Combine all the ingredients in a bowl : cornstarch, baking powder, salt, sugar, egg yolks, coconut milk, softened butter, lemon zest and oil. Blend well with a wooden spoon. Slowly add the cake flour and the rice flour, knead it into the mixture till it resembles a thick dough and has a smooth surface. Mixing by hand should take about 10 minutes till it is smooth and all ingredients are incorporated.
Place the dough into an airtight container and freezer for 2 to 4 hours or overnight.
When ready to bake, take the dough out of the freezer and thaw on the counter for 8 to 10 minutes. Keep the dough very cold so it is easy to roll out and handle on the heirloom cookie molds.
Grease with baking spray or shortening the surface of the San Nicolas mold which has the design. Make sure to grease the inner crevices and corners so that the dough can be removed easily after shaping.
Place a chunk of the dough, about 4 tablespoons over the San Nicolas mold, on the hand carved portion. Flatten with your hand to spread it around evenly. Place a piece of parchment or wax paper over the dough, which is over the wooden mold. Using a rolling pin, roll and flatten the dough so it gets embedded in the design.
Place a round or oval cookie cutter over the San Nicolas mold, to cut the dough to the appropriate shape needed. Trim the edges of the cookie if needed, whether round or oval. Quickly transfer the molded dough onto a baking sheet that has parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet.
Bake Pan de San Nicolas at a preheated oven of 325 F degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or till top is brown.
When done, cool the cookies on a cookie rack. They will be crisp on the outside, but will have a slightly soft shortbread texture inside. It will take at least 30- 40 minutes for the cookies to cool on the rack. When Pan de San Nicolas cookies are cooled, wrap in white cellophane wrappers to show off the intricate designs. Store in an airtight glass or plastic jar.
RECIPE NOTES : The original recipe of Mrs. Borromeo called for 2 cups of arrow root flour (in the Philippines, it is 'uraru'). But it was not easy for me to obtain here in the USA, so I substituted Mochiko rice flour and regular cornstarch, and the recipe worked out well. If you find arrow root flour, use 2 cups in place of the rice flour and regular cornstarch.
AVAILABILITY : I brought these wooden cookie molds back to the United States after a visit to my roots in the Philippines. These handmade heirloom wooden cookie molds from Pampanga can be purchased from Mrs. Lillian Borromeo during a Pampanga Culinary Heritage Tour in the province of Pampanga, Philippines. It is the culinary capital of the Philippines, and is approximately 60 miles north of Manila, the capital. To get on these tours, contact Outereaters Tours director : Poch Jorolan at this email [email protected] or his mobile phones (Philippines) 0917-510-8961 or 0999-994-8634.
Acknowledgement : The last photograph on this blog post, which shows the oval, leaf-like Pan de San Nicolas were made by Mrs. Lillian Borromeo. I took this photo of her cookies when I visited her home in Pampanga, just before I returned back to the USA. These were made with the arrow root flour.
* COOKIE MOLDS SUBSTITUTE : If you can't fly out to Asia and the Philippines right away to buy some antique cookie molds, try using springerle cookie molds which can be purchased online.
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