Food-Safe Rulers/templates

Decorating By hbquikcomjamesl Updated 18 Sep 2012 , 4:13pm by hbquikcomjamesl

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 10 Sep 2012 , 8:57pm
post #1 of 15

This is another question concerning my "wood type cookies" project, which (if you haven't seen the related threads) involves stacked shortbreads (i.e., a letter, set wrong-reading on top of a rectangular base before baking), designed to look like pieces of wood display type (even to the letters being "inked" with cookie-paint).

In order to prevent the edges of the bases from bowing out during baking, I'm rolling that layer directly on the foil cookie sheet liner, and using a large frosting spatula to make the cuts between the individual cookies, but leaving the bases (and the scraps around the edges) together (even though that means re-cutting them as soon as they come out of the oven).

In the test batches, one conclusion I came to is that they would be much easier to make if I had some sort of templates and/or rulers, for laying out the "base" layer, and for scribing some guide marks for positioning the letters.

But what would I use for that? Any suggestions?

For that matter, any suggestions on a better way to keep the straight edges of the bases straight, other than to leave everything together, including the scraps?

14 replies
metria Posted 10 Sep 2012 , 9:49pm
post #2 of 15

once the cookie is baked, perhaps you can achieve a nice straight edge by "sanding" it on a microplane or fine cheese grater?

MimiFix Posted 10 Sep 2012 , 9:50pm
post #3 of 15

Do you have any photos? I'm a bit confused about this project, I haven't seen the related threads - but my first suggestion would be to re-cut after baking. Which you already do. Is that not good enough for your purposes? When I make gingerbread houses, the pieces are often cut again after they are baked and that gives them a straight edge... I assume your recipe has no leavener. Do you chill your cookies before baking? That often helps keep the cookie from distorting while its baking. Wish I could help more...

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 10 Sep 2012 , 11:40pm
post #4 of 15

Yes; I'm cutting both before and after baking. But I'd like to have a better template for the before-baking (and before-stacking) cut, and perhaps a second one for scribing some guide marks for stacking. As I recall, in the first two test batches (with my integral sign cookie cutter as a stand-in for letters), I used a spatula that happened to be the right size to use as a template.

I do have a picture handy of the very first test batch, from before I had a set of alphabet cutters, and you can see that the alignment and uniformity are not what they could be.

Image
Wood Type Cookies, Mk. 1 by Tracker-Backer, on Flickr

Note that these, and the second test batch, were "inked" with a drying frosting after they were cooked, whereas I'll probably mix up some "cookie paint" for the production batches, and apply before baking; in the third test batch, I tested both an egg-tempera version (which I'll likely use on the "regular" cookies) and a flour version (which I'll likely use on the small batch of "dairy-free/vegan" cookies).

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 10 Sep 2012 , 11:54pm
post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by MimiFix

Do you chill your cookies before baking? That often helps keep the cookie from distorting while its baking.




Chilling. I hadn't thought of that for the bases, and hadn't done it in any of the test batches (which made the one gingerbread-boy test batch a total nightmare to assemble), but I was already planning on doing it for the letters, since I was having trouble keeping them from distorting or breaking while I was picking them up and jockeying them into place.

And yes, cutting the bases before, without parting them, leaving scraps in place, and then recutting them and parting them while hot, is definitely "good enough" on keeping the edges straight (you can see that in the pix from the first test batch), but I was idly wondering if there was a way, that didn't involve having something made up by a machinist specializing in food-safe work, to exert tighter control, and avoid having to bake so much scrap dough.

The things I get myself into for the sake of the Printing Museum!

MimiFix Posted 11 Sep 2012 , 11:06am
post #6 of 15

So just to make sure I understand - you are cutting the bases without a cookie cutter? (It is verrrry difficult to be as precise as a tool.)

Panel7124 Posted 11 Sep 2012 , 12:11pm
post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by MimiFix

So just to make sure I understand - you are cutting the bases without a cookie cutter? (It is verrrry difficult to be as precise as a tool.)




I was wondering about the same... Do yourself a favor and get a rectangle cookie cutter - they are available in many sizes. It will be much hb-quiker-comjamesl icon_wink.gif And chill them before baking as Mimi said. Good luck, I'm sure they will come out great. Post the pictures!

MimiFix Posted 11 Sep 2012 , 7:42pm
post #8 of 15

Yup, you need to get a cookie cutter. I make colored shortbread cutouts with a recipe that has no leavener. And sometimes make them double cut-outs by fitting one color within another. http://bakingfix.com/thefix/?p=5641 I never have a problem with distortion. Good luck!

(Now I need help. How do you post a photo?)

cheatize Posted 11 Sep 2012 , 11:13pm
post #9 of 15

When I don't have the cutter I need, I make a template from cardstock, cardboard, or foamboard. I cover the template in Glad Press-n-seal to make it food safe and then my template is ready to go for hand cut cookies.

For a food safe ruler, the only thing I have found so far is using the edge of a scraper blade but it's often not long enough.

FlourPots Posted 11 Sep 2012 , 11:28pm
post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheatize

When I don't have the cutter I need, I make a template from cardstock, cardboard, or foamboard. I cover the template in Glad Press-n-seal to make it food safe and then my template is ready to go for hand cut cookies.




Here's a great way to make templates using plastic food container lids: http://www.sweetsugarbelle.com/blog/2011/06/independence-day-rocket-cookies-making-plastic-templates/

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 12 Sep 2012 , 6:01pm
post #11 of 15

Hmm. Wait a second, Re: chilling the base layer.

Just by having the bases "cut but not parted," I end up with cookies that are a bit underdone, surrounded by scrap that's a bit underdone. Wouldn't chilling the base layer exacerbate that?

Hmm. If I were to push the scraps in (against the large frosting spatula I'm using for the cuts), making them a bit thicker than the cookies, and maybe shade them slightly with foil (like a piecrust shield), maybe that might improve both evenness and distortion-resistance . . . I think I just might make a 4th test batch (back down to half-recipe) to test that, to test chilling the letters, and to try various ways to "ink" the cookies with cookie-paint before baking (something I'd forgotten to do with test batch 3).

MimiFix Posted 12 Sep 2012 , 6:18pm
post #12 of 15

Chilling the dough should have no effect upon the final outcome - just bake another minute or two.

James, I have rolled out and baked thousands of cookies without leaving scraps in place. If you use a cookie cutter, a recipe with no leavener, and chill the dough, you should have no problem with distortion.

BakingIrene Posted 12 Sep 2012 , 7:34pm
post #13 of 15

The issue with cutting lines with a template is the drag from the knife. It's the same for dough and gumpaste.

Cutting a rolled sheet of dough with a cookie cutter on the pan means that you do NOT move the cut pieces. NO distortion, and the well chilled dough should give true shapes.

In the absence of the right cutter: Using a steel spatula or chefs knife or ruler to press down through the dough takes care of the drag if you do not then move the pieces around. If you can cut a throwaway strip between the cookie strips then you can be assured of no drag and thorough baking.

Chilling the dough doesn't add a perceptible amount of time to the baking time in my kitchen. The well preheated oven takes care of the dough temperature.

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 12 Sep 2012 , 8:11pm
post #14 of 15

And indeed, at least to the best of my recollection from the test batch, the spatula used for the cuts (about the same size as a commercial meat-carving knife) was moved straight up and straight down, the same movement as a cookie cutter.

And at any rate, there was no "shear" distortion from the cut; all distortion was "barrel" distortion, from the lack of any opposing forces to balance the "spread" forces exerted by the cookies. Which is one reason why, for this recipe, I normally use the "integral sign" cutter for this recipe: it has no straight lines to visibly distort. (The other reason is that this is a fairly friable cookie, and the relatively long, narrow shape helps the crumbs to stay in your mouth when you bite into it.)

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 18 Sep 2012 , 4:13pm
post #15 of 15

I found my template material, at Bed Bath & Beyond, the other day: cheap, food-safe, durable, non-porous, and thin enough to cut with a single-edge razor blade.

I found a 4-pack of "Original Chop Chop Flexible Cutting Mats" for $6. With an 18-inch steel ruler and a single-edge, I was easily able to cut a 2 1/2" strip (for the body row cuts) and a 2" strip (to lightly scribe a baseline) from the blue one (chosen because we don't generally eat seafood at home).

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