In mid 2009, my oldest and very dear friend told me she was having “one of those years”. You know the kind. Your car starts making a noise, you find out you will be having surgery, the person installing the insulation in your attic falls through the ceiling and into your bedroom… that kind of a year. Unfortunately, it seems the same turbulence has spilled over into 2010. She’s certainly aware that matters could be worse, but still, it just seems she’s due for some better luck. I figure she’s at least due some delicious cookies!
I wanted to make something fun and personal, yet artful and representative of good fortune. Ann is a talented artist with an extensive background in print making. Early in our friendship, we both were intrigued by the beauty of Mehndi design. We even had a Mehndi/henna decorating party of our own. Mehndi is a form of temporary body art usually drawn on hands and feet with henna paste, most common in India. There are many meanings to its various designs and some are used ceremonially. It’s so beautiful, we both really fell in love with the aesthetic.
The idea came to me that I should do a Mehndi inspired cookie for her. With our busy lives, we may not have the time, purpose, or even the right, to practice this intricate art form, but we can talk about how much we admire it over some delicious spiced roll-out cookies.
I found this recipe at Epicurious.com and it is so delicious, not to mention the perfect canvas for this project. I was intrigued by the use of ground mustard in the dough. I didn’t know what to expect flavor wise, but found that you really can’t taste it at all. It enhances the other spices in the dough, which are too numerous to mention here. (see recipe)
After making your dough, you’ll divide it into two balls and roll out each between sheets of parchment. It will need to chill thoroughly, and I would suggest overnight.
I made my own hand template. I didn’t have a hand cookie cutter, (although they are available) so I traced my own hand on a piece of heavy watercolor paper and cut it out. It worked great! I’d say cardboard or poster board would work well also.
After rolling the dough a little thinner, lay the template on the dough and cut around it with a sharp knife. Set the template aside. Transfer hand(s) to parchment lined cookie sheet. With the back of your knife make lines between the fingers, being careful not to cut all the way through.
After baking the cookies, you’re ready for embellishment! I used a fine-tipped artist’s brush and a little brown/black gel food coloring. You could also use the Wilton’s Food Writer in black or brown.
If you feel intimidated about painting the seemingly intricate patterns, I’d suggest starting small, in the middle of the “palm” and work your way out. Most Mehndi designs are very organic, and easy enough to free-hand, or you can just leave the design to your imagination.
If you need additional help with design, there are multiple resources online if you search for “Mehndi“. Here are some examples from a template that came with a kit I had years ago. I can’t believe I still have it!
Some designs have specific meanings, but I didn’t decorate my cookies upon that premise. I did use the lotus design, because I found it visually pleasing. The meaning has something do to with rising from the bottom of the pond, from the mud and muck. That may be appropriate, yes?
Time to package these for mailing! I hope to have them on the way by tomorrow.
Even if Mehndi hands are not in your cookie-making future, I’d suggest giving this unusual but very delicious spicy cookie a try – in whatever shape pleases you most!
Please note, I have no formal education in official Mehndi practices, I only know that it’s really pretty.