Excavating the Fossil Dig Cookie

For the first assignment of my creativity and idea generation class, I was commissioned to design an innovative cookie within a week. The cookie had to be novel, valuable, feasible, and edible. I wanted to ensure that it would be different than all the other cookies in the class, while still being interesting and tasty. I also had to keep the time constraint in mind, considering only readily available ingredients and the utensils my dormitory's kitchen had to offer. After reviewing these guidelines, I gladly purchased a fancy sketchbook and started working on my culinary assignment.

Initial Thoughts

Thinking about the resources available to me, I first considered baking a cookie using only food from my dining hall and dorm room. I thought it would be amusing to make a delicious cookie out of the somewhat unreliable food supply of a scavenging underclassman. I also liked the idea of the cookie being a means of introducing myself to my classmates. I'm likely the only freshman engineering student in the upper-level design class, and I wanted to show some of my unique flavor. Ultimately, I thought I could engineer a far superior cookie.

I looked for cookie ideas everywhere and found it helpful to discuss the project with friends. In addition to keeping my mind focused on the task, it was great to bounce ideas around and hear what people like in their favorite cookies. Doing so gave me a wider perspective and drove the project in unexpected directions. Some people even had their own developed cookie ideas, including a three-dimensional cookie mug into which milk could be poured.

I wanted more ideas for my cookie so I held a devoted brainstorming session, sketching as many different cookies as I could in 40 minutes.

brainstorm1.jpgEarly in the session, some ideas were astoundingly boring (see "stop sign cookie"). Some were extremely interesting but not entirely feasible (see "cookie waterfall"). Eventually I settled into a rhythm and had some potential cookies on paper.

brainstorm2.jpgNote: I could not successfully imagine a "raisin cookie for people who hate raisins."

Idea One: The Burrito Cookie
One of the ideas I chose to develop further was based upon a local pizzeria's "Guacamole Burrito" pizza. I enjoyed the combination and wondered if it could be adapted to make a sweet and savory dessert.

burritosketch.jpgI liked the idea, but I had some concerns regarding the longevity of guacamole and salsa, ingredients I consider vital to any burrito.

Idea Two: The Fossil Dig Cookie
I was more excited about what I had termed the "fossil dig cookie." I wanted to recreate my childhood fascination with uncovering fossils, appropriately supplemented with a lifelong fascination with cookies. The dessert would feature embedded dinosaur bones, a sandy covering of graham cracker crumbs and brown sugar, and a small excavation kit.

smalldinosketch.jpgI thought more about the paleontological cookie and how I could create small, edible dinosaur bones. I considered using marshmallows, fondant, broken candy canes, white chocolate, Lucky Charms cereal, or Halloween candy. I also wanted to create small signs using toothpicks to mark the excavation site.

As my thoughts moved beyond the theme of the cookie to an actual recipe, I recalled some of my friends' suggestions and my own favorite cookies. I decided to combine a familiar peanut butter cookie with an intriguing vanilla pudding cookie that I had never heard of previously.

After browsing the store for ingredients, I decided to make my fossils out of Lucky Charms cereal. I opted to stick them on the surface of the cookies using Nutella rather than hiding them inside.

I gathered my ingredients and brought "Draft Recipe Alpha" to a community baking session. People were somewhat confused when I told them about my peanut butter/vanilla/chocolate chip cookies, but no one was terribly upset by the concoction.

Click here to watch a video:
Short Commentary.mp4

Delicious Experimentation
cookie base.jpgThe first batch of cookies was rapidly devoured. Everyone appreciated the fluffy texture and peanut butter flavor. A few cookies were frosted with Nutella and fully decorated.

LargeCookie.jpgThough the cookies were a bit small and had to be combined to fit a large dinosaur fossil, they looked reasonably nice. Unfortunately, the decorated cookies tasted overwhelmingly of Nutella and the more subtle flavors were lost.

Another Shot at Greatness
I decided to bake a second batch, hoping to hone in on a better fossil dig cookie. I doubled the recipe, hoping to make larger, more easily decorated cookies. I tried rolling the dough in the graham cracker crumbs, wanting more aesthetically pleasing cookies. I also created a glaze using brown sugar to replace the previous Nutella covering.

Overall the changes were fantastic. I preferred how the new cookies looked and tasted. The graham cracker coating, in addition to adding a thematic flair, tied the flavors together in a surprisingly fulfilling way. Though I doubled the original recipe, I ended up making twice as many cookies of about the same size. It was difficult to make recognizable and evocative dinosaur designs, but the theme was still carried by the numerous, small fossil patterns.

The Finished Product
example.jpgSign.jpgfull batch.jpgFinal Recipe (2 dozen cookies)
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/6 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 of a 3.4 oz pkg. vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4/3 cups flour
  • 2/3 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 37 pinches of graham cracker crumbs
  • Additional melted butter
  • Additional brown sugar
  • Lucky Charms cereal

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix together all the things.
  3. Shape dough into round morsels; roll in additional graham cracker crumbs.
  4. Bake 15 minutes or until edges are a delightful brown color.
  5. Whip additional melted butter and brown sugar into a smooth glaze.
  6. Cover cookies with glaze; use Lucky Charms to make fossils!

Thanks to Tyler Maxson and Amanda Zak for assisting with photography.


I will start by saying I thoroughly enjoyed your blog post. Very well organized and written. Great use of your notes and brainstorming. I wish I would have gotten around to your cookies during the taste test.

I think it would have been interesting if you had tested out the burrito cookies, just to see if it was possible and how it tasted. Has that ever been done before? Maybe you still can sometime.

It was interesting to hear about your experience living in the dorm and pulling off this project. Added another layer to this project for you. Way to use that as an advantage.

I appreciate the detail of the recipe. The way you described them, I may have to try making them myself sometime. Stellar job.

I love the idea of starting with limited materials and trying to make the most out of what you have. From your documentation it is clear that you took your limiting factors and turned them into a wonderful source of creativity. I love that you show the sketches from your original ideas, there are some neat concepts in there. Your video helps to set the overall atmosphere of the project very nicely, just showing the pile of assorted ingredients and the feeling of experimentation. It would have been neat if you had tested actually baking some of them, but even so I thought the final cookie was one of the most creative in the class (delicious too, as I recall). I appreciate the detailed instructions!

First off you did an excellent job of documenting your idea process. You documented lots of pictures and concepts and as a result remembered so many of them, which gave you the possibility to draw back on older ideas if needed. I also enjoyed how you set up a scavenging theme which plays well with the underclassman dorm food life. Personally though I would try to keep out these constraints in your initial brainstorming session, your ideas should be uninhibited(some were like the cookie waterfall idea) but for future projects try to keep those initial ideas unbounded by constraints, because who knows maybe there is something out there that makes that idea feasible. I also think that speaking with other people was a great attack plan for coming up with ideas, as Barry mentioned people are more creative when they exchange ideas in a social environment. Also I am an Electrical Engineer so your not alone!

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