We live in a magical neighborhood of backyard homesteads in Mapleton, Utah, where we are surrounded by interesting and creative people. It is the tradition here for neighbors to exchange small gifts, usually of food, during the holidays. Often these small gifts are custom products of the givers’ lives and interests – homemade berry jam, honey from a neighbor’s beehives, homemade apple sauce made with apples grown in a neighbor’s orchard, home-dried pineapple slices, homemade Mexican wedding cookies, etc.
We look forward to participating in this ritual every year. Although we have given generic food gifts every year since we moved into the neighborhood, we wanted to up our game a bit this year and give a creative homemade gift that truly represents our home and life. We decided on brown paper cookie boxes.
The unique feature of our home is that we have a round door, hence this blog’s round door logo. People often comment on the door and strangers drive by and stop to take pictures of it.
We decided to reinterpret the door’s design in cookie dough. We started by redrawing the logo in a simplified form and sending it off to a company in Poland to make an embossed rolling pin with the door logo on it.
We combined this with shortbread, which has been made at Christmas in our family for at least three generations. The recipe we make is similar to the one made at Heart Castle, which is not far from where my family has lived for 40 years on California’s Central Coast.
4 cups all purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
1 lb. unsalted butter
1 cup powdered sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
Chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and beat. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture in two additions. Stir until the dough is thick. Turn it out onto a counter and divide into two pieces. Press each piece out into a flat patty an inch thick. Wrap each piece in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
When the dough is chilled, roll it out to 1/4-1/2-inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut it into the desired shapes and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. If making embossed cookies, freeze for 1-2 hours before baking to help the design stay intact as the cookies bake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 7-12 minutes, or until the bottoms of the cookies are barely golden. Decorate as desired.
We made the dough according to this recipe and first rolled it out with an ordinary rolling pin.
We dusted it with flour and went over it with the floured embossed rolling pin to imprint the design on the dough. The key to success is working with chilled dough and flouring the counter, rolling pins and the top of the dough so that this process goes smoothly.
We cut out the cookies, centering the door motif in the middle of each one.
We placed the cookies on the parchment-cookie sheets, froze them for several hours and then baked them.
For the cookie boxes, we bought brown paper ones with round clear windows to echo the shape of the door and showcase the cookies. To avoid butter from the cookies soaking through the brown paper, we lined them with foil and then parchment paper before placing two rows of cookies in each one.
We tied the boxes with gold ribbon across the window in the paper boxes to echo the shape of the window on our round door and then held it down with a gold wax seal that we had made with the same round door logo.
A finished box with a hand calligraphy tag by Forrest Anderson.
Our assessment of the project - This is a medium-level project for people who enjoy food art, calligraphy and wax stamps. It was not difficult because we meticulously followed the recipe and were slow and careful in crafting the cookies, stamps and calligraphy. This project is not for someone who is time-crunched and needs to do last-minute gifts fast.
The project succeeded because:
- We relaxed and took the time to do each stage carefully.
- We used plenty of flour on every surface.
- We cleaned off the embossed rolling pin with a brush (we used a new toothbrush) after rolling out the dough each time so the carving on it wasn't clogged.
- We were careful to use chilled dough, even putting the dough back in the refrigerator for a few minutes when it warmed up as we were working with it.
- Having acquired all of the equipment, we can use it on an ongoing basis for gifts. The remaining brown paper boxes can be used for any holiday or gift giving situation and can hold rolls, brownies, a doughnut or two, a sandwich, candy, artisan soups, a scarf or small notebook or a variety of other gift items. With different colored bows, they will work for almost any occasion. We plan to set up a spot for them in our pantry, so we can grab one quickly when we want to give a homemade gift.
What we would do differently:
- Try to find gold foil or a pretty waxed paper to line the boxes so we don’t need parchment paper over the foil.
- Cut the cookies smaller so that they were just a tad bigger than the logo. We could get more cookies out of each roll of the dough this way, and we wouldn’t have to use as much flour. By the time we got done, the last cookies were a bit dry because we had dusted the dough multiple times with flour.