Make beautiful Pinecone Cookies for Christmas the (really) old fashioned way, with a carved wooden cookie mold. Gingerbread cookie dough casts beautifully and creates a realistic 3 dimensional effect.
December is officially cookie season, and I’ve been gearing up for its arrival. I’ve been looking around for recipes with both style and substance; beauty and seasonal flavor. It was love at first sight with these Pinecone Cookies. I first spotted some in an advertisement for a wooden cookie mold. The 3-D effect drew me in, and I just had to order the mold to see if I could recreate them in my own kitchen. I was skeptical, and – full disclosure- there is a learning curve, but once you find your technique it’s easy.
Needless to say, you’ll need to procure the pinecone mold for this recipe. I ordered the pinecone cookie mold from this Etsy seller, which shipped from outside the US to my home in Tennessee in about 7 days (which was quick!). If you ordered soon, you’d probably have it in time for Christmas, either for making cookies or for gifting the mold to your favorite baker. I loved making these cookies because the technique has such rich history. The origins of molding cookies in wood forms can be traced back to the ancient arts of wood carving and pottery, around 3000 BC. The practice has endured through the ages with cookies such as German Springerle and molded Scottish shortbread.
Use a scale.
Through trial and error I figured out how to make the job of hand molding loads of cookies a shorter task. First, figure out how much dough the mold will hold. Press dough bit by bit into the mold until it is full. Then remove it and weigh it on a digital scale. This will give you the weight to use for all of the cookies. This pinecone mold holds 2.50 oz. of my gingerbread dough. If you use a different dough recipe, or a different mold, the weight will vary.
My molding method.
Using the scale, portion off balls of dough and weigh them all so they are equal, such as my 2.50 oz. weight. Portioning the dough will make quicker work of molding all the cookies.
I started out dusting the mold with cocoa powder. Then cinnamon. And then powdered sugar. Much as I tried, the dough would not come out of the mold. The method that worked best for me (and this particular molasses heavy dough) was to oil the mold with cooking spray. Spray the mold well between each dough pressing.
Flatten a dough ball and press it into the cavity so that it overflows the edges of the pinecone design. Using a finger, push the overflowing edges back so you can see the edges of the pinecone shape. It should look like the picture above just before it is unmolded.
Next, whack the mold on a work surface at the pinecone tip edge. And I mean really whack it hard. You may have to do this a few times before the dough starts to loosen. When the dough starts falling out, just let gravity do its thing and wait for it to relax out of the mold and onto the work surface.
From there transfer the shaped dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet using a cookie spatula. Be careful not to stretch or distort the pinecones too much as you move them. It’s very easy to do so. Just use extra care.
Perfectly puffed pinecone cookies!
The cookies bake to a beautifully sculpted finish that’s slightly puffed. I experimented with bake times, because I wasn’t sure what texture they’d be with their fat middles and delicate edges. At 12 minutes they are soft baked, which is perfect to eat as the sandwich cookies I made. They’re more firm in the centers at 16 minutes, and very crisp around the edges.
This gingerbread dough recipe is pretty ginger-forward, and even though it molds well I still found the cookies alone to be a little plain. So I whipped up a batch of pistachio buttercream and made them into sandwich cookies.
Pistachio paste is a staple in the pastry chef kitchen, and it’s wonderful in buttercream. A little fine grain sea salt mixed in enhances the pistachio flavor and takes the edge off of the buttercream’s sweetness.
Hold the pinecone cookies upright and sieve a little powdered sugar over the top. The protruding pinecone scales will catch just enough to make them look snowy.
One assembled Pinecone Cookie sandwich is a generous serving! These would look so pretty individually packaged in cellphone bags. Then tied with festive ribbon and a sprig of rosemary. And I think that’s just how I’ll gift them this year.
If you love pinecone-shaped sweets, check out these marzipan and almond pinecones I made years ago for The Etsy Journal (link). They could be a nice option if you’re not ready to invest in a carved pinecone cookie mold.
Again, the pinecone mold I used can be found right here for purchase. It ships from Russia, but made it to my doorstep in about 7 days – which arrived more quickly than some of my recent domestic orders!
Gingerbread Pinecone Cookies
- Carved wood pinecone mold (see blog post for link)
- large closed star piping tip
- Piping bag
- 5 cups all-purpose flour plus more to bring to consistency/kneading
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup unsalted butter melted
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cups molasses unsulfured, such as Grandma's brand
- 2 eggs slightly beaten
- Cooking spray to grease mold such as Pam brand
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup pistachio paste
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- Milk or cream to thin I like half and half
- 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 3 tablespoons ground pistachios for sprinkling
- In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, soda, salt and spices. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter, sugar, molasses and eggs. Mix well. Add four cups of flour mixture and mix until just combined. Add in additional flour while mixing on low until a firm non-sticky dough forms. Turn mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly.
- Oil the cookie mold with cooking spray. Press small pieces of cookie dough into the carved cavity until it is evenly filled. Remove the dough from the mold and weigh it on a scale (mine was 2.50 oz.). Using that weight, portion the remaining dough into balls that each weigh the same.
- Re-grease the mold. Flatten a dough ball and press it into the cavity so that it slightly overflows the edges of the pinecone design. Using a finger, push the overflowing edges back so you can see the edges of the pinecone shape. This ensures the dough gets pressed into the fine edges of the mold, which gives the finest edge when unmolded.
- Next, whack the mold on a work surface at the pinecone tip edge. And I mean really whack it hard. You may have to do this a few times before the dough starts to loosen. When the dough starts falling out, just let gravity do its thing and wait for it to relax out of the mold and onto the work surface.
- Transfer the cookie to a parchment-lined baking sheet using a cookie spatula. Be careful not to stretch or distort the pinecones too much as you move them. It’s very easy to do so. I used a large cookie spatula at the large end of the pinecone, with my free hand as under support to the pinecone tip. Gently lay the cookie onto the sheet without stretching or pulling it.
- Re-grease the mold and repeat the filling and unmolding process with the remaining pieces of dough. Chill molded cookies in the freezer on the pans for 10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Bake for 12 minutes for cookies with soft middles (best for sandwiches). For cookies that snap, bake for 16 minutes. (See recipe notes for more on bake times.) Remove cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Stand each cookie upright with one hand and sieve a little confectioners’ sugar on with the other. The protruding pinecone scales will catch the sugar and give the cookies a snowy effect.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, place the butter and pistachio paste; beat until combined. Add powdered sugar. Beat on low speed until just combined.
- Add milk or cream a little at a time until the mixture thins slightly (about 2-4 tablespoons, more or less depending on the cornstarch content in the powdered sugar). Add the salt and beat on high speed until the mixture is fluffy and pale yellow-green in color. Cover the buttercream with a damp towel to prevent crusting. Transfer the buttercream to a large piping bag fitted with the closed star tip.
- Pipe thick swirls of buttercream onto the flat side of one pinecone cookie.
- Sprinkle with chopped pistachios. Top with a second pinecone cookie.