When you make cookies in specific shapes, you roll out the dough and use a cookie cutter. There’s always negative space involved, meaning leftover dough. So after you cut cookies, you gather up the leftover pieces and roll the dough out again. This is how it’s done, but it’s not the most efficient way to do it. Chemist Martin Lersch runs a blog called Khymos in which he explores the science of cooking. One of his projects has been to find the most efficient cookie cutter to make Christmas cookies with little to no dough left over to roll out again. He looked at it as a form of packing problem, in which a tessellated shape would be the most efficient. Others have described limitations to this kind of project.
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This didn’t stop Lersch, though, who created his own Christmas-themed tessellations of bells, Christmas trees, and other shapes using the free-to-use platform Tess. With help from a friend, he 3D-printed several cookie cutters and mixed up some dough. Lersch’s cookie of choice, pepperkake, is a sumptuous Norwegian gingerbread. Lersch, primarily a chemist, notes that it was once made with ammonium carbonate from ground deer antlers, though most people substitute baking powder these days.
After deciding on the Christmas tree as the most efficient shape, Lersch then got to work. Emulating Escher’s patterns, he stamped every other tree shape right-side-up, to fit perfectly with the trees around it, which he stamped upside-down. The result? Interlocking rows of cookies, with no leftover dough left between their lines.
Read about Lersch’s tessellated Christmas tree cookies and why this kind of efficiency matters beyond baking, at Atlas Obscura.
Oh yeah, the recipes for the cookies is here.
(Image credit: Martin Lersch)