If you want to give someone the gift of food this Christmas, this star-shaped cookie shortbread tree is just the ticket. You can make the dough well ahead of when you need it and freeze it, which makes this a great back up gift for when you’ve run out of time to make or buy anything and you’re all of a sudden faced with a birthday or the end of term! If you’ve got little ones they’ll love to help you stake up the layers to make your shortbread into this pretty tree. It’s great for a buffet around Christmas time, too, thanks to its pretty festive shape and easy sharing nature. Simply pop into the middle of the table and let everyone help themselves. If you want to make some of your stars chocolate then simply swap a little flour for some cocoa.
- 500g (1lb) plain flour
- 300g (10oz) unsalted butter
- 150g (5oz) caster sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 large egg
- 2tbsp milk
- Few drops of vanilla extract
- Icing sugar, for dusting
- For decoration:
- 125g (4oz) royal icing sugar
- 6 x star cookie cutters in various sizes, from 4.5cm to 13.5cm (1¾-5½in)
- You'll also need:
- Baking sheets, lined with non-stick liners or baking parchment
Set the oven to 180°C or gas mark 4.
Tip the flour into the bowl of a food processor, add the butter, sugar and salt, and whizz until the mixture forms fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg, milk and vanilla extract, and whizz the mixture until the ingredients bind together into a dough. Or rub the butter into the flour, add the other ingredients and work them until they bind together.
Roll the dough out to about 5mm (¼in) and, for each tree, cut out two of each size of cutter, re-rolling dough as necessary. So, for two trees, cut out four of each size. Place cookies on the lined baking sheets and bake the cookies in the centre of the oven for 12-15 mins, or until they’re a light golden colour.
Remove cookies from oven and transfer to wire racks to cool. Dust cold cookies with icing sugar.
To decorate the cookies, mix water into the royal icing sugar to give a spreadable consistency. To save making your own, ready-made royal icing can be used to stick the cookies together. Spread a little royal icing onto each cookie to stack them up. Stack two of each size, alternating the points, and sticking the top star on vertically. Leave a while for the royal icing to set before placing the cookie trees on plates and wrapping them in cellophane. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week (not suitable for freezing).
We used the star-shaped cutters from the Wilton Cookie Tree Kit, which is a set of ten graduated-size stars - we used the six smallest ones.