Christmas Tree Cookies

Family and friends will agree it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas when they see the glistening treetops of this fanciful forest. Iced with creamy frosting and dusted with sparkly colored sugars, each of the 3-D cookie trees is as delicious as it is beautiful!

You Will Need
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Green gel or paste food coloring

4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoons meringue powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Green gel or paste food coloring
Assorted decorating sprinkles and white edible glitter

What to Do
1. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder; gradually add to creamed mixture. Divide dough in half.

2. Tint half of the dough green; knead well to distribute color evenly. Leave remaining dough white. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until easy to handle.

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each portion of dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Use tree-shaped cookie cutters with identical shapes, measuring 2 1/2 inches, 3 inches, 4 inches, and 4 1/2 inches. Cut out an even number of cookies with each size cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.

4. Bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately cut half of each size tree cookies in half from top to bottom. If tree cookie cutters have trunks, trim trunks off trees, creating a flat base. Remove to wire racks to cool.

5. For frosting, combine the confectioners' sugar, water, meringue powder, vanilla and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl. Beat on high speed for 8-10 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Divide frosting in half. Tint half of the frosting green; leave remaining frosting white.

6. Cover frosting with damp paper towels or plastic wrap between uses.

To make four-sided garland trees:
1. Cut a small hole in the corner of a pastry or resealable plastic bag; insert round pastry tip #5. Fill with green or white frosting to match the tree you are decorating. Pipe a line of frosting along the cut edge of one of the halved cookies; press frosted edge along center of a matching whole cookie. Repeat. Let dry until firm.

2. Stand up partially assembled trees. Attach one matching cookie half to the opposite side of the tree by piping frosting along cut edge and pressing along center of whole cookie. Let dry completely.

3. Using another pastry or resealable plastic bag, medium star pastry tip #21 and either white or green frosting, pipe garlands around sides of trees. Decorate with sprinkles if desired. Let dry completely.

To make fuller trees:
1. Assemble trees as described for four-sided garland trees, using white or green cookies. Using matching colored frosting, attach four cookie halves, one size smaller than assembled tree cookies. Let trees dry completely.

2. Decorate using either the garland or snow-tipped technique. Dry completely.

To make snow-tipped trees:
Assemble trees as described for fuller trees using green cookies. Using another pastry or resealable plastic bag, large round pastry tip #8 and white frosting, pipe snow on tips of branches. Sprinkle with edible glitter. Let dry completely.

To make glazed trees:
1. In a small bowl, thin 1 cup green frosting with 2-3 tablespoons water until frosting reaches pourable consistency. Place matching pairs of whole and halved cookies on a wire rack over waxed paper. Pour icing over cookies; spread with a metal spatula to completely cover top and sides of cookies. Let dry completely.

2. Assemble, using garland tree method; let dry. Decorate as desired.

Yield: 6 dozen cookies (or 18-36 cookie trees, depending on fullness of trees).

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