Embossed Spiced Brown Sugar Cookies
I was not a very “girly girl” as a child and loved climbing trees and was generally happier playing games that didn’t involve dolls and the like. I did however thoroughly enjoy dressing up and trying on all the high heeled shoes our next door neighbour owned (my mother never wore heels). I still love heels though I don’t wear them much but I will still avoid pink, especially candy pink, like the plague.
This morning, I was tempted to take one of those “tests” on Facebook (couldn’t resist it especially as it was posted by and commented on by some very good friends) that asked “Do you think like a man or a woman?” Apparently I think 100% like a man! It was a fun thing to do but I know I do think like a woman a lot of the time.
Like a lot of women, one thing that is I love is hand-made lace. Unfortunately, I don’t own any but I love the intricacy, the detail and the thought of it being handed down in families through generations. One memory that I still have from over 10 years ago during a short stay in Portugal, (as does my daughter, even though she was only 5 then) was of an elderly woman sitting at the one of the entrances to the fort in Obidos and patiently working on a beautiful piece of lace
Sometime back, I came across a post on the internet where lace-like patterns were created on cookies using knitted or crocheted doilies. I had planned to try my hand at that because one thing I do have at home are crocheted doilies. Unfortunately for me, the doilies look good as they are, but didn’t produce particularly interesting patterns when pressed into dough.
Since the dough for the cookies was already resting in the refrigerator, I was determined to make decent looking embossed cookies but was now without anything to emboss them with! I kept hoping to be struck by inspiration, and then my daughter came up with the idea of using her paper embossing blocks. I looked at them, but they wouldn’t leave deep enough grooves on the dough. That’s when inspiration finally struck, and I went looking for my wooden printing blocks.
In India, one traditional method of printing on cloth is by stamping out patterns with carved wooden blocks dipped in vegetable dye. It is known as block printing and is a method that is still very much in vogue. I have over the years, collected a few of the wooden blocks, and it struck me that I could use them to emboss the dough. If you decide to do this, make sure you use new blocks or else have scrubbed out and cleaned the ones you have thoroughly.
You can use anything that creates a pattern in dough to make embossed cookies. The patterned underside of water glasses, embossing stamps or patterned rolling pins if you have them, even cookie cutters can be used to make patterns on dough. Just make sure that the patterns are pressed well into the dough so they keep even after baking.
One other important thing while making these cookies is to keep the dough refrigerated so that it becomes manageable to work with. This dough is easier to emboss when it is cold.
You can use any other sugar cookie dough of your choice. I liked the idea of using brown sugar (any variety of brown sugar works here, even Demerara sugar) so I made some changes to this sugar cookie recipe to make a Brown Sugar Cookie dough.
Christmas is the season for warm and fragrant spices and one spice mix I like in particular is Speculoos/ Spekulaas spice so that’s what I used in this recipe but feel free to use whatever appeals to you.
- With a hand held electric mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until pale in colour and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix well. Sieve together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add this to the creamed mixture and beat till just combined. Do not overwork the dough. If the dough feels sticky, add a little more flour. If the dough seems dry, add a tsp or so of milk to get the right consistency.
- Shape the dough into a disc, cover it with clingwrap and refrigerate the dough for about a couple of hours (or overnight), to make it easier to handle. Divide the dough into two and work with one portion at a time. Lightly dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour and roll out the dough evenly to 1/4" thickness.
- An easier way is to roll the dough out on baking parchment that is cut to the size of your baking sheet. Then press your embossing tool (doilies, mould, rolling pin, etc) evenly into the dough pressing down with enough pressure to leave a somewhat deep imprint on the dough. If the pattern is not deep enough, it will disappear when the cookies puff up while baking. Make sure the pattern completely covers the surface of the rolled out dough.
- Now use cookie cutters and cut out shapes leaving about an inch between them. Remove the excess dough and your cookies are already on the baking sheet, so you have no hassles with trying to transfer them! Place the cut out cookie dough in the fridge for about half an hour.
- Then bake them at 180C (350F) for 10 to 15 minutes till the edges of the cookies look like they’re browning. You need to watch for this really carefully, as the cookie dough is brown.
- Let the cookies cool completely. They will be a bit soft when warm but will crisp up once they cool. Store them in airtight containers.
This recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies (2 1/2" diameter).