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Wooden molds are used to shape cookies in many parts of the world. The following recipe is for a cookie called ma'mool, which is a common holiday cookie in Syria, Lebanon and other Mideast countries. These wooden molds are normally 7"-9" in length and somewhat resemble a wooden spoon with a design carved inthe middle of the bowl. The designs are always round or oval and contain different geometric designs. Ma'mool molds are often mis-identified as butter molds. This recipe is courtesy of Gourmet Magazine.

for dough:

3 C. fine semolina (#1)

1 C. all-pupose flour

1 Tbsp. mahlab (optional)

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted

2/3 to 1 C. water

for filling:

1 lb. walnuts or pistachios, finely chopped (3 cups)

1 1/2 C. granulated sugar

1 tsp. orange-flower water, or to taste

confectioner's sugar for dusting

make dough:

Stir together semolina, flour, and mahlab and stir in butter. Let mixture stand, covered, 1 hour. Knead in just enough water to make a slightly soft (but not sticky) dough.

make filling:

Stir together walnuts, sugar, and orange-flower water (mixture will be dry).

form and bake ma'mool:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Roll a walnut-size piece of dough into a ball and, holding it in your cupped palm, make a deep depression in center with your finger. Press in 1 tablespoon of filling and pinch edges of dough firmly together to enclose filling. I fusing a cookie mold, press smooth side of cookie into mold (seam side toward you) and rap mold back into your hand to release it. Form more cookies in same manner, arranging them, seam sides down, 1 inch apart on 2 greased baking sheets. Bake ma'mool in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until pale golden, 20 to 25 minutes total. Transfer ma'mool to racks to cool, then dust with confectioner's sugar.

Cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.

Yield: 36 cookies

It is claimed that the town of Torun, Poland, began making its famous pierniki Torunskie in the 14th century, a baking tradition that is still carried on today. This cookie is formed in wooden molds, called "klaceks" in Poland. The bakers of that region sometimes decorate the cookies with brightly colored icing to help celebrate the Christmas season when pierniki is more commonly made. Sadly, many of the old wooden cookie boards were destroyed during the Nazi occupation in the 1940's. The following recipe for the tradtional pierniki comes from the book Treasured Polish Christmas Customs and Traditions.

5 C. flour

2 C. sugar

1 C. honey

1/2 C. butter

2 eggs

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1/2 tsp. cloves

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Melt 1 tablespoon sugar in a large skillet and allow to carmalize. Pour in 1/4 cup water, allow to boil. Add remaining sugar. When sugar has dissolved, add honey and spices. Allow to come to boil. Let cool. Sift flour. Put aside 1 cup with which to flour the board. Add to the carmelized sugar; butter, 2 eggs, flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Knead very well, adding more flour to make an elastic dough. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes. Roll out on floured board and make favorite cut-outs, or press dough into floured cookie board and place cookie on baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes.

For the most part, cookies formed from wooden molds are found only within central and eastern Europe. There are exceptions to this rule, one of them being Russia, where they make prianiki. There are three towns in Russia which are also known for their molded cookies, Tula, Vyazma and Arkhangelsk. Each town has its own special touch when it comes to creating these chewy gingerbread cookies. In Tula, bakers use plum jams as a garnish, while bakers in Vyazma incorporate molasses into the recipe and in Arkhangelsk the cookies are finished with icing. This recipe for Russian prianiki is courtesy of Linda DeLaine.

2 Tbsp. butter

3/4 C. honey

3/4 C. jam (plum is preferred, but quince will work)

1 egg

1 C. plain flour

1/4 C. confectioner's sugar

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp. each cardamom, ginger and cinnamon

1 Tbsp. crushed blanched almonds

2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Cream together the butter and honey. Add egg and beat. Blend in baking soda, spices and almonds. Add enough flour to make a soft ball of dough. Cover dough with waxed paper and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat overn to 350°F.

If using wooden cookie boards for this recipe, omit the jam and press chilled dough into floured molds and place on a greased baking sheet. Otherwise, on a floured surface, roll out chilled dough to 1/8" thickness. Cut with a 2"-3" floured cutter, cut out an even number of circles. Cut each circle in half. Spread half with jam and place the other half on top, sealing edges. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake for 10 more minutes. Cool prianiki on a wire rack.

Combine lemon juice and confectioner's sugar, drizzle over cooled cakes

Yield: 15-18 prianiki cookies