Now, lest you think that these are some long overdue Christmas cookies, I must swiftly and properly inform you that they most certainly are not.
These cookies are very special to me. One of my best friends, Tyne, studied abroad last semester and brought me back these cookie cutters, all the way from Berlin! And today is her 21st birthday! 🙂
Here’s the story behind these little men: They are called “Ampelmännchen,” which means little traffic light man. In other words, these guys tell you to stop or go when you cross the street.
Prior to the German reunification in 1990, East Germany wanted to distinguish itself from the West, so the Eastern side created a little man wearing a hat that was different from the generic human figure in Western Germany.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Ampelmännchen acquired cult status and became a popular souvenir item in the tourism business. T-shirts, jewelry, kitchenware, postcards, etc., you name it–they all feature this mascot!
Nowadays, you can always tell if you are in the former Eastern Germany territory by looking for the little man on the traffic lights.
And that, my friends, is your mini history lesson for the day 🙂
Anyway, one day my dad and I broke out these cookie cutters, mixed up some royal icing, and went to town making some snazzy Ampelmännchen.
And here is the perfect sugar cookie cutout recipe that we used:
One Dozen Perfect Sugar Cookie Cutouts
from Dessert for Two
- 3/4 cup flour, plus extra for rolling
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
- In a medium bowl, beat together with an electric mixer the butter and sugar. Once light and fluffy, add the egg yolk and extracts. Once well incorporated, sprinkle over half the flour mixture and beat gently until combined, then sprinkle over the rest. Beat until no streaks of flour remain, but be careful not to over-mix.
- Dust a clean counter top with flour, and dump the dough out onto it. Gather it into a ball and press it into a 2″ thick round disk. Flour your rolling pin, then roll out the dough out big enough to cut out about 8 shapes. Place the shapes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Gather the dough scraps and re-roll to cut out 4 more shapes and place them on the cookie sheet.
- Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for 5 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350.
- Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, until the edges of the cookies just start to turn brown. Let them sit on the sheet a few minutes before moving them a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once the cookies are completely cool, I used this royal icing recipe tinted with gel food coloring. Decorate to your heart’s desire!
Tyne–Happy birthday, pretty lady! I would give anything to be able to bake you something marvelous and celebrate with you right now, but I suppose we will just have to wait until our Venetian rendezvous next week 🙂 I am forever grateful and blessed to have you as a friend. I love you! Have the best day, and I’ll see you so very soon.