Monday, December 1, 2008

Advent Cookie Tree

It is December 1st! For us, this day always prompts us to put our Christmas prepping and decorating efforts into high gear, and one of the first things I always put together is a cookie tree to mark the days of Advent. With a cookie for each of the days leading up to Christmas, this idea really goes hand in hand with what Stacey shared yesterday. For both adults and little ones alike, making and decorating the cookies is truly the best of the fun with this project! You can really use whatever cookie recipe you prefer (I can't wait to have Stacey's gingerbread recipe!), but the icing needs to be one that dries firm enough to stay intact when the cookies are wrapped tightly in plastic bags to be placed on the tree. Over the years of making cut-out cookies, I have come up with a really great icing recipe for this project that hardens perfectly but also tastes great! The secret is corn syrup, which gives the icing a glossy sheen and allows it to firm up nicely.

Advent Cookie Tree
25 prepared cookies
Prepared icing (see recipe below)
Piping tips and decorator bags or large zip top baggies
Small plastic baggies (for wrapping the cookies) and twist ties or decorative wire garland
A small tabletop tree

Prepare and cool your cookies completely before decorating. Mix your icing, reserving a small amount of of the icing before adding too much of the water while it is a thick consistency (this will be for numbering the cookies). Leave this reserved icing white. Decorate your cookies. The icing I describe below is fine for spreading on the tops of the cookies, or you can also put it in a piping bag to apply that way. (If you don't have piping bags and tips, you can use a large zip top baggie with a corner snipped off in the same way. This is a great money saver!) Allow the base coat of icing to dry a bit before going back and numbering your cookies from 1 to 25 with the thicker icing. Once again, you can use the same snipped zip-top bag trick for this step as well, but this time cut a very small hole in the bag.

After the icing has had time to harden completely, wrap your cookies tightly in small baggies. I used sandwich-size bags with the zipper portion cut off, but you can also purchase small bags perfect for this in the cake decorating sections of many stores. Be sure to wrap your cookies very tightly, as those for later dates will be hanging on the tree for several weeks before they are eaten. After I twist each bag tightly shut, I use decorative wire garland you can find this time of year in the miniature tree section at places like Hobby Lobby to twist the bags securely shut. I make sure to leave the garland pieces long enough after they are twisted so I can also use them to secure the cookies to the tree as well.

After your cookies are wrapped, it is time to decorate your tree! Arrange the cookies any way you wish, placing the cookie for the 25th on the highest branch. As I mentioned earlier, to fasten the cookies securely to the tree, I use the wire garland on each cookie to twist and "lock" each one into place. After all of the cookies are in place, you are all set!

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 Tbsp. water, plus additional water, as needed
2-3 tsp. light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
Assorted food coloring (I prefer the gel variety)

Combine all ingredients (starting with just 2 Tbsp. water) except food coloring in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix until smooth, then set aside a small amount for writing on cookies (if desired). Gradually add additional water to bowl, 1 Tbsp. at a time, mixing well after each addition, until icing is a consistency that will spread/pipe easily. Divide prepared icing into separate bowls and color with food coloring as desired.

Here's to a delicious and memorable holiday season!


Stacey said...

Very cute and fun idea, Amy! Can't wait to try your icing recipe!

Daisymeh said...

What a fun idea Amy! Love it!

Jayne said...

Such a cute idea! And those cookies look soooo good right now!!