Country Kitchen: The Fascinating World of Cookie Cutters

Country Kitchen: The Fascinating World of Cookie Cutters

By Mary Emma Allen

An enjoyable experience of childhood consists of cutting cookies from rolled dough. A wide array of shapes may be formed by using these aluminum, plastic, tin, or steel gadgets.

Then you can decorate them with icing of various types. Or you might make designs in the cookies by placing raisins, maraschino cherries, nuts and/or sprinkled sugar on the cookie before baking.

One interesting variation is the gingerbread boy with raisins for facial features and buttons down his belly. At Christmas time, many shapes are cut and decorated. Sometimes theyÂ’re even hung on a tree. The Pennsylvania Dutch cooks have been for their fancy cookies cut in the shapes of animals and people.

Cutters for Collecting

However, cookie cutters fascinate more than youngsters. Many adults enjoy collecting them, exchanging them, and joining cookie cutter clubs. The story of cookie cutters dates back to at least three thousand years BC when historians think they were used in Egypt. Cookie makers in Asian and European countries utilized some type of cutter or stamp to make designs on cookies throughout the ages

The cookie stamps usually were of wood with designs carved on them. These then were used to stamp the decorative figures on the dough before baking.

Cookie Cutters in the US

Tinsmiths in the early days of our country began to make cookie cutters, and frequently found this a good way to use up scraps from various projects. Eventually cookie cutters were made of aluminum and plastic and some of stainless steel.

I can remember the tin, well-used cookie cutters of my childhood and even found a few of them when I moved my mom to my home when she was overcome with AlzheimerÂ’s. Those IÂ’ve used with my daughter and grandchildren were made of plastic and aluminum.

However, my daughter and I look for old or unusual cookie cutters at yard sales and antique shops. Why do we collect them?

We both have an interest in cooking. They also bring back memories of family fun in both our childhoods. We can use them for cookie baking fests with the grandchildren.

Cookie Cutters for Use & Decoration

Some collectors use most of those they collect; others use cookie cutters mainly for decoration in the kitchen, on shelves, in a wire vegetable hanger, as mobiles, etc. Collectors enjoy researching the history of various cutters and exchanging these in clubs and conventions.

If you have cookie cutters in your family, record the memories associated with them. These can be fun for future generations to read and reminisce.

GRANDMAÂ’S BUTTER COOKIES were a favorite of my childhood, a recipe Mother used for making "cut-out" cookies. Sift together 2 1/4 cups flour, 1 cup sifted confectioners sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cut in 1/2 cup soft butter and 1/2 cup other shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Beat one egg until light. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the beaten egg and 2 tablespoons vanilla over the mixture (use a little more egg if mixture is too stiff); blend well and form into a ball; chill the dough until firm. (You donÂ’t have to chill the dough, but many cooks feel it rolls out better.) Roll 1/3 of the chilled dough at a time out on floured board or pastry cloth,; roll to 1/8 inch thickness (1/4 inch if you donÂ’t want such a crisp cookie.) Cut with cookie cutters and place on cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 5 - 10 minutes until crisp and golden.

(C) 2002 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has been writing her "Cooking Column" for newspapers and online publications for 30 years and has compiled a family cookbook. SheÂ’s currently compiling a cookbook/story book, "Tales From a Country Kitchen." Visit her web site for more cooking articles. Contact her at

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