Hobi Cookie Molds is the fifteenth in my Sunday series featuring American Artisans. There are so many exceptionally talented craftspeople, designers, and small companies across the country who share my love of handcrafted quality, and this is my chance to introduce them to you. These artisans are creating beautiful, useful and delicious products that elevate the experience of everyday cooking, dining, and entertaining. They’re using skills, techniques, and materials that might otherwise be lost in our era of mass production. Their work makes me happy, and I hope it does the same for you. Each feature will be paired with a giveaway to give you the chance to experience their work for yourselves. I’ll be doing these features every other Sunday for the foreseeable future, so be sure to check back, and enjoy!
Are you ready for some holiday spirit? I’m so happy to have Gene Wilson here today from Hobi Cookie Molds — Gene has been hand carving his traditional wooden cookie molds in Belleville Illinois for over 40 years. His site offers over 100 designs for making authentic gingerbread, Scottish shortbread, Dutch speculaas and springerle cookies. You have to see it to believe it, his designs are spectacular. These are old world, European style molds that just aren’t being done anymore, and what a great way to infuse a little tradition into your holiday baking this year.
Gene’s molds are hand carved from American hardwood beech and cherry, and because they are hand done without templates or duplicating machinery, every one is unique — he carves his initials and date into the back of each one. The designs are based on vintage molds he’s collected over the years from numerous trips to Europe, but his first exposure to them was during a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, where he fell in love with the antique molds being used in the Village Bakery. His technique of reverse carving (intaglio) is the same technique used for centuries in Europe, and also in colonial America. Gene says “Carving wooden cookie molds is a dying European art, an art that June [his wife] and I are trying to keep alive.” He says that vintage molds are rare and super expensive, and even if you were to go to Europe, the mass-produced tourist trade molds lack detail and character. Gene believes he’s just one of 3 woodcarvers left in the US doing this kind of work on any scale.
Gene sells various types of molds, each specifically designed for different types of cookies. All of them require a dough that holds its shape without spreading or rising in the oven. The cute Scottie dog above is made for shortbread. The elaborate santas are made for gingerbread or Dutch speculaas cookies. These types of cookies have a long and storied history and have always been associated with the holiday season, but sadly, like the molds themselves, they’re a dying art. One of my grandfathers was Dutch, and I vividly remember the windmill cookies. If you know Biscoff cookies or spread, you know the speculaas flavor, it’s a heady mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, ginger, and white pepper, similar to gingerbread, but different, more spicy. Sometimes there are almonds involved. There are lots of recipes for it on the Internet, but Gene sends along recipes for the perfect dough, plus instructions, for every mold, so don’t fret, you’re covered.
I think these molds make such unique gifts, for hosts, housewarmings, weddings…or if you’d rather keep the molds for yourself you can start a new holiday tradition of giving the spectacular cookies every year, just one of these large cookies, packaged nicely, would be a fabulous gift. The process is simple, once you have the right dough. Each mold gets lightly dusted with powdered sugar, and then you pat the dough into it. Tap to release the cookie, and bake. They can be used as ornaments, as place cards on a holiday table, or just plain gobbled up.
Gene is generously giving away his best selling large Windmill Cookie Mold (with recipe booklet) to one lucky reader!
You have two ways to enter, please visit Gene’s site, HERE, and poke around, then come back and comment. For a second entry, join me on my email list HERE, and let me know in a second comment (if you are already on the email list, leave a second comment letting me know)…you have until Friday November 20th to enter — good luck!
(Giveaway is closed )
*I use Random.org to pick the winner, and will announce it here on Saturday.
***The winner of the Windmill cookie mold is Yelena, who blogs at Cooking Melangery — congratulations Yelena!***
PS. If you get ‘bitten by the bug’ and want to learn more, this site has a wealth of information and inspiration on how to make successful cookies with your molds.
And Baking With Cookie Molds is a great resource if you’re interested in diving in and giving it a try…