November-December 2007 Selected Content
The Incredible Edible Map - Audrey M. Smith
Perk up geography with a project the whole family can sink their teeth into: an incredible, edible cookie map of the United States, complete with chocolate chip mountains and blue frosting rivers swimming with gummy fish. It's fun, easy and a learning adventure from start to yummy finish!
Step 1 - Preparation
• First, locate a simple outline drawing of the United States for a visual reference to shape the cookie. Textbooks and atlases are good sources or print a free map at nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/atlas/
• For the baking surface, use an extra-large cookie sheet or remove the upper rack from your oven and cover it with two sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Leave one inch of the rack uncovered on each side to allow even baking. Lay two layers of brown paper on top of the foil.
• Make the cookie map as large as practical so there will be enough space to add physical features later.
• Make a double batch of peanut butter or chocolate chip cookie dough (minus the chips). This dough type is easy to roll out on an oiled surface and shape by hand. It also bakes well and remains soft long enough after baking to press items into the surface.
Step 2 - Shaping the map
• Gather the cookie dough into a log shape. Place it in the center of the baking surface. With oiled hands, stretch and flatten the dough, easing slightly more dough to the left. The western half of the U.S. is larger than the eastern. Looking at the paper map, begin shaping the dough like the United States. Try to keep the dough the same thickness throughout the entire cookie, except in Florida. Florida juts out into a peninsula so the dough needs to be twice as thick as the rest to prevent burning before the rest of the cookie is done. The shape does not have to be perfect. It will change slightly during baking anyway.
When you're happy with the shape, smooth the surface with an oiled rolling pin. Do not use flour to prevent sticking. After baking, flour gives the surface an unattractive dried-out look.
Preheat your oven to 375o. Time to dig the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona. Press your fingers into the dough to make an inch-long depression with steep sides--canyon walls. Brush the canyon walls with water then sprinkle with colored sugar to resemble colorful mineral layers. For the surrounding desert, brush a little water on dough and dust with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Do the same for other arid areas. Consult an atlas or other source for placement.
Cover Florida with a tent of aluminum foil. Remove the foil when the cookie is almost done. Carefully insert the cookie sheet or oven rack into the preheated oven. If you're baking on paper, place a bowl of water on the lower oven rack to prevent the paper from burning.
Bake until the map edges are lightly browned yet firm. The dough should be slightly soft in the center, but not doughy; it firms as it cools. Baking times will vary due to cookie size, dough thickness and recipe used.
Step 3 - Landscaping
While the map is baking, ready your supplies for the coolest part--decorating the surface. Try some of these ideas.
• Major rivers and lakes--tubes of blue frosting
• Rocky Mountains--candy kisses
• Appalachian Mountains--chocolate chips
• Deserts and arid regions--gumdrop snakes, cacti and rocks; shredded wheat tumbleweeds
• Grand Canyon-- a plastic mule and gumdrop cactus. Frost the Colorado River through the canyon it dug.
• Corn Belt--row of candy corn
• Texas ranches--plastic cows and sheep with fencing; green frosting grass
• Idaho, the Potato State--Tootsie Rolls® warmed in hands then molded into miniature potatoes
• Pine forests of Maine--spearmint gumdrop evergreens
• Fishing-- gummy fish in rivers and Gulf of Mexico, along coastlines
Points of interest
• Disneyland-- Mickey Mouse figure
• Everglades National Park--green gumdrop alligator
• Liberty Bell--chocolate kiss with the tip cut off and a crack etched in the side of the bell, a toothpick or a gumdrop bell
• Nashville, Country Music Capital--cowboy hat
• Mount Rushmore--four gummy bears atop black gumdrop mountains. Glue them in place with frosting.
Capitals and other important cities
• Washington, DC-- gumdrop star
• Other cities--gumdrop circles. Cut gumdrops into slices with a knife or scissors dipped in water. Mark your hometown, New York City and Grandma's house.
Step 4 - Mountain-building
After baking, cool the map until just warm, but still soft. For the Rocky Mountains, press a row of chocolate kisses into the surface from Idaho and Montana southeasterly through Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and into Texas. Consult a map, as needed. Don't worry about being exact. Have fun! .
Step 5 - The big finish!
The map features listed in step four are meant as a springboard to your own creative ideas. Personalize your map: a campfire of taffy logs with gumdrop flames for your family's campgrounds or any addition important to you and your area of study.
After the map cools completely, glue items in place with frosting. Pipe some frosting rivers. Draw lakes on a cookie with a toothpick then fill in the area with frosting. Frost oceans around the map and dot them with gummy sharks, whales and fish. The possibilities are limitless!
Step 6 - Map Munching 101
The long awaited moment arrives. Quick! Gather the family around your work of art and take a picture. There's also still another learning opportunity. Each person who wants to sample the mouth-watering masterpiece must first name the geographic location they wish to devour: "I'd like Mount Rushmore, please," or "I'm so hungry I could eat the entire state of California!"
• nationalatlas.gov/printable.html: Create free, printable maps of the US, individual states, the world, election maps and more.
• peacecorps.gov/kids/index.html: "Peace Corps Kids World." Fascinating online expeditions, basic country information and an extraordinary look into the everyday lives of children around the world.
• nationalgeographic.com: Colorful, attention-grabbing information.
• wenchantedlearning.com/geography/index.shtml: Tons of printable projects, easy-to-understand directions and illustrations.
• lizardpoint.com/fun/geoquiz: Map quiz games, visual prompts, positive feedback.
• www.fema.gov/kids/dizarea.htm: Emergencies and disasters can be especially frightening to children. Learning fact from myth about tornadoes, winter storms, thunderstorms, volcanoes and more.
• SmokeyBear.com : Games, stories, creative writing, wildfire educational and creatively presented fire safety rules from Smokey the Bear.
• factfinder.census.gov/home/en/kids/kids.html: Where in the world can you check what the United States' population is down to the mere second? The census bureau, of course.
© 2007, Audrey M. Smith