Our family is studying U.S. Geography this year for Cycle 3 of Classical Conversations. I like to bake and anytime I can come up with a way to use food in our school work it always feels like a huge score. I must admit at times I get a little ambitious with my ideas. Scrolling through Pinterest I saw a poster board project with the U.S. map and its geographical features. Thinking out loud I said, “Wouldn’t it be cool to make a huge U.S. map out of cookies and we could put in all the geographical features with candy and sprinkles and…and…and…” Well, in my house once I say something there is no turning back. A cool idea was now going to have to become a cool reality.
I must begin these instructions by saying this project is not for the faint of heart. It took us 2 days to work on the project with a 2-year-old at home. It was a lot of work, but I must also say that it was really fun and the kids loved every minute of it! I did get a little twitch at times with flour and sugar flying everywhere, but it was so worth it!
First we had to come up with a sugar cookie recipe my son could eat. We realized we would end up with 4-5 dozen cookies once it was all said and done. There was no way we could have that much cookie dough that he would not be able to eat. We did in fact make Oat Flour Sugar Cookies! Now everyone would be able to gorge themselves on cookies. Yay!
Next we needed to find a map large enough to trace. We had a few options that were going to be a little small when you start thinking about Rhode Island and Connecticut. Luckily, one of our map puzzles was the perfect size.
The kids put the puzzle together. We then placed a piece of parchment paper on top and I carefully traced the states.
Once we were satisfied with the map, I let the kids take turns filling in the states with their respective abbreviations. Yet another review!
We then rolled out the cookie dough. The oat flour dough is not as stiff as my wheat flour dough, but we made it work. It feels more like regular cookie dough when it’s warmed so you have to work quickly and carefully.
We placed a piece of waxed paper on top of the dough and then placed the parchment paper with the traced map on top.
Then the cutting began. I originally planned on making impressions in the dough and then cutting by hand. At the time it seemed it would end up being double the work, so I cut through the papers to get the shapes of the states.
We peeled away the papers and it looked pretty good.
We carefully separated the states, placed them on cookie sheets and baked as you would any sugar cookies. Once the cookies had cooled, we created various colors of icing. We essentially dipped them in a glaze of powdered sugar, corn syrup, and milk. You could also use water instead of the milk. We added in a bit (about 1/4 tsp) of almond extract. And started piecing our puzzle together.
After we had the entire map assembled. We began to add the geographic features.
We pretty much cleaned out our pantry for this part. We used mini chocolate chips for mountain ranges like the Cascade Mountains and the White Mountains. We used regular sized chips for major mountains like Mt. Rainier and Mt. McKinley. For the major rivers we drew lines with royal icing and covered them with sprinkles. For the trails we used candy pearls and marshmallows. We used sunflower seeds for deserts and swamps. Okay, we started running out of edible decorations that were small enough to fit, but we made it work.
For the last part of the project, the kids had to present the map to their father. They did a great job pointing out all their handiwork. Their father is a bit of a geography buff. They were so excited that he knew all the features they were showing him.
My children love their father and I have proof. After everything was said and done, AND they were given permission to eat a state, they decided to give Texas to their father. Now that’s Hill Love for ya!