Untidying Up: Bringing yesterday’s joy back into the kitchen
February 01, 2019
By now I’m sure you’ve all heard about the Netflix sensation Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, wherein Ms. Kondo helps us all organize and declutter our lives by letting go of objects that no longer spark joy. And while most of us these days can certainly use a little less clutter in our lives, there’s a glorious byproduct of all this tidying up for those of us with a love of retro/vintage gear-
The thrift stores are overflowing with everyone’s tidied-out gear!
Now, those of us of a certain age probably grew up with a Mirro Cooky Press in our homes. (Most of my pals I’ve shown this to have lit up and exclaimed “Hey! My mom had one of those when I was a kid!” Everyone’s mom had one of these…) In fact, my mom still had one of these… until 2 months ago, when it finally broke.
But this thing lasted 40 years in my mom’s kitchen! And that was 40 years of wear and tear- we made spritz cookies with this press every Christmas my entire life (including this last one), we made them at Easter, for school bake sales, for birthdays, and just when we were bored and wanted cookies. We put a lot of miles on this thing and I was super bummed when it finally broke.
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m so sentimental I won’t replace a broken tool- the fact is you can’t get these anymore. Not new, anyway. I feel old just typing this- but they literally don’t make them like they used to. Mirro stopped making these around the late 70s / early 80s. Modern presses use a little different design and all the ones I’ve seen have at least some component of plastic to them. Maybe I’m just a stodgy old curmudgeon, but I just can’t imagine the new presses I’ve seen lasting 40+ years.
Which brings us back to the thrift store. There, on the shelf, still in its decades-old cardboard box, was a pristine Mirro Cooky Press, just like Mom’s! Why yes, this DOES spark joy!! (To be clear- the press was in pristine condition, the box was battered as heck.)
But wait- there’s more! A little further down the aisle, another cookie press! Clearly a Mirro, but not in its box. This one was in a plastic bag, but included all of its shape plates and nozzles. And, get this- it had a crank-handle top. I’d never seen a Mirror with that! For $5 a piece, I totally snagged both. (You gotta try all the options, right?)
But wait, there’s more. Further still down the aisle, another vintage cookie press! This one wasn’t a Mirro; it’s called Cookie King and was apparently made by Nordic Ware. It’s narrower than the Mirro and uses a crank-handle, but still all aluminum and definitely from the same era. This one, also, was still in it’s original box. Another $5, another cookie press.
And now, home to test them all.
The Mirro that was in its box even still had the little recipe book that came with it. There are tons of different press cookie recipes you can make, but I made my own recipe to cater to our food-sensitive household. Here’s what I did:
Vegan Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Press Cookies
- 1/2 cup Earth Balance vegan spread
- 1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter
- 1 cup organic brown sugar
- 1/2 cup organic powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp molasses
- 2 tbsp agave nectar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 cup vanilla soymilk
- 2 1/4 cup gluten-free 1:1 baking flour
- **optional** 4 tbsp cocoa (for chocolate peanut butter cookies)
I tried out the Cookie King first. It came with 10 shape plates. Most of them were clearly derived from the Mirro set, but it had a few unique pieces so I opted for those. I tried out the snowman and the person.
The press worked pretty well. The hand-crank felt less intuitive to use than the knob of the Mirro I grew up with, but it worked. The dough didn’t seem to come away from the press as easily as the Mirror I was used to, but I wasn’t sure at this point if that was a mark of the press, or the dough recipe I’d used. I used a knife to help it out a little.
The cookies wound up looking a bit rough. To be fair, I think I chose the 2 hardest shapes to get nice looking cookies with. But I definitely don’t recommend this for cute holiday snowmen cookies.
Next up, I went with the Mirro with the hand-crank. This was the worst design innovation Mirro ever did. The crank top worked out OK with the Cookie King, but possibly because the Mirro is wider and you’re pressing more dough with a broader surface, it was just a pain. It was hard to turn, and kind of killed the fun of pressing out cookies.
I stuck with the classic pinwheel shape for this one. When I got the right amount of dough pushed through, it came away nice and clean, but the crank required so much force that I kept picking up the press too early so the cookies got a bit sloppy.
As with all cookie presses, a bit of dough is left in the press at the end of the batch. Because of the wider design of the Mirro, you get a lot more leftover dough in their press. I suspect Nordic Ware deliberately designed their for less waste, but personally… I live for that leftover dough! This alone could keep me in the Mirro camp.
Last but not least, the clear winner- the classic Mirro knob-topped press. Easy to turn, easy to use, and super fun.
Growing up, we mostly used the pinwheel, flower, and Christmas tree plates. Some of the others I’ve always kind of wondered about. Like this one.
It’s not exactly obvious, is it? But I had to know…
It’s a heart, you guys! It’s totally a heart! Now, why didn’t I see that right from the start?
So, the verdict is- the vintage Mirro Cooky Press with the knob top is still the best cookie press that ever lived. It is now nestled in my baking accessory drawer where it will hopefully continue to spark joy for decades to come. The other Mirro and the Cookie King are on display above my refrigerator in all their vintage-packaged glory, sparking a different type of joy.
Thanks, Marie Kondo!