Oh, Christmas Tree; Oh, Christmas Tree!
I've had this cookie stack idea in my 'to do' file for a loooooong time, and finally got around to trying them this past weekend. You may have seen them before but made with star cookie cutters. There are even kits to make them. I had been looking for a set of 6 graduated stars for these but I when I looked through my Christmas cookie cutters, I found I had a set of 4 four graduated sizes of snowflakes cutters and realized I could try making 3-4 cookies of each size snowflake for the stack, starting with the largest and working up to the smaller ones at the top. Then, the very smallest added for the 'topper'. Real trees aren't perfect pyramids either so I think my plan worked just fine :)
I found that the trees looked best using 10-11 cookies for each tree shape and 1 small cookie for the topper. I used royal icing on each cookie, allowing it to harden for just a couple of minutes and then started stacking and twisting each cookie slightly going up. If the icing isn't hard enough, your tree may start to tilt as mine did but it's easy to straighten it out as you work because royal icing takes a long time to harden. I bought a set of Wilton 'icing' brushes and found they worked really well to apply the icing. So much better than trying to use a spoon or icing knife.
When I finished stacking the tree, and before adding the 'toppers', I sprinkled them with white non-pareils and clear sanding sugar. On one, I added tiny, round candy balls on the tips of the 'branches'. I just dabbed a little more royal icing where I wanted to place them. I have a tiny tree and angel in my cutter collection so used one of each for topping the trees. To place the topper, I put a dab of icing on the top snowflake, allowed it to set for about 5 minutes and then, carefully, added the 'topper'.
They were really fun to make and I think they would make adorable, edible table decorations for a holiday dinner!
For the cookie recipe I used my tried-and-true Celebration Cookie Recipe. You can Click here to see the snowflake cutters I used and here to see the icing brushes I found.
How is your holiday baking going and how is your weather? Damp and dreary here but above freezing and no snow. Thank goodness for the holiday lights to brighten the dark days and nights!
Celebration Sugar Cookies
2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) vegetable shortening (I used Crisco)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, in a large bowl beat the butter, vegetable shortening and sugar until smooth and somewhat lighter in color, about 1 minute, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. Add the egg, vanilla and almond extract and mix until just blended. On low speed, add the flour mixture until just incorporated. The dough should be soft and smooth.
Divide the dough in half and shape it into 2 disks about 6 inches in diameter. Wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to roll without sticking, approximately 1 hour.
With the oven rack positioned in the center, preheat the oven to 350° F . Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
Unwrap one piece of dough and place on lightly floured rolling surface. With a floured rolling pin. roll the dough out to about 12-inches wide and 3/16 inch thick and cut out cookies. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets using a thin spatula, placing them 1 inch apart. Unwrap the second piece of dough and repeat the rolling and cutting process. Dough scraps can be gathered, re-rolled and cut.
Bake one sheet of cookies at a time for approximately 14 minutes or until golden at the edges. Cool cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack or sheet of parchment or waxed paper to cool.
The cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 week or frozen for one month.
Frost and decorate as desired.
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes about 1-1/4 cups
2-1/2 Tablespoons meringue powder
2 cups confectioners' sugar, or more to thicken icing
3 Tablespoons water
2 drops glycerin
Note: You can find both meringue powder and glycerin at JoAnn in the baking section or, if you don't have a JoAnn nearby your can find them here and here.
Add the meringue powder and confectioners’ sugar to a bowl Add water, a few tablespoons at a time and mix until the consistency looks good. Not too runny. Add more powdered sugar if needed. Beat for 1 minute. Add glycerin and mix thoroughly.
The icing will keep for several days in an airtight container. After you decorate the cookies the frosting will take about one hour to dry thoroughly so handle carefully until then.