Blog The Tale of the Pig
This is a new beginning for Ann Clark Ltd.—our website has a fresh, new look and some wonderful new features. It's a new beginning of sorts for me, too: I've never written a blog before. I'm excited about the opportunity to share my thoughts with you each week, and I thought I would start by telling you a little about the very first cookie cutter I designed.
The holiday season is always a busy time but in 1990, I was busier than ever. In addition to all the shopping, baking, and decorating, I was staying up late at night painting Christmas ornaments—lots and lots of ornaments—to sell at a craft show. I had three designs; an old-fashioned Santa Claus, a goose, and my favorite, a fat little piggy with a wreath around his neck.
Somewhere in between hand-painting all those ornaments and baking batches of holiday cookies to freeze and give as gifts, I had an inspiration: that little pig I was painting would make an adorable cookie cutter.
I held onto that thought through the Christmas season and, once the holidays were over, I had sample cookie cutters made in the shape of my pig, complete with a handle so they would be easy to use. I designed a gift tag and printed up copies of a recipe that my mother had always used when making rolled cookies; a good, simple sturdy cookie, not too sweet and lightly scented with vanilla. Then I packed up the cookie cutters and took them to a gift show—they were an instant hit.
Nineteen years later, the pig has been joined by nearly 200 other designs, from hearts to hummingbirds, moose to maple leaves, teapots to the state of Texas. We make the cutters ourselves, right here in Vermont, and ship them all over the world. Made from tin plated steel some of my cookie cutters have handles, others don't—and every one comes with a recipe.
What makes cookie cutters such a popular gift? Well, their whimsical, varied shapes make it easy to celebrate any occasion. Then, too, there's the possibility that if you give a cookie cutter, you might just get a cookie in return. More than other kinds of baking, baking cookies just seems to lend itself to sharing. What better, or simpler, way to show friendship and warmth than to offer someone a homemade cookie?
In that spirit, I'm very pleased to be able to share cookie news, recipes, ideas, and baking tips with you in this blog, and I would love it if you shared with me, too. So tell me, what was the first kind of cookie you ever baked? Was it all-American chocolate chip, or something more exotic? Was it incredible (or barely edible)?
And if you haven't yet baked your first cookie, why not try this recipe? You don't need to make pigs (although they are awfully cute); any shape will do!
Ann Clark's CookiesHere's the original recipe that I printed on the first gift tag, and we still include it with many of our cookie cutter shapes. These cookies are wonderful plain or frosted.
Makes about 24
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then the vanilla. Add the flour and salt, and mix until completely blended. Chill the dough 3 to 4 hours before rolling.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured counter to 1/4-inch thickness and cut, then transfer the cookies onto cookie sheets that have been lined with parchment paper or silicone liners. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly colored. Let the cookies cool slightly on cookie sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Scraps of dough can be pressed together gently and re-rolled to make more cookies.
If you bake more than one sheet of cookies at a time, switch the position of the cookie sheets halfway through so the cookies bake evenly.
Makes 1/3 cup
3/4 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
Combine all the ingredients and beat until smooth. Add food coloring if desired.