Cookie cutters come in many shapes and sizes - including the ones we have available for you to browse at our store! Featuring shapes that bring Christmas memories, or other holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving, and Halloween, having a selection of cookie cutters is a grandly fun thing to bake cookies with!
Over the years, cookie cutters have progressed from simple shapes to cookie stamps, where you get details pressed lightly onto the surface of the cookie, to even embossed rolling pins where you set the design on the cookie dough as you give it a final roll. And yes, we do have those at the store, they are gorgeous!
Cookie Cutter History Begins in Egypt
We will be exploring Christmas cookie cutter shapes and where they come from, but first we are going to detour to Egypt, where the first cookie shapes arose back in Pharonic times. I have not found a direct connection in articles online of the Kahk cookie, just references in North American blogs of cookie cutters sourcing from Egypt about 2000 years ago. With exploring various Egyptian blogs, I am drawing the conclusion that the Kahk is the earliest recorded shaped cookie with a specific mold used to shape them. These cookies are the national cookie of Egypt, made of butter and honey heated together and then flour, and shaped into circles or with an instrument called a moun'ash. Shapes of animals, plants, and religious shapes such as Athon (Sun Goddess), They come with different fillings such as date paste, walnuts, agameya or agamey mixed with walnuts (ref: Chez Nermine) Making kahk is an ancient tradition that has been passed through from generation to generation, and there are depictions of people making kahk on Pharonic temples in ancient Thebes and Memphis. Originally served to temple priests who were protecting Khufu's pyramid, it has become a celebratory cookie for the end of Ramadan, Eid (ref: Egypt Independent.)
Gingerbread began as a European concoction of preserved ginger, honey and other spices in more of a pastry form. Gingerbread is said to have been brought to the French town of Pithiviers in 992 AD by Armenian monk Gregory of Nicopolis. Various other gingerbreads grew fame in countries such as Poland, Sweden and England. It was mostly used to ease indigestion!
Growing into a treat at medieval European festivals and fairs, gingerbread developed into various types, with various textures and appearance. Biscuit and bread molds were originally made of wood and carve with intricate designs. Eventually though, it was realized that copper or tin outlines would make the molds last longer and be more efficient. Eventually the wood was dropped from the molds and they were created of tin, copper or other metals.
Biscuit (cookie) cutters are documented as appearing in use in the early 15th century. Using tin shaped biscuit cutters to create heart shapes to give to your favourite person, and stars, crossed and animals to represent different holidays and feelings became very popular. Tin smiths would use their scrap pieces of tin to create cookie cutters!
Gingerbread Men (and Women)
The first documented instance of human shaped gingerbread biscuits (cookies) was in Queen Elizabeth I's court. The Queen ordered gingerbread be shaped into the likeness of her important guests, bringing the human shape to the cookies. In the following centuries, shaped gingerbread became popular for use in decoration, bringing the human shape, as well as hearts and stars, to window decorations and gift giving on birthdays and holidays.
The tradition of gingerbread houses began in Germany in the early 1800s, apparantly because of the publication of the popular Grimms' fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. The original version stated the witch's house was made of bread, which later became referred to as gingerbread. German bakers begam creating this appealing house with lebkuchen, spiced honey biscuits.
Gingerbread and Christmas
In the late 17th century, gingerbread started to become associated with Christmas, as Russian bakers prepared gingerbread men and women as replicas for folks attending parties, and eventually Christmas parties. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert popularized the Christmas Tree and incorporating gingerbread decorations into the celebrations. The increase in popularity also increased the demand of biscuit (cookie) cutters, as well as the intricity of the shapes, including snowflake designs.
Sugar Cookies & Gingerbread in the Americas
As Europeans moved to colonize the Americas, cookie cutters and European traditions came with them. This is where we see the shift of referring to these sweet treats as cookies, moving away from the traditional term of biscuits.
Early American tinsmiths had a huge demand for cookie cutters for bakers to represent all the new animals and ideas being represented by the creation of the United States, including the bald eagle, men riding horses, and more. The commercial manufacture of cookie cutters began around 1869 by The Dover Co., with other companies such as A. Kreamer Co. - who's cutters became highly prized for their embossed name in the cookies.
Today, we can find cookie cutters made of tin or copper, aluminum, and also made from hard plastic, providing for a wide range in pricing, providing the fun of cooking cutting to everyone of any budget.