Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Cookie Tree

Christmas Cookie Tree-Holiday 2011
Hello everybody!


I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas filled with laughter and joy.


I love Christmas, and the best part is the build up two to three weeks before Christmas Day.  All of a sudden, Starbucks cups turn red, cars are zipping down the road with a tree tied to their tops, and poinsettias appear in the flower shops. This all accumulates within a few days before Christmas, hustling to parties, preparing last minute entertaining details and, before you know it it, it's all over.  I hope it is not too late to share with you my holiday baking. This year I decided to bake a holiday tree to decorate my Christmas party. This is a fun and simple way to add a nice touch to your entertaining.  You can make it over and over again once you have the cookie cutter sets.

As 2011 winds down to a close, I am in a reflective mood. I guess this year has been a year of accomplishment for us.  We launched our new website which has been well received by our customers.  We have also partnered with key web developers to make your shopping experience an even better one.  We have earned the trust of distributors and gained distribution rights to large companies like Tovolo, Wilton and Meri Meri.  We will continue to bring you innovative and new baking products to add to your repertoire.  On a personal note, this year, I added two major piano pieces to my repertoire: Chopin's Nocturne Op 9,No 2, and Edward Elgar's Salut d'Amour. Next year, my piano goals will be to master and conquer Chopin's Fantasie Impromtu* and Listz's Un Sospiro.  

I wish all of you the best in your personal lives, career progression, and health goals.  

Thank you for all your support, and may your 2012 be filled with health, joy and peace.


Sincerely,
Julie

*I know this piece is very overplayed to the point of being cliche.  But, there is a story behind this. You see, somebody once told me i would never be able to play this song.  But I have been playing it bit by bit ever since :)  Also, I think it sounds beautiful, so next year I'll be working through this piece carefully until all the little pieces come together into a complete song. 

Christmas Cookie Tree
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Ingredients:
Sugar Cookie Dough- Shortbread dough
Makes a full Christmas Cookie Tree (Plus a few extras, in case of breakage)

*Make two batches of the recipe below for a full tree!
2 sticks of unsalted butter (At room temperature)
⅝ cup sugar
2 ½ cup all purpose flour

1. In a bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until it has turned pale and creamy (About 2-3 mins).  

2. Add the flour and stir gently using the mixer or by hand.  Work in quick efficient strokes until the flour has completely incorporated.

3. Tip the dough onto plastic wrap and shape into into a disk and refrigerate for 1 hour.  

4. Preheat oven to 300 F.

5. Next, lightly flour the working surface and rolling pin.  Roll out dough to ½ inch and cut into shapes.  (I used a Westie Cookie cutter).

6. Carefully transfer the cut out shaped onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or with reusable Silpat.

7. Gather all the scraps and re-roll until they are all used up.  (Don’t worry about the texture, it will be fine).

8. Bake 20-25 mins until the cookies turn a little brown on the edges.  Let cool completely before icing.


*Some tips, the larger star pieces on the bottom of the tree will break easily. Do not handle when it is hot and try to roll them a little thicker. Move with spatula. If they still break, you will have enough cookie dough to make another cut out.


Icing Recipe:

(Outline Consistency)  
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon meringue powder
3 tablesppons + 1 teaspoon warm water
Beat 3-4 mins until incorporated.

Save about 3 tablespoon of the icing above.

(Flood Consistency) (For flooding the body of each star)
Take the remaining outline consistency icing and slowing add warm water until it is thinned out.  This usually takes about 2 tablespoon more of water.  To test for consistency, when you make a swirl with a stick in the icing, it should completely return to the bowl of icing in about 2-5 second.

Instructions for assembling the cookies:
1) Outline the cookie with the outline consistency white icing.  Make sure outline is close to the edge of the cookie but not too close.

2) Wait for it to dry about 10 mins.

3) Next flood the body of the star with flooding consistency white icing.

4) Wait for it to dry completely.  About 3-4 hours, preferably overnight since you will be stacking the cookies and if it is not completely dried, the layers can stick together.

*Note: This amount of icing was *just* enough to ice the tree.  If you need more, it is best to make another batch and save it for another batch of cookies.

Source: Recipe adapted from Sugarbaker’s Cookie Cutter Cookbook

Plated on a cake stand and surrounded by silver paper cups holding a yummy truffle.  This tree was the hit of the party!

Resources:
Cookie Cutter Sets (There are plenty of options here! But I chose the Crate and Barrel because it was a good price and a metal set.  Metal makes cleaner cuts.)




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