A baker in Poland decided her confections were lacking a certain something, so pulled out her laser cutter to engrave rolling pins with dinosaurs. The result is edible geekiness, and further proof that baking is science for hungry people.
Fossilized cookie. Photography credit: Zuzia Zuber
My only real question is how to classify the imprinted cookies. Initially, I classified them as trace fossils, the under-appreciated fossilized tracks of activities instead of fossilized creatures. Consider a snail crawling across an algae-coated deck, munching and sliming a path through the green. When you next step outside, even without spotting the culprit you can determine quite a bit about the creature that cleared a trail:
Traces of a snail's wandering journey. Potentially guilty snail for scale. Photography credit: Simon Wellings
You know it's approximate size, how it travelled, where it went, and maybe a bit about what it did. You know all this from the traces it left behind. If these traces are preserved, they become trace fossils, giving us hints about the past. Dinosaur footprints are the classic example of a trace fossil.
Dinosaur rolling pin. Photography credit: Zuzia Zuber
But that doesn't quite describe the dino-encrusted rolling pin. We aren't digging footprints into our cookies, we're raising outlines of the entire beast. My intuition was off; a different fossilization process was at work.
When a creature is buried, rots away, and the empty hole they leave behind is filled with sediments or minerals, it creates a matched set of fossils. The impression on the rock is the mold, and the infilling material is the cast. For example, the bumps on this Carboniferous rock are in the right shape to be bivalves, but aren't directly the fossilized shells. Instead, they're casts of the long-gone creatures.
Bivalve beach party! Boot-toe for scale. Photography credit: Simon Wellings
Mold-and-cast is a far more accurate description of the fossilized cookies! The rolling pin is the mold of long-gone dinosaurs, with cookie dough squeezing in to fill the void as an edible cast. Both the pin and the cookie are evidence of the long-gone dinosaurs.
Wooden dinosaur mold with edible cookie cast fossils. Photography credit: Zuzia Zuber
...or, at least, they would be if real-but-tiny dinosaurs had neatly lined up and pushed themselves into a tree-trunk when they died. Alas, the mold is cut by a laser under the guidance of Zuzia Zuber, the geeky baker running ValekRollingPins. While Dinosaur Laser Fight may be popular among palaeontologists, lasers are not a process that results in true fossils.
Now that the science has been properly determined and carefully qualified, what about using the pins? Zuber recommends the rolling pins are not intended for the initial make-dough-flat part of the process, but instead are used to quickly imprint flat-floured dough into delicate patterns. If you do decide you need a dinosaur rolling pin, follow the care-instructions to avoid a build-up of nastiness: flour the dough, not the pin; dry-brush clean; if wet-cleaning, immediately hand-dry.
I admit I'm feeling covetous envy for people who can create their own fossilized cookies. I may need to bake up a batch of gingersnaps and stamp them with tiny footprints to console myself. Until then, care to share any favourite science-themed baking, good recipes for malleable cookies, or photos of awesome fossils?
You can buy the dinosaur rolling pin, or other designs (including custom!), on the ValekRollingPins Etsy Shop. Fossil photographs contributed by geologist Simon Wellings, who blogs at Metageologist. Tip via Katie McGill of the Physics Factor. For more on fossils, check out a first-person view of unearthing a dinosaur nest. For more science-inspired design, check out this time-warping patio, or a very meta maritime map carpet. For more science-inspired food, here's an entire Star Wars tea party or the Geology Bake-off.