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Element Cookies


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Last week some of us chemistry juniors gave a presentation to the freshmen and sophomores interested in the chemistry major to talk about scheduling, what to expect from the classes, requirements of the major, research opportunities, REUs, etc. Naturally, these sorts of presentations necessitate food. The natural college-food option is pizza. The cardboardy, sauce-and-cheese-drenched, dripping-oil-everywhere, floppy pizza. Absolutely turns my stomach. Now, I ate a piece, mind you. But I also believe in offering something more aethestically appealing and tastier, if not more healthy.

Enter: The element cookie. 

Don't pay too much attention to the gritty, disgusting cookie sheet. I didn't bake these babies on it, I just needed it to transport them and ran out of parchment paper.

I say "element" cookie and not "periodic table cookies" because: (a) technically... a periodic table is a collection of elements arranged in a specific pattern, and each cookie only denotes one element, so the cookies themselves are not periodic tables... but mostly, because (b) I only have a circle cookie cutter, not a square, so I couldn't really make them fit together like a table; if I'd made them into a table, I would have called them periodic table cookies anyway... since they're cookies that make up a periodic table. Semantics aside, these were a great hit, despite them being the first time I made them.

The sugar cookie recipe came from Martha Stewart, the royal icing recipe from Not So Humble Pie.  Some day, I swear I'll have the time to post my own recipes. Some day soon.

I did, however, make the atomic symbols with my own ingenuity. I printed out two sheets of atomic symbols in a large, bold font with plenty of space between them. Then, I melted white chocolate, put the pieces of paper onto a cookie sheet and covered them with wax paper, and then piped white chocolate by tracing the letters I could see through the wax paper. Or at least that's what I tried to do, in reality, the letters I printed in the science building were too small so I had to go by hand. But if I owned a printer and could have reprinted them easily, that's what I would have done. After all the symbols were piped, I popped them in the freezer to harden. (Tip: try to make sure that the letters in two-letter symbols are touching, like the Tc above. It makes it easier to pop them on quickly as one piece, rather than searching for a lost letter after you've already put on the first letter, just to discover it's already been broken.) I kept these in the freezer until it came to putting on letters; keeping the chocolate extra firm helps not to break them in the process. Piping thicker letters will also help in this regard.

Anyway, I made the sugar cookies according to the instructions linked above, baked them, and let them cool completely. This time, I made them thinner the MS recommends, because I was on a time crunch. Next time I'd make them 0.5" thick as she recommends, if not thicker.

The icing was a bit trickier. Because Royal icing dries out, I only divided the icing into separate containers for coloring as I went. So, I spooned out some icing into a ramekin, dyed it purple, piped my flood barricade (the outer circle of the icing), watered it down a little bit, and flooded the inside of my circle with a spoon. I then immediately dropped white chocolate atomic symbols into the flood icing and pressed down carefully to make sure they'd stick. Then I sprinkled with the appropriate color of sugar glitter and let dry completely.* I did this for however many cookies I wanted of that color, then repeated with each other color.   After the cookies had all dried, I used a food color pen to write in the atomic number and mass.

(* I actually didn't let them dry completely because I ran out time, but if you can, let them dry completely. That way, the food color pen won't break through the icing and get icing stuck to the top of your pen. If you don't have enough time, pop the cookies in the freezer for 10 minutes or so; that'll harden the top layer of icing a little, then just... write softly.)

There you have it! Element cookies. I apologize for the messy pictures; as soon as I have time to try this again when I have more than 3 hours to make the cookies (and this was my first time making roll out cookies, using a cookie cutter, making royal icing, coloring icing, and using a pastry bag, mind you!), I'd edit this post with prettier photos!


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