Brown Bag Designs & Shortbread

At Sturbridge Yankee Workshop we are proud to offer you, our customers some quality, made in the USA shortbread pans. Our shortbread pans are here just in time for all the baking you’ll be doing for the holidays. Crafted in Virginia by Brown Bag Designs, designer Lucy is the heart and soul of the company. The idea began in 1982 when Lucy was celebrating the Chinese New Year in Boston. She noticed an old technique in many of the Chinatown shop windows of large, intricately detailed cookies. Lucy later realized that carved cookie molds, such as the ones she saw used, were a part of much of European and Australian history too; probably being brought to America in the late 18th century. During most of the 20th century however, the craftsmanship of hand carved molds was lost and Lucy was now committed to bringing the age old tradition back to life. In 1983, the first cookie molds, cookie stamps and shortbread molds were created by hand in the small New England town of Hill, NH, established in 1778.

The name “Brown Bag” derived from the idea that great things can come from the simplest things in every day life, like a brown bag lunch. Lucy’s vision was and still is to have cookie making about having fun and sharing time with friends and family; not just about the taste. At Sturbridge, we have a few shortbread pans from Brown Bag Designs that are featured below. We’ll also take a brief look at the history of this versatile dessert.

Our Flowers & Berries Shortbread Pan, pictured here to the left, is perfect to use any time of year. Lily of the valley, tulips and cherries are among the nine designs on the ceramic pan. Shortbread is traditionally a Scottish dessert, but has taken a few different forms throughout history. During Medieval times, shortbread, literally was a shortbread; simple dried bread that when hardened had sugar added. It became widely popular among individuals who could afford luxury and Mary, Queen of Scots saw to it that she made her mark on the recipe too. What was later named “petticoat tails” was her idea of cutting the shortbread into wedges and flavoring them with caraway seeds. Through for many centuries it was a dessert only reserved for special occasions and the wealthy. In Shetland, an island of Scotland, they still to this day break shortbread over the heads of newlyweds as they enter their new home.

Some call it a biscuit, some call it a cake, but most refer to it as a type of cookie. Actually, this cookie in modern times hasn’t veered too far from its original form. The basic ingredients are 3 parts flour, 2 parts butter and 1 part sugar; type of sugar or flour used may vary. You can bake them individually as traditional cookies, however the idea is to have them be level and even in order to ensure they are cooked perfectly; thus being a need for shortbread pans such as the ones from Brown Bag Designs. After firmly pressing your batter into the pan, place them on the top rack of your oven, so the bottom doesn’t get too hot, too fast. Bake them until they are nearly golden brown, they should remain mostly white. Don’t let them completely cool or it will be difficult to remove them from the mold; when cooled, cookies can become flaky and too fragile to cut evenly.

At Brown Bag Designs all cookie molds and pans start with a hand drawing. They then are molded into clay. Next, they are made into plaster molds to check for accuracy. A fourth step involves yet another casting mold. Here, they go into what is called a “ram press” to press their molds or they are hand cast; which happens when the hot liquid is poured into each mold one at a time, followed by time in a kiln. Over the years, the company has experimented with either creating molds by hand or using the press. During the end of the last century, the press was their preferred method. In 2002 though, for their cookie molds at least, they went back to creating and pouring the molds by hand. The details in the shortbread pans are preferred to be done in the press because it allows for accurate and even baking throughout the cookie sheet before it’s cut.

Our Reindeer Shortbread Pan, pictured just above and our Christmas Shortbread Pan, seen below are perfect for the upcoming holidays. Your guests or recipients of your shortbread cookie platter, will be impressed and delighted at the elaborate details on their cookie. The round reindeer pan bakes 16 delectable shortbread; 8 small diamond shaped pieces decorated with a pine tree and 8 triangular pieces, each with a tiny reindeer running and leaping. The Christmas pan, as with the flower pan above, creates 9 square pieces and features a variety of Christmas themed designs; such as: a wreath, a snowman, candy canes, a teddy bear, bells, a cozy home, a candlestick, a gift and a gorgeous Christmas tree.

All of these shortbread pans are tough enough to withstand years of edge banging and are non absorbent, so there won’t be any oil residue or discoloration. All are ceramic, have easy to use handles and are proudly made in the USA. To clean, scrub with hot and soapy water or if you like, they are entirely dishwasher safe. Our shortbread pans from Brown Bag Designs are perfect in your kitchen or will make a thoughtful gift for the baker in your life.

January 6th of each year is National Shortbread Day!

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