Frustrated sculptors and high-tech lovers rejoice -- the age of precision has come to the kitchen. Grandma's favorite refrigerator dough has become a medium for expression, not merely a filling for 10-year-olds. Once firmed in the freezer, colored cookie mixes can be formed, sliced, manipulated and bent to any design or motif. And if an artist named Christo can build a 24-mile-long fence in Southern California and call it art, you can paste your creations to a board and mount them on the wall. Once baked, these designer cookies also can be sprayed with varnish fixative available at art stores, drilled to accommodate a thin ribbon, and hung from a Christman tree.
The sculptings on these pages were crafted by Washington designer Terry Dale as suggestions to prod your imagination. Although Dale painstakingly molded his cookies with a razorblade knife, and although at first glance these cookies seem to require more patience than brain surgery, there are sanity-saving tricks to this creativity. As explained in the directions following the recipes, the checkerboard patterns, for example, are easily formed by rolling the dough to the right shape, placing the colored doughs in alternating layers and slicing appropriately.
Other designs consist of alternating strips of dough gently pushed together, inlaid or laminated. The chocolate and vanilla doughs readily stick to each other and become a single rigid cookie when baked.
Despite the obvious importance of this new art form, cookies which turn out less than perfect are delightfully tasty and easily disposed of. The Vanilla Mix 1 cup butter 1 1/4 cups sugar 2 large eggs 2 teaspoons vanilla 3 cups flour 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 cup pulverized pecans (optional, but use only pecans)
Combine butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla with an electric mixer until creamy; add flour, salt and soda and mix thoroughly for about a minute. Wrap dough in wax paper and place in freezer or refrigerator until firm, about 6 hours in refrigerator. The Chocolate Mix 1 1/4 cups butter 1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar 2 eggs 3 cups flour 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Combine butter, sugar and eggs and beat with a electric mixer until creamy. Melt chocolate in a double boiler and beat in gradually. Add flour, salt and baking soda.
Cookies should be baked in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet. Do not allow cookies to become too brown before removing from oven.
To make pinwheel cookies: Roll chilled vanilla dough on waxed paper into a rectangle about 16" x 10" and less than 1/4-inch thick. With a knife square off edges to get a neat rectangle. Repeat with chocolate dough. Place chocolate sheet on top of vanilla, trim so both sheets are identical in size and roll tightly into a cylinder. Seal edges by pinching, then smoothing. Refrigerate again in waxed paper for four hours. Slice cookie pinwheels off the end of the cylinder, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch each. Place at least one-inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet (a Teflon-coated cookie sheet works best).
To make checkerboard pattern: Roll vanilla dough on waxed paper into a 16" x 8" rectangle 1/4-inch thick. Cut into 8 identical smaller squares, each 4" x 4", by cutting the 16" x 8" rectangle vertically every four inches (three slices) and in half horizontally (see illustrations). Repeat with chocolate dough. Then place alternating layers of chocolate and vanilla dough squares on top of each other to form a 4-inch high cube. Refrigerate for four hours. Slice chilled loaf carefully with a very thin knife coated with butter into equal 1/4-inch slices. Rotate every other slice to alternate light and dark sections and stack into another 4-inch cube. Look at the end of the cube -- you have created a checkerboard. Refrigerate again for four hours. Slice 1/4-inch checkerboards off end of cube onto individual sheets of waxed paper. Cut into circles, stars, rectangles, or whatever design pleases you, and trim with extra pieces of chocolate dough.