Make sure your cookie stamp is washed and thoroughly dried before you start stamping the design because any dampness in the smaller areas of the stamp can cause the sugar/flour mixture to stick to the stamp. You can use a soft brush or toothbrush and warm soapy water to wash your stamp initially and then air dry. (If you need to clean the stamp while you are using it, a soft toothbrush or wooden toothpick can help.) Do not use any metal object to clean the stamp because this can cause scratching and or gauging of the stamp’s design.
Making the Dough
Creaming the Butter:
When the recipe instructions call for creaming the butter and sugar together, be sure not to over-beat the mixture. While it is crucial to combine the butter and sugar thoroughly, if you cream too long or with too high of a speed, you risk beating too much air into the mixture. Too much air in the butter/sugar mixture can cause the design to spread out a bit more during baking.
The butter temperature should be soft but still firm. If you press a finger into the stick of butter, it should “give,” but still hold it’s shape. If the butter “squishes” down, or if your finger comes out greasy or goes down through the butter easily, your butter is too soft. You can place it back in the refrigerator for a little while, but it may change the consistency, and you may want to use other butter. If you use the butter when too soft, the cookies will still taste delicious, but the design may spread out a bit when baking.
Butter: We usually try to buy the best quality, non-salted butter. Most of the time, you get what you pay for when purchasing butter – the higher quality butter contains less water than the cheaper brands and will help hold the design. Also, salt acts as a preservative, so salted butter can be older since it has a longer shelf life. Generally speaking, unsalted butter tends to be fresher and taste better.
Flour – You may want to experiment with the type of flour (and the brand) because they vary in texture and protein content, which may affect the design’s holding power when baking. You can add more flour, or use a type of flour which contains more gluten. A higher protein flour will hold the design and give the dough a bit more body. A few tablespoons of cornstarch substituted for the flour can add more tenderness to the finished cookie.
Other Oils – If you use peanut butter, you will have greater success if you use the peanut butter, which doesn’t separate and that you need to use a spoon to stir before using. A non-solid oil at room temperature tends to “melt” the design a little bit while baking.
Egg – We add an egg yolk in our recipes, which is untraditional in shortbread recipes, but we find it useful to hold the dough together. Without the egg, the cookies are more crumbly.
Converting your recipes
Do you have a favorite recipe? You can adapt it to a stamped cookie recipe by taking out eggs (but leave one egg yolk per cup of butter), taking out baking powder or baking soda. The baking powder and soda will cause the design to bake out during the expansion phase in the oven. A small amount of baking powder or soda (1/4 teaspoon per cup of butter) should be okay. You may need to adjust the baking times and temperatures also.
Shaping the Dough
Shape the dough into 1 inch or 1-1/2 inch balls and dip the top of the dough balls into a mixture of 1 cup finely granulated sugar and a scant one tablespoon of flour and press the dough down slightly. Place the dough onto a non-greased metal baking sheet sugar, sugar-mixture side up. It’s important to use the surface of the cookie sheet and not parchment paper because the dough will stick better to the baking pan, and it will be easier to remove the stamp from the dough once stamped.
Dipping the Stamp
Before using the stamp, swish the surface of the stamp into the same sugar/flour solution, and tap is against a non-breakable plate to make sure all the sugar/flour mixture is removed from the stamp. Check to make sure there are no pockets left inside the smaller areas of the stamp. If so, tap the stamp a little harder to make sure all the sugar/flour is removed.
Using the Stamp
Press the stamp down on the dough with even force – pressing to the desired thickness. When done, release the stamp upward. You can use a slight rocking motion if it’s easier. You may need to reshape the dough (and re-dip into the flour) the first few times until you find what works the best and is the most comfortable way for you to stamp. If the dough is too sticky, place it back into the refrigerator for a few minutes, or if it is really sticky, you may need to add a bit more flour. If the stamp’s smaller areas get filled in with the dough, take a toothbrush or toothpick and remove any dough.
Cutting around the Shaped Dough
Once the cookies are stamped, you may want to cut around the dough with a round or scalloped cookie cutter. You will need a 2-5/8″ or 2-3/4″ cookie cutter. Center cutter over the stamped dough and push straight down. Take a small paintbrush or toothbrush, and before removing the cookie-cutter, take the brush around the outside of the cutter to clean it off before removing the cookie cutter from the dough.
Before You Bake
Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator/freezer or, what we sometimes do when it is cold outside, is put the cookie sheet on our front porch. 🙂 Let it sit for at least 15 minutes or so. This will help hold the design when baking.
You can experiment with baking times and temperatures. We like to bake our cookies at 350 for 10-12 minutes, or until the outside perimeter of the cookie is light brown. Once the cookies are removed from the oven, they will continue to bake a bit and will brown up a little more. Some people prefer no browning at all, and in that case, you can bake at 300 or 325 until done. This will take longer, about 15-20 minutes.
Once baked, remove cookies from the tray and cool on a wire rack.
When cookies are completely cooled, they can be stored in an airtight container for about a week.