Is There A Food-Safe Version Of An Ink Brayer?

Decorating By hbquikcomjamesl Updated 17 Aug 2012 , 3:02am by hbquikcomjamesl

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 6 Aug 2012 , 5:24pm
post #1 of 13

The implement shown below, the one with a roller attached to a handle, is called a brayer. (The other, smaller implement is an ink knife.) A brayer is used for hand-inking a type forme, either for presses that are too small (or too primitive) to be self-inking, or for printing multiple colors from a single forme, in fine art printing.
Image (image from Wikimedia Commons)

A fellow docent at the International Printing Museum, on learning that I baked, expressed an interest in cookies baked in the shape of pieces of wood display type, for an upcoming event at the Museum. I think I can do it with my mother's famous shortbread recipe, but it occurred to me that it would be a nice touch if the "type cookies" could then be "inked" with a thin layer of some sort of frosting (or with "cookie paint").

To be truly authentic, though, a brayer would be the ideal implement for this "inking" of the "type." Is there a food-safe equivalent to an ink brayer?

12 replies
sillywabbitz Posted 6 Aug 2012 , 5:50pm
post #2 of 13

I can't imagine there is an official food safe one. If you just want an inked look. Could you cover the cookie in fondant or rolled buttercream and stamp it or stencil it to get the same effect.

metria Posted 6 Aug 2012 , 9:18pm
post #3 of 13

Have you ever seen Amazing Wedding Cakes? The cake shop in Minnesota, Gateaux Inc, does screen printing too. On the show I've seen them use the same techniques for their screen printing on cakes (like putting a monogram on a fondant plaque). Perhaps you can ask them about their equipment?

metria Posted 6 Aug 2012 , 9:20pm
post #4 of 13

I apologize if screen printing isn't the same as what you were describing; I'm not very knowledgeable on those media.

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 6 Aug 2012 , 9:45pm
post #5 of 13

I think I've found something: has anybody used a "pastry roller" to apply frosting, "cookie paint," or other decorative substance to cakes, cookies, &c?

Then again, for what I'd be doing, a small pastry brush, or maybe an "ink ball" (the predecessor of the brayer) made from culinary cloth and medical cotton wadding, might be the more cost-effective solution.

metria Posted 6 Aug 2012 , 9:52pm
post #6 of 13

you'd be rolling the paint on the top of the cookies, right? I imagine a brayer would only work if the cookie surface you wanted to ink was perfectly flat, which would be difficult. Perhaps a paintbrush or a foam pad?

nursingnellie Posted 6 Aug 2012 , 9:54pm
post #7 of 13

The basic materials for a brayer probably exist in food-safe form, since I imagine the edible ink printers must use a similar procedure as part of their mechanism? But I have no idea if that will help, just popped into my head!

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 6 Aug 2012 , 10:10pm
post #8 of 13

Uh, no, edible ink printers are all ink-jet digital printers. I was speaking of printing in the graphic arts sense of the term. As in Gutenberg, and books, and newspapers.

Brayers, ink-balls, and ink rollers built into the presses are used for letterpress, flexographic, intaglio, and lithographic printing, and squeegees are used for silk-screen printing (and I would imagine the mechanized version of silk-screening, the Mimeograph, must use something like a squeegee).

I believe the only use of food-safe inks in relief printing is in the stamping of grading marks and/or producer logos onto meat (and perhaps produce, on occasion, although that's usually done either with stickers, edible inkjet systems, or literally branding the surface with a tightly focused laser).

In digital printing, impact printers slam pins or formed characters against the paper, with a ribbon of some sort in between, while ink jet printers force ink through a nozzle. Some xerographic systems, both copiers and laser printers, use a roller of sorts to apply the toner to the drum, belt, or other sensitized surface.


hbquikcomjamesl Posted 6 Aug 2012 , 10:27pm
post #9 of 13
Originally Posted by metria

you'd be rolling the paint on the top of the cookies, right? I imagine a brayer would only work if the cookie surface you wanted to ink was perfectly flat, which would be difficult. Perhaps a paintbrush or a foam pad?

Which is why I'm probably going to abandon the whole "brayer" idea, in favor of either a food-safe brush, or maybe cobbling together a food-safe version of an ink-ball.

nursingnellie Posted 6 Aug 2012 , 10:48pm
post #10 of 13

Ok, I knew you were not talking about ink-jet or digital printing; I am very well aware that there is a difference. I was merely throwing out the first "roller" that popped into my head that related to food besides a rolling pin.

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 13 Aug 2012 , 4:38pm
post #11 of 13

As far as what happened:

Since the fellow docent who suggested the idea has a severe dairy allergy, I used vegan margarine (specifically, "Earth Balance Baking Sticks") instead of my usual 50/50 mix of butter and conventional margarine, and used CakeMate writing frosting (the four-pack of small tubes), rather than try and concoct my own "cookie paint."

Tasted fine, but the vegan margarine played havoc with the texture: more like sweetened piecrust than an actual shortbread cookie. Stacking the cutouts on top of a solid sheet of dough, that had been rolled on aluminum foil, cut into bases, but left intact, also worked fine: the cookies weren't as crisp as normal, but the sides of the bases didn't bow out, and they were easy enough to recut while still warm from the oven.

For the "inking" of the "wood-type cookies," I tried cobbling together a food-safe approximation of an "ink-ball," using a spice bag stuffed with medical-grade cotton balls, but that didn't work out, so I just used a small frosting spatula. I eventually determined that a soft silicone pastry roller would be an actual food-safe equivalent to an ink brayer, but based on my experience, it wouldn't be worth $8-$12 for an implement that might or might not do the job, when a frosting spatula would do an adequate (albeit slow) job.

Picture to follow, once I get it scaled down and posted on Flickr. Lacking a set of alphabet cutters, I fell back on my usual "integral sign" cookie cutter as a stand-in, but flipping the cutouts "wrong-reading" (they are supposed to look like inked type, after all).

We all agreed that the idea was worth pursuing further, and that I should try it (vegan again) with a "gingerbread boy" recipe, and that if that works out better, I can do vegan ginger-type, and conventional shortbread-type.

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 14 Aug 2012 , 3:12am
post #12 of 13

And here it is.
Wood Type Cookies, Mk. 1 by Tracker-Backer, on Flickr

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 17 Aug 2012 , 3:02am
post #13 of 13

The "gingerbread boy" recipe was a total bust, at least for this purpose: the dough is way too loose for anything even remotely like this. At least they taste good.

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