Ingredients – makes enough for at least one tree
6 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups plain flour
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and caster sugar together until pale and fluffy, then beat in the egg and vanilla. Sift in the flour and stir gently but surely. You will probably find that the electric mixer struggles to combine all of the ingredients once the flour is added so you may have to mix it all together with a spoon. Form dough into a fat disk and wrap it in plastic wrap, or put it in a plastic bag. Put it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to firm up a bit. This will help you easily roll it out later when you are ready to cut out the stars. Preheat the oven to 175C (or 160C fanforced) while you are letting the dough rest.
Once the dough is ready to roll out, sprinkle a wooden board (or another surface you want to use) with flour, place dough on it, and roll it out to a thickness of about 1/4-inch. If you find that the dough sticks to the rolling pin, put a piece of plastic wrap or baking paper between the dough and the rolling pin. Cut dough into graduating star shapes (2 of each size). You can buy cookie tree cutters or make a template out of cardboard of different sized start. The more stars you cut out – the taller your tree will be! Carefully lift cookies with a spatula onto baking trays lined with baking paper. Be sure to place the cookies a little apart on the trays as they may spread slightly during baking. Try to make sure that all the cookies on a tray are approximately the same size. Larger cookies take longer to bake than smaller ones.
Bake cookies for 8 to 12 minutes. You’ll know when they are ready when the edges just start turning gold – don’t worry if they are still soft in the middle, they will firm up as they cool. Transfer the cookies from the tray with a spatula to a wire rack. When they are fully cooled, flood them with royal icing then leave them to dry overnight.
Here’s the recipe for royal icing:
1 1/2 cups (240g) pure icing sugar
1 egg white (from large egg)
1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice
Lightly beat the eggwhite and lemon juice in a bowl with an electric mixer, then gradually add sifted icing sugar, mixing well with each addition. When soft peaks start to form in the icing it is ready to use. Note: Royal icing begins to set as soon as it is exposed to air so keep the icing covered with a damp cloth under plastic wrap while you are not using it.
To assemble the cookie tree, place one of the largest stars onto a serving platter, then using some royal icing, attach the other largest star onto top. Continue adding the stars from biggest to smallest on top of each other using royal icing to secure them.
Once your tree is constructed you can decorate it however you like. I have added handmade sugarpaste roses and bows. You can learn how to make gorgeous ribbon roses on my blog here
These trees make a lovely gift when wrapped in cellophane. Hope you enjoy making cookie trees!