The Washington Times-Herald

Features

December 23, 2011

Rock Doc: Cookie cutter science

Montgomery. AL — One of the best parts of baking for me as a kid was the process of “helping” my mama roll out and cut cookie shapes for the oven.

At this age I know that I actually hindered her work and she was just being kind in letting me participate, but at the time I thought I was an aide in the process of transforming a lump of material into a thin sheet of ginger-rich dough that we could cut up into the barnyard animals of which I was so fond – and for which we had many different cutter shapes.

One of the goals in the overall process was to make as many ginger cookies as humanly possible from the first rollout of dough. The second rollout, because it necessarily had more flour worked into it, was considerably tougher and thicker, hence not as highly prized by anyone in the family.

Indeed, when we were all done, we stored the first and second roll cookies in separate containers and ate them at different times, so great was our preference for the thinner and more delicate cookie.

Truly maximizing the number of animals you can cut from a sheet of dough and minimizing the waste bits between the animals is the sort of problem that a skilled mathematician can best address.

It’s no easy task and would take more mathematical acumen than I will ever possess. Still, anyone who has done the kitchen work by the seat-of-their-pants can appreciate that some patterns of animals yield a lot more good, first-roll cookies and less waste than do others.

(Simple squares and rectangles do the best job of all, capturing 100 percent of the dough for first-round status, but who wants to eat such simple shapes when much more is possible?)

Text Only
Features
  • solar-eclipse.jpg VIDEO: 'Ring of fire' solar eclipse

     

    The solar eclipse that took place Sunday evening was an annular eclipse, one in which the moon blocks almost all of the sun. Some of the best viewing was in Asia, as with this video filmed in Japan. 

    May 23, 2012 1 Photo

  • obama.jpg Video: President Obama endorses same-sex marriage

    A day after an amendment banning gay marriage passed in North Carolina, President Barack Obama tells ABC News that he believes same-sex couples should be able to get married.

    May 10, 2012 1 Photo

  • hitandrun.jpg Raw video: Camera captures dramatic hit-and-run

    A surveillance video captured a driver striking a pedestrian and sending him flipping through the air. Police caught the driver within minutes. Incredibly, the victim wasn't seriously hurt.

    May 10, 2012 1 Photo

  • bears.jpg Viral video: Bears interrupt weather report at Pa. TV station

    A mama bear and three of her cubs were caught on camera at a northeastern Pennsylvania television station seconds before a live weather report was about to begin.

    April 26, 2012 1 Photo

  • fenway5.jpg Photo tribute: 100 years of baseball at Fenway Park

    This year Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, celebrates its 100th anniversary as America's oldest Major League stadium -- and the setting for some of baseball's greatest players, historic wins and crushing losses. That sacred magic is captured in two exhibits at the 20-year-old Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, a Boston suburb.

    April 19, 2012 1 Photo 1 Slideshow

  • survival-stories.jpg Tales of survival from Woodward's deadly tornado

    Stirring stories of survival are emerging from Woodward's tornado, but none was more compelling than that of an 87-year-old widow who escaped unscathed by hiding in her bedroom closet while her house exploded around her. Sixty-five years earlier she survived Oklahoma's deadliest tornado, one that killed 116 of her neighbors, by hiding under a dining room table.

    April 18, 2012 1 Photo

  • footloose.jpg Viral video: High school prom spills into street for 'Footloose' dance

    A group of high school students from Oklahoma made their prom memorable by staging a choreographed dance to "Footloose" in the middle of the street. The video of students from Hennessey High School in Hennessey, Okla., was shot Saturday night and is quickly going viral.

    April 17, 2012 1 Photo

  • tornado-video.jpg VIDEO: Lightning illuminates tornado as it hits Okla. town

    The assistant editor from the Woodward News in Oklahoma captured this video as a tornado touched down early Sunday morning, killing five people and injuring dozens more.

    April 16, 2012 1 Photo

  • tornado04.jpg SLIDESHOW: Deadly tornado flattens homes in Okla. A tornado ripped through Woodward, Okla., early Sunday morning as part of a dangerous storm system that swept through the Midwest this weekend. At least five people in Woodward were killed and dozens more were injured.

    April 16, 2012

  • Viral video: Rain delay antics at college baseball game

    Fans aren't the only ones who get bored during rain delays in college baseball -- the players do too. But the teams from the Southern Miss and Ole Miss found some creative ways to pass the time this week during an extended delay at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Miss.

    April 5, 2012