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The Art of the Cookie

Cookies are a popular sweet the world over, but in Switzerland they’re a veritable art form. Trust it to the Swiss—those champions of chocolate, cheese, folding knifes, and exquisite timepieces—to turn a simple mixture of sugar, butter, eggs, and flour into a vast repertoire of edible amenities worthy of gift giving and celebration.


Pastry Chef Jörg Amsler, the owner of Truly Jörg’s patisserie shops in downtown Boston and Saugus, Massachusetts, grew up with this illustrious cookie heritage. Born in Schaufhassen, Switzerland, he attended pastry school in Zurich and completed a five-year apprenticeship (four years in pastry and one in chocolate) at Konditorei Rhor, an elite Swiss bakery. Diploma in hand, Amsler moved to Montreal for a position with the Beaver Club Restaurant in the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. 


In 1990 the pastry wiz moved to the US and spent the next ten years working on the west and east coasts. By 2000, Amsler was ready to strike out on his own. With big ideas but a shortage of cash, he drew on his own construction skills to build Truly Jörg’s Pâtisserie in Chelsea, Massachusetts. It was an instant success, outgrowing the original space within a year. Amsler closed the Chelsea operation when his larger Saugus bakery, north of Boston, opened in 2001. In August 2006, Amsler opened another Truly Jörg’s outlet, with retail only, in a small café space in downtown Boston.


Can-do Dough

Amsler’s classic Sugar Dough is the foundation for all of Truly Jörg’s cut-out cookies, air-brushed holiday cookies, linzers, stenciled sweets, buttery fruit-and-almond paste bars, and his fanciful rose-shaped cookies. A simple mixture of all-purpose flour, sugar, butter, and eggs, the sweet dough “is flavorful and great to work with,” says Amsler, “because it rolls out easily, can be re-rolled often, and holds its shape when baked.” Without leavening to expand the surface of the dough, it can also be scored or marked and will retain the design after baking.


Because ingredients are minimal in these European cookie dough recipes, it’s essential that they are top-notch. Amsler uses only unsalted butter, fresh eggs, and unbleached all-purpose flour in his cookies, eschewing any shortening, pasteurized eggs, or artificial flavorings. His almond paste is the “real” thing—an equal blend of sugar and almonds. The chef laments, “There’s a cheaper macaroon paste available, much stronger tasting, made from apricot pits that many bakeries use instead of natural almond paste, which is much more expensive.”

Amsler personally shops for many of the bakery’s raw materials at the Restaurant Depot, a wholesale supplier in Chelsea, outside of Boston. Other premium ingredients, such as imported jams, fine chocolate, natural flavorings, food colors, and almond paste are special-ordered from trusted vendors. Special cookie molds, stencils, and other decorating equipment are sourced on the Internet—one of the few ways modernity has changed Amsler’s craft. Otherwise, he relies on many of the classic practices and tried-and true cookie recipes that he learned decades ago during his apprenticeship in Switzerland. After all, he grins, “There are some things that can’t be improved.”




To make rose-shaped cookies, Chef Amsler arranges 4 rounds of sugar cookie dough in a row, slightly overlapping. The row of cookies is rolled up from one end to the other to create a log shape. The log is pinched in half lengthwise to make two “roses.” Amsler clusters the roses on a larger sugar cookie base and bakes them together at 300°F. To finish, confectioners’ sugar is sprinkled on top and then browned with a small torch.




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