Making sweets for your sweet this Valentine’s Day? Consider cookie stamps.
As their name suggests, cookie stamps are usually employed to make imprinted cookies. However, they can also be used with marzipan, firm fondants (think peppermint patty-type filling or wedding cake covering), edible modeling chocolate, even tootsie rolls—anything plastic enough to take and hold an impression—turning simple sweets into beautifully filigreed mignons with the barest commitment of time and effort.
For those less inclined to make their gifts, the stamps, which make lovely kitchen display objects as much as useful decorating tools, make for thoughtful gifts in their own right.
Available in a staggering array of designs and motifs—from florid hearts to fire breathing dragons, austere initials to heraldic shields, teddy bears to leaping stags—there’s sure to be a stamp suited to the passions of that special someone.
Cookie stamps are made from a range of materials, all of which have their own characteristics.
Types of Cookie Stamps
Ceramic stamps are generally the least expensive. The impressions of these stamps tend toward relatively shallow, simple designs. With a light coating of vegetable oil and gentle warming during use (usually in a preheating oven or near an oven vent), this type of stamp makes fairly clean imprints with little sticking. The stamps may also be washed without concern (though their porous surfaces do tend to discolor and cling to oils, causing some risk of rancidity during storage).
Wooden stamps vary widely in price, with simple, often rather primitive, machined designs priced similarly to ceramics, and intricately detailed, hand-carved, and antique examples, which are prized as collectibles, costing many times more. Wooden molds season well, their finely pored surfaces taking on oil, flour or confectionery sugar well to preclude sticking and insure crisp prints. However, special care must be taken in cleaning and maintaining wooden stamps. Prolonged exposure to water or moisture may cause the fibers of the wood to swell, making wood grains visible in imprints and distorting delicate details. Because of this, it is best to avoid washing the molds, using a stiff, dry brush to remove residue and a dry kitchen towel to wipe stamps clean instead. Care must also be taken to store wooden stamps in a cool, dry place in order to avoid distortion and rancidity.
Resin stamps generally cost around three- or four-times as much as ceramic stamps of similar size. Like wooden stamps, of which resin stamps are often replicas, these stamps tend to be cast with deeper, far more intricate designs than their ceramic counterparts. The smooth surface of the resin does not season well, which makes imprinting a bit more time consuming and touchy* than with wood and ceramic stamps. Care for resin stamps is, however, very simple, as they can be washed in soap and water and stored wherever with little risk of degradation.
There are also metal stamps, with which I am unfamiliar, but I believe that their use and care would be similar to resin. In this vein, though I haven’t put this assumption to the test, I imagine that the metal stamps meant for making wax seals would double well for also making diminutive monogrammed confections.
Where to Buy
The family-owned and operated Rycraft offers over 300 affordably priced terra cotta stamp designs.
Philadelphia’s beloved Fante’s Kitchen stocks several wooden stamp blocks and rolling pins with simple, folksy carvings.
A wide array of resin stamps and rolling pins, most of which are reproductions of Medieval and Victorian originals, may be ordered from Kallashouse or House on the Hill. Most Sur La Table stores also carry a selection of House on the Hill stamps.
Most of these sites offer tips and recipes that will ensure a perfect impression every time.
* Though most manufacturers suggest that simply dusting resin stamps with flour or confectionery sugar is sufficient to prevent sticking during use, I have found this approach wholly insufficient, as the powders fail to cling to the smooth resin surface. Using this method, adhesion to the imprinting material invariably occurs, ruining the imprint and filling the tiny nooks and crannies of the stamp impression with hard to remove bits of gunk. Instead, I have found that a light mist of cooking spray on the stamps’ imprinting surface often works well on its own. In other cases, I will lightly spray the stamp, wipe away any excess to leave the thinnest possible sheen of oil, and then lightly dust the impression with confectionery sugar or flour. This process works well, but generally needs to be repeated after every other impression, and great care must be taken to use the minimum amount of oil and to thoroughly tap out excess flour or sugar between impressions to avoid pasty build-up in fine details. For shallow, less detailed impressions, a layer of plastic wrap placed on the surface of the imprinting material is a workable solution for easy, adhesion-free stamping.
About the author: Amanda Clarke is a recovering restaurant pastry chef with a background in architecture. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes, tests, and develops recipes and works on freelance food-styling gigs between walkings and feedings of her two dogs and husband.