Food: A cookie press to remember
I have a strict rule whenever I visit flea markets, garage sales or thrift stores and that is that I leave my purse in the car. This way, a little thought has to go into a purchase when it entails walking back out to my vehicle to retrieve money.
But the other day I practically tripped over myself to grab my purse when I spotted a Mirro cooky-pastry press at a local thrift shop. When I first saw the thing, a rush of childhood memories came flooding back so strong, I thought I would burst into tears.
This little press was one my mother used all the time when I was a kid. It works by mixing up a batch of dough and then spooning it into the body of the press. A cloverleaf knob screws down unto the dough, making it emerge through a stamped plate which results in many different cookie shapes, depending on which plate you choose to put into the press.
My cookie press was truly a bargain as it came with 12 cookie design plates, three frosting pastry tubes and even a smaller version of the original cookie press. But perhaps the most interesting part about this purchase are the instruction books which are dated back to 1964, about the time I took to watching my mother when she used this press to make us kids cookies.
It always fascinated me. There are 12 differently designed plates and many times she would let me pick out the one I liked best. My favorite was the little dog, but sometimes I picked the camel or the butterfly or even the swirl, which I considered really fancy.
It was a trick to make these cookies. The dough had to be just the right consistency…too firm and the cookies tasted like flour, too loose and the cookies ran, making them flat. But Mom always had the right touch because she never flubbed a batch, ever.
The next step after the dough was pressed onto a cookie sheet was decorating. Colorful sprinkles were carefully placed on the cookie shapes and I was always very careful when applying these tiny beads so as not to get any on the cookie sheet.
And while it’s no surprise that many cooks used these presses strictly during the holidays, we made cookies with it all year long. Mom’s favorite cookie design was the small star she used to make “S” shaped cookies. As the tube of dough slowly oozed out, she had a little technique of turning the press just right to get the correct shape. It always amazed me at how she could make every cookie perfect.
One time after some heartfelt begging, she let me try my hand at making these “S” shaped cookies and I found out it’s a lot trickier than it looks. In fact, my tries ended up looking like writhing night crawlers and were unceremoniously scraped off the cookie sheet and placed back in the press for more expert techniques.
I’m kind of excited about using my new toy, though. I’ve been reading up on different techniques and recipes in the 1964 cookbook and I’m pretty sure after some practice I can become proficient at using this thing.
But truthfully, I really didn’t purchase it to make cookies. Right now the little press holds a place of honor on my kitchen counter and every time I look at it I remember helping my Mom patiently make a batch of cookies, and how those cookies tasted like the best food ever because they were made with such care and love.
Lemon Crisp Butter Cookies
2 ¼ cups sifted flour
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 cup butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon rind
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift together flour, salt and baking soda. Cream butter, add sugars gradually and mix thoroughly. Beat in egg, lemon juice and lemon rind. Gradually blend in dry ingredients. If you have a cookie press, use that; otherwise, roll dough into 1-inch balls and then flatten using the bottom of a glass. Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes.