Shapes can make a difference in the world of food. Animal shapes, floral designs, hearts, diamonds and other familiar forms send pretty pictures to mind. For the skilled, all it takes to create shapes for picturesque eating is the masterful manipulation of a sharp knife. The less-fortunate majority can avail themselves of myriads of garnishing tools and all-purpose cutters found in any cookware shop.
Here are two new additions to gadgets that create not just an artwork of food, but make it effortless on the cook's part as well.
First, there is Kustom Kutter, a garnishing tool that looks like a cookie cutter but is much more. It cuts out intricate designs of butterfly, crab, prawn, shell, pineapple and rooster from vegetables and other foods.
Inspired by her traveling experiences in the Orient, Karen Wolters, who currently resides in Taiwan, designed Kustom Kutter. She attaches the cutters to two stainless-steel plates, which can be used together or independently, depending on the softness or hardness of the food to be cut out. One plate carries the design of the outer shape while on the second plate there are holes that correspond to decorative interior cutouts. With the exception of the intricately carved prawn plate, all the plates have interior cutouts.
Both plates may be used for carving firmer foods such as potatoes, daikon (Japanese radish), hard zucchini, apples, pears or watermelon rinds. Carrots, turnips, beets, sweet potatoes and rutabagas have to be slightly cooked before using.
To use, the cutter is pushed into the vegetable without going through the opposite side of the vegetable. The cutter is removed and the vegetable is sliced to desired thickness. With each slice, the design falls out.
For a pretty effect, two types of vegetables of contrasting colors could be matched, using the leftover vegetable "stencil" and replacing the cutout with another vegetable. Wolters demonstrated this particular design structure by using butterfly cutouts of cheese and stencils of cold meats and vice versa--a striking presentation for appetizer courses.
On foods that are either too soft (such as breads and pasteurized cheeses) or too hard (such as citrus peels) to accept the intricate design of both plates, the external outline plate may be used alone. The list of uses keeps growing for the Kustom Kutter, according to Wolters, who designed it for carving vegetables. She said customers have tried it on firm gelatin, pie dough, puff pastry, rind pickles, canapes and cookies.
A genuine cookie cutter is a second shaping tool being introduced this fall: the Cookie Machine from Feco Products Inc. in Seattle. A colorful kitchen gadget, the Cookie Machine is an all-plastic thermal rolling pin and cookie cutter all in one. The unit is composed of a rolling pin with a see-through plastic body and white handles and four attachable strips of cutters with three different shapes each.
How does it work? The body cavity of the rolling pin is filled with ice cubes so that when the dough is rolled, the cool surface of the pin eliminates sticking, tearing and warming of the dough. (For a more even coldness throughout the pin, we added cold water to the ice cubes when we tested the product.) The cookie cutter strips are then snapped onto the rolling pin body so that 12 different shapes may be created in one rolling motion.
Although working with the Cookie Machine can be fun, the process requires rerolling scraps from a batch of dough a few times because there will be spaces in the dough that are not cut out.
Roll Out Before Shaping
Also, removing and resnapping the cookie strips to the rolling pin to reroll the dough prevented the project from operating as smoothly as it might. To alleviate the problem, all of the dough can be rolled out in the beginning before shaping. Further rolling would just involve the scraps, and for smaller pieces of dough each strip could be used by itself without being attached to the rolling pin.
The first model to be introduced in the Cookie Machine line is the Christmas model of red-and-green color motif, which includes shapes like star, tree, boot, Santa, reindeer and bell. Models to arrive early next year are the Children's Animal Series of pink-and-blue motif and the Basic Year-Round Series (hearts, diamonds, spade, etc.) of white and burgundy.
Attractive bright packaging also qualifies the Cookie Machine for a wonderful holiday gift. Individual cookie strips may be purchased separately.
The Kustom Kutter has a suggested retail price of $10 per design and is available at Buffums, Cook's Corner chain of stores and Cookin Stuff (Torrance and La Habra).
The Cookie Machine has a suggested retail price of $15, additional cookie strips at $3 each, and is available at Virginia's Gift Shop (Knott's Berry Farm) and at Cookin Stuff.