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Artistry with cookies.

Clay in the hands of an artist, professional or otherwise--that's what this splendidly malleable cooky dough is.

To prove the point, we gave the dough to three Western artists to see how they would use it to create cookies for the holidays. Because the techniques they employed are simple, direct, and effective, we think you'll find their efforts reassuring and inspirational. And the butter-and-almond cookies are delicious to enjoy or give as gifts.

Golden Almond Sculpture Cookies 1 cup (1/2 lb.) butter or margarine 1 can (8 oz.) or 3/4 cup almond paste 3/4 cup sugar 1 large egg 3 cups all-purpose flour Cocoa-almond sculpture dough (optional, directions follow)

With an electric mixer, beat butter, almond pastE, and sugar until smoothly blended. Thoroughly mix in egg. Add flour and beat until well blended.

Use dough at room temperature; if made ahead, cover airtight and refrigerate up to 3 days (or freeze for longer storage).

Shape the dough on a baking sheet (one without sides works best); allow 1 to 2 inches between each cooky. For best results, the cooky's maximum thickness should not exceed 3/4 inch.

For tips on shaping the dough, see notes at end of recipe, as well as individual artists' techniques on page 177.

Bake cookies in 300[deg.] oven until they are a darker color on the bottom than the top and feel dry and firmer than the raw dough when lightly pressed (while hot, cookies are still soft enough to hold an impression and are easily cut with a sharp knife). Baking time varies with thickness: allow about 20 minutes for 1/4-inch-thick cookies, 30 minutes for 1/2-inch cookies, and 35 to 40 minutes for 3/4-inch cookies.

Let cookies stand on baking pans until firm and cool enough to touch (they get rigid when cooled to room temperature), then slide a spatula under cookies to be sure they are free. Lift with a wide spatula, or by hand, onto racks to cool. If made ahead, package airtight and hold at room temperature up to 3 days; freeze to store longer. Makes about 3-2/3 cups dough, enough to make 8 round cookies, each 4 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick.

Hints for shaping dough. When baked, the dough retains its surface texture and shape well, but as you work, keep these points in mind:

* The thicker the cooky, the more it tends to spread and flatten out as it bakes.

* Gently molded shapes hold better than sharp edges.

* Rounded shapes (coils, noses, and so on) flatten slightly.

* Thinner areas brown more quickly than thicker ones.

* You can make designs by cutting into the dough with a blade or by pressing objects into the dough.

To get fine strands, force bits of dough through a garlic press.

For contrasting effects, use both the golden almond and cocoa-almond sculpture doughs.

Cocoa-Almond Sculpture Cooky Dough

Make dough for golden almond sculpture cookies, preceding, but decrease all-purpose flour to 2-1/2 cups and, when you add the sugar, also add 1/2 cup cocoa. Makes about 3-3/4 cups.

Coil and slab:

Dora De Larios

Both a sculptor (by profession) and a baker (by hobby), Dora De Larios of Los Angeles returns to basic clay methods--coil and slab--to create her whimsies.

To make a slab, she pats or rolls out a piece of dough on a baking sheet, then cuts a simple outline deisgn with a knife (you can also use a cooky cutter). She introduces details by pinching bits of dough and pressing them onto the slab, rolling thin or thick ropes and laying them on, impressing the dough--with a thin-bladed knife, the end of a chopstick, the tines of a fork, or the head of a screw--and by using a contrasting color of dough. Or she rolls the dough into ropes and forms the designs with the coils (see page 174), then flattens the coils slightly so they stick together. These shapes are modified with slabs cut for specific features (like the head of the curly-tailed creature), contrasting-color dough, and impressed patterns.

Pinch and press:

Richard Beyer and friends

Seattle sculptor Richard Beyer invited family and artist friends to creat the cookies shown on page 175. They favored pressing lumps of dough onto the baking sheet, then molding them to creat the shapes desired.

Painter John Wagener used fine coils of dark dough fitted into slight depressions on the light dough to create a bas-relief effect (or reverse the colors). Most impressive for amateur cooky artists were the successes of children.

Vertical Geometrics

Fletcher Benton

Metal sculptor Fletcher Benton of San Francisco used scale models of his geometrical alphabet as inspiration for his titled cookies. Using his techniques, you can create your own designs. Benton used a compass to form the circles. We found the dough easier to control if pressed into a 3/4-inch-thick layer in an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan with removable bottom. Make any divisions at least 1 inch wide; use compass or knife to mark lines for cutting.

Bake in a 300[deg.] oven until cooky is slightly darker in color and surface feels dry and firmer than raw dough. While cooky is still soft and hot, cut through it, following lines traced on dough. If lines have moved, use a ruler and a compass to redefine the first impressions, then cut cooky. Let cooky cool to room temperature. Remove pan rim and slide a spatula under cooky to make sure it is free, then let cool completely.

To position design vertically, you'll need an extra pair of hands, as the cooky must be held until the whole unit is assembled, and you must handle pieces gently. Spoon about 1 tablespoon hot caramel (directions follow) onto a flat platter; position largest piece of the cooky unit in the caramel, holding piece upright or at a slight angle. Quickly, while caramel is still soft, fit center or any balancing pieces of cooky against it and at an opposing angle on the foundation to make the unit stable. Also drizzle caramel between cooky pieces that touch, and at base point of each piece on platter. Hold parts until caramel hardens, in 1 to 2 minutes. If cooky breaks, bond pieces with hot caramel, let set, then continue. Eat sculpture within 4 hours; break off sections.

Hot caramel. Pour 1/2 cup sugar into a 6- to 8-inch frying pan. Place on medium-high heat; shake often until sugar begins to melt, then shake and tilt pan constantly until sugar is completely melted and is a light amber color; watch carefully since it scorches and burns easily. Use at once. Heat and stire to remelt, if needed.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:recipes
Date:Dec 1, 1985
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