You’ve probably seen people make Christmas cookie trees and maybe you’ve tried it on your own as a project with your kids. It’s definitely an activity at our house. But, being the popcorn enthusiasts that we are, we’re also always stringing popcorn for our actual tree. So why not combine the two? Our Christmas cookie tree with popcorn garland seemed like a logical recipe to create.
The key to making a cookie tree is layers of graduated size cookies and you can buy sets of cutters specifically to make a cookie tree. We got ours on Amazon. It can be any shape you like but we used a set of 10 star shaped cutters, each slightly smaller than the last. The other trick is to use a cookie dough that does not spread in the oven because it’s important for it to hold its shape exactly for a uniform tree. Shortbread doughs typically do not spread but we used a no-spread sugar cookie recipe. It contains more flour than a typical sugar cookie which tends to make it less sweet. However, we added cinnamon for a flavor kick and the cookies get decorated with frosting which adds plenty of extra sweetness.
Assembling the tree is easy. Just add a dollop of frosting to the center of each cookie and top it with one smaller, at a slight angle. Once assembled, pipe on some frosting, sprinkle with snowy powdered sugar and place the smallest star cookie vertically to mimic the star at the top of a Christmas tree. So simple and such a visual delight to display on a dessert table.
Stringing popcorn, whether to go on the actual Christmas tree or the cookie version of it, is a fun activity for kids as long as they’re old enough to handle a needle. We make a party of it. It’s an old 19th century custom but we enjoy the nostalgia.
If you’re making a garland that’s not intended as food, it’s easiest to use fishing line or waxy dental floss and a crochet needle. Day old popcorn is also sturdier to string. But, unlike the pine Christmas tree, our cookie tree is edible and we wanted the garland to be as well. We used regular sewing thread and needle along with freshly popped corn. It takes a little more finesse but we weren’t making long garlands. And if a few popcorn pieces broke along the way, we just snacked on them.
Cream together the room temperature butter and granulated sugar using a hand mixer or stand mixer. Beat in the egg, milk and vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder and ground cinnamon. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Note that, if you let it sit for longer than two hours in the refrigerator, you will need to let the dough warm up a bit before handling or it will crack.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Because the cookies vary in size, they cook for different lengths of time. We recommend baking in 3 batches. First, the largest cookies, then the medium group and, finally, the smallest.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface and cut out the cookies. Place on the baking sheets and bake for 11 to 15 minutes depending on the size. The finished cookies should be slightly golden brown at the edges but still fairly pale in the center. Allow to cool completely before assembling the tree.
Combine the vanilla frosting (store bought is fine_ with a few drops of green food color until you like the shade of green. Fill a piping bag fitted with a medium sized tip.
Place a small piece of parchment paper on a plate or cake stand. Add a small dollop of frosting in the center and place your largest cookie. Add a small dollop of frosting to the center of the cookie and place the next largest cookie, slightly off kilter from the first. Continue until you've used all the sizes.
Note that the dough will be enough to bake a 10 piece cookie tree cutter set plus a couple of extra small cookies to be used as a topper (and a treat for the cook).
Decorate the visible edges of each cookie with the frosting and dust the whole structure with powdered sugar.
Using a needle and white thread, pierce each popcorn kernel through the middle and string until you have one or two garlands big enough to fit your cookie tree. Drape them over the cookies.
Share your creations with us on Instagram! Tag you creation with #dellcovespices and we would love to give you a shout-out!