
- Shape a part of the dough into a sausage and insert into the cookie press, then close it and click in the plunger until the dough begins to come out of the cookie pattern.
- Now take one baking sheet out of the fridge and press the cookies onto it.
- Once the baking sheet is full, place in the oven to bake for about 6 - 8 minutes.
- In the mean time, take the next baking sheet and continue to produce more cookies.
- Re-fill the cookie press as necessary.
- Once the cookies have baked, take out of the oven and carefully transfer to a cooling rack.
- If you need to re-use the baking sheets, wash them between each bake, using cold water and put in the fridge for a bit, if time permits.
- Store the cookies in an air-tight container.
The cookie press booklet didn't mention chilling the baking sheets, but a quick search on the internet indicated that this is quite key. Also it seems the baking sheets shouldn't be lined with baking paper. It wasn't clear if the sheets should be stick or non-stick, it seems people had had success with both types. My baking sheets are non-stick and worked fine mostly.
The thing to keep in mind is that the first two or three presses will most likely be wonky as the dough might not have fully "settled" inside the cookie press. Discard these and add to the remaining dough.
Also at the very end, my cookies didn't come out as well, so I just stopped and re-filled the press. This meant I ended up with a small piece of dough, about the size of a walnut, which I wrapped in cling film and froze for next time.
Another key thing is not to refrigerate the dough, it needs to be soft or it will be really difficult to press it. I think my Mum did refrigerate on occasion and ended up rolling the dough into cookies when she couldn't press them through.
I called Lundulph into the kitchen to see how the press works. His immediate reaction was that the cookies were too small and that he likes "normal"-sized cookies. I tried to oblige and did two presses/clicks per cookie in my first batch. This resulted in a better size for the cookies, but they didn't keep their shape as well as the smaller ones and they almost flowed together during baking. So for the remaining two sheets, I followed the instructions and ended up with small, but very pretty cookies.
In all this baking took under 2 hours and I regret not doing a full batch of the recipe. However, I have cookie dough left-overs in the freezer, so I'll make another lot as soon as this one has been eaten. And I'll experiment and decorate - various coloured sugar crystals can be sprinkled on before baking or the cookies can be iced after baking. Or their bottoms could be dipped in chocolate and glued together. Lots of possibilities, even colouring the dough itself. I think my gingersnap dough would work very well with the cookie press, as long as I make sure to let it come to room temperature beforehand.