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Inside and outside of double shell shaped cookie form

This is an old form I got from my German mother-in-law, here in Southern Germany. It is 10 cm (~ 4 in) long and 5 cm (~ 2 in) wide at the widest part. From the double shell shape, it appears to be a madeleine mold. Were there any other uses that someone knows of?

And yes, I use it to make southern German "Bärentatzen" - or "bear paws". I am just wondering if there is another use or two out there, since it looks so much more like shells than like paws :)

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    How big is it? I've seen French biscuits of similar shape but quite small – Chris H Nov 11 '20 at 10:33
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    Interesting, it seems to not be hinged, so it doesn't seem to make a standard madelaine-like shape. To me, it reads more like a bow (but of course, it could also be intended to make two halves which get glued together). – rumtscho Nov 11 '20 at 12:15
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    Not the same shape: There are Norwegian almond shortbread Christmas cookies called sandbakkles (literally "sand bakes") that are made in crenelated tins of similar size but different shapes from that. Based on the current answer, I'd suspect that sandbakkles and bärentatzen might be distant cookie cousins - both made with almonds in metal molds at Christmas time. – Todd Wilcox Nov 11 '20 at 22:12
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    How big are they? I have seen similar small metal forms used for making "Eiskonfekt". – HectorLector Nov 11 '20 at 22:25
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    @LamarLatrell I don't see one either, that's why I said it seems to me more like a bow than like a clamshell/madeleine. – rumtscho Nov 12 '20 at 19:11
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It’s not a perfect match1, but considering the region and that you apparently have just one or a few, I would assume that this is a slightly unusual mold for “Bärentatzen“ („bear paws“), a classic Swabian Christmas cookie.

raw cookies (Source)

A soft but stable flourless dough made with whipped eggs (or just egg whites), sugar, chocolate and almonds is first shaped into balls, coated in sugar, and then pressed into a wooden or metal mold just to shape them. The sugar prevents them from sticking and they are baked not in the mold, but free on a baking sheet. If you look closely at your mold, you’ll see that there is none of the slight polymerized grease residue that suggests that it was ever put into an oven.

Molds are traditionally made of wood (“Model”), usually beech or other hardwoods, but I have seen tin ones as well - the metal ones were more common in the earlier 20th century (pre-WW I&II and shortly after), but often had problems with the material suffering over time. Wooden ones are seeing a comeback in recent years.

Bärentatzen are pretty local - older Swabian cook books have them2,3, in the rest of Germany they are virtually unknown or mean another type of cookie closer related to spritz cookies. Food historians have suggested that the original shape was supposed to be scallops or seashells (think the religious symbol of the pilgrimage) and that the reference was lost at some point. The alternative name „Schokoladenmuscheln“3 („chocolate scallops“) is another indicator.


1 Typically Bärentatzen would be single shells. The baking equipment company Staedter sells a wooden version of a double shell and of a single shell as „Spekulatius mold“, which is in my opinion imprecise as Speculaas are traditionally very flat and at least the single one is sold as „Bärentatzen“ by Birkmann, another baking equipment supplier.

2 Kochen und Backen nach Grundrezepten, Luise Haarer, 1965 (and others)

3 Kiehnle-Kochbuch, Hermine Kiehnle, 1928

  • If you ping me in the Frying Pan, I’ll be happy to share a recipe or two. – Stephie Nov 11 '20 at 19:49
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    In the czech republic we use almost exactly the same form to bake christmas "cookies". It is baked inside the form which is first heavily coated with melted butter. – DRF Nov 11 '20 at 21:18
  • @DRF Madeleines are also baked in their molds. I guess the scallop shape is common enough as decorative element? – Stephie Nov 11 '20 at 21:21
  • @Stephie - my question originally stated I used them as Bärentatzen molds and it got automatically edited out of the question and I didn't put it in the description. Sorry. Yes, I have a wooden form and it is single. Which is why the double form interests me. Is it for a different, special bow-tie cookie, or is it the first step toward a pan of molds like one generally has today? – Lisa Biesinger Nov 12 '20 at 15:32
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It may not be a cookie mould at all

Throughout Europe, blancmange was a traditional dessert from at least the Middle Ages. Its popularity has varied, but certainly in Britain it was relatively popular until the 1970s or so. England also has a tradition of set fruit-flavoured jelly desserts. Other similar desserts exist elsewhere.

These all require the liquid mixture to be poured into a mould to set. Decorative moulds (usually made of metal) have been used for these for centuries. It is quite possible that your mould is not intended for cookies at all, but was actually intended to form a moulded bow. This may have been for an attractive small dessert, or as a decorative feature on top of a larger dessert.

Someone on Etsy is selling a 1940s swirl mould intended for set desserts. It is not exactly the same as yours, but there are definite similarities. Swirl mould

  • It is an interesting idea - however I can't find evidence that German Mandelsülze (the equivalent to French/English blancmange) was shaped with fancy forms. And the bow tie seems too small. – Lisa Biesinger Nov 16 '20 at 11:16
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I’m from this region and cannot imagine anything else than Bärentatzen for it. As someone already said, it would not make sense to put such a small mould into the oven, and I suppose that, if you want to have a pattern on Madeleine dough, you would have to bake it inside the mould. To me, I’d say it’s an invention to become twice as fast in doing them. Could use it now - the ingredients are waiting in the kitchen :) Best, Stefanie

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