Di Meglio is the author of Fun with the Family New Jersey (Globe Pequot Press, 2012). She also has written the Our Paesani column for ItaliansRus.com since 2003. You can follow the Italian Mamma on Facebook or Twitter @ItalianMamma10.
LE FESTE – HOLIDAYS AND CELEBRATIONS
Making a Christmas cookie tree like the one in the photo above is not as hard as it seems. I always begin by making my favorite from-scratch cookie dough. But you could buy already made cookie dough and go to town with the decorating.I also make the icing with powdered sugar, water, and a touch of lemon extract or lemon juice, but you can purchase that as well. My point is that this project is only as hard as you want it to be.
How to Construct the Christmas Cookie Tree
Cookie dough from the fridge, ready to roll out
Graduating cookie cutters (in a star or snowflake form)
Optional decorations (sprinkles, sugar, candies)
Dish or cardboard baking circle
Instructions for Baking:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Grab your dough from the fridge. Place it on a floured surface and sprinkle some more flour on top of the dough. Roll the dough to an inch or quarter half-inch thick, depending on how tall you want each cookie to be.
- Then, take your cookie cutters to cut out the necessary shapes. Make sure that you cut out three to four of each size star or snowflake. The more you make of each size, the taller your tree will be. This year I opted to make mini trees. But I’ve done giant ones in the past.
- Place a piece of parchment paper on each baking sheet. Next, place the cookie shapes on the parchment paper. Bake in the oven. The cookies are different sizes, so they are bound to require different cooking times. I check mine every 5 minutes at first and then every 2 minutes as time wears on. I remove the smaller ones as they finish baking. Obviously, the largest ones end up staying in the sheet the longest. I make sure the edges are brown. You don’t want soft-center cookies because you want the tree to remain intact after construction.
Instructions for Construction of the Tree:
- Let the cookies cool. I place mine on a wire rack 3 to 5 minutes after removing them from the oven. Once cool, the fun begins.
- Create an assembly line of cookies in size order with the largest ones at the front and the smallest ones at the back. You might want to try stacking the cookies before icing them to make sure you will achieve the look you want. Then, put icing on the bottom of the largest cookie to adhere it to the dish. Next ice the top of the cookie and place another large cookie on top, so that the star or snowflake edges form the look of leaves. I added green sugar crystals on the tips of the stars to make it look like an evergreen. I did this as I iced each cookie to ensure they would stick to the icing.
- Make sure that the cookies get smaller as you move toward the top of your tree with the smallest ones at the very top. You can add a cinnamon candy, M&M, sugar star or sugar holly to the top of the tree. I dressed the bottom of the dish with mini candy-canes and the sprinkles that naturally fell as I decorated the tree.
You can place these on ceramic holiday dishes you plan to give as a gift and then wrap the entire thing in cellophane. Or you can not put the tree on a dish and place it in a cellophane bag. You could also put a little tree on each family member’s place setting for Christmas dinner. It could also be a centerpiece. Now, I have mine under a transparent cover on a serving dish at the center of my dining table.