You will need to bake a variety of different-sized cookie stars to create these edible holiday trees. If you can find green food coloring in a few different shades, use them to give the trees a striking color contrast. (Alternatively, tint the icing with different amounts of coloring to achieve lighter and darker hues.) To make the trees more colorful, add sugar pearls in holiday colors.
Makes two 4 1/2-inch-tall trees
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄4 cup fine-grind cornmeal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3⁄4 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
About 1 1/8 cups Royal Icing
White, golden, or multicolored sugar pearls, for decorating
7 graduated star-shaped cookie cutters, from 1 ¼ to 5 inches wide;
1 pastry bag; 1 small round pastry tip
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder into a bowl, then whisk in the cornmeal and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and confectioners’ sugar and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until light and creamy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. On low speed, add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated and the dough comes together.
Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide in half. Shape each half into a disk 3⁄4 to 1 inch thick, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured large work surface, roll out one dough disk 1⁄8 inch thick. Using the seven different sized cookie cutters, cut out two cookies of each size, for a total of fourteen cookies. Transfer them to the prepared baking sheets, putting the larger stars together and the smaller stars on the second sheet. Roll and cut out the second dough disk the same way and add the cookies to the sheets. You should have twenty-eight cookies total, four stars of each size. (If needed, gather up the dough scraps, reroll, and cut out any missing stars.) Refrigerate the baking sheets for 15 minutes.
Position two oven racks, evenly spaced, in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.
Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, until they look firm, switching the baking sheets between the racks about halfway through the baking time. Keep an eye on the smaller stars, as they will have to come out of the oven sooner. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let cool for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer the cookies to the racks and let cool completely.
Fit the pastry bag with the pastry tip and fill with white icing. Outline the points of the stars by piping small dots along their edge, stopping about one-third of the way from the tip. Place a sugar pearl on each tip, keeping it in place with a tiny dot of icing. Let the stars sit for about 30 minutes, until completely dry.
For each tree, have ready fourteen cookie stars, two of each size. Place the largest star on a plate or cake platter and pipe a small amount of icing in the center of the star. Place the same-sized star on top, angling it slightly so the star tips don’t line up. Continue topping the stack with stars in decreasing size, always adding two same-sized stars at a time, adhering them with a bit of icing, and angling them slightly. End with one of the smallest stars on top lying flat, then place the other smallest star so that it stands upright, adhering it in place with a little icing. Let dry completely before displaying.
As featured in the winter issue of Beekman 1802 Almanac Magazine. For more check out HOLIDAY COOKIES by Elisabet der Nederlanden, copyright © 2017 by Ten Speed Press. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Erin Scott. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.