image credit : bakedbyanintrovert
prep time: 3 HOURS cook time: 15 MINUTES total time: 3 HOURS 15 MINUTES
For the cookies
- 3 and 1/4 cups Bob’s Red Mill Organic Unbleached All Purpose Flour
- 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 cup unsalted cold butter, cut into small pieces
- 2/3 cup unsulphured molasses
- 2 tablespoons milk
For the icing
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup water
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons meringue powder
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt. Stir to combine. Add the butter and mix on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles wet sand. Reduce the speed to low and with the mixer running, slowly pour in the molasses and milk. Mix until the dough is thoroughly combined. It should be the consistency of play-doh.
- Scrape the dough out onto a clean work surface and shape it into a disk. Divide the disk into 4 equal portions. Roll one portion at a time in between 2 sheets of parchment paper to 1/8-inch thickness. Leave the dough in the parchment paper and stack it on a cookie sheet. Freeze the dough for at least 20 minutes to make it easier to handle while cutting.
- Adjust the oven racks to the upper and lower middle positions. Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
- Take one sheet of dough out of the freezer and gently peel off one side of the parchment paper. Place the parchment paper back into place and flip the dough over. Peel off the second sheet of parchment paper. Using multi-size star shape cookie cutters, cut equal amounts of each size. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets, placing them 1/2-inch apart. Set aside the scraps. Repeat with the remaining sheets of dough until the cookie sheets are full.
- Bake for 15 minutes, rotating rack positions halfway through. Don’t over-bake the cookies, they will be done with the have darkened slightly. Let cool on the pan for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Combine the remaining scraps and repeat rolling, freezing, cutting, and baking until all the dough is used.
Make the icing:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine 1/2 cup of the water, lemon juice, and meringue powder. Stir to dissolve the powder. With the mixer on low, gradually add the powdered sugar. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and beat for 5 to 7 minutes, until glossy and stiff peaks form. Set a small ziptop sandwich bag inside of a coffee cup or small glass with the opening folded out over the rim of the cup. Fill it with about 1 cup of the meringue mixture. Seal the bag and set aside. Add 1 teaspoon at a time of the remaining water to the meringue in the bowl, stirring with a rubber spatula after each addition until the mixture resembles glue. It should fall in a ribbon from a spatula. Add liquid or gel food coloring if desired. Pour some icing into different bowls if using multiple colors. The icing needs to be used right away or transferred to an airtight container. It will harden as it is exposed to air.
- Decorate the tops of the cooled cookies. Squeeze bottles work great for this. Allow the icing to harden before assembling the trees.
Assemble the trees:
- Cut a small amount off the bottom corner of the sandwich bag containing the icing. Starting with the largest size star, squeeze a small amount of icing on the center. Top it with a second star of the same size, offsetting the corners so they are not lined up evenly. Repeat the process with the next smallest size star. Use 2 of each size star and work your way up to the smallest star until the tree is assembled. Let the trees dry for 24 hours.
You can use more layers when building the trees if you desire taller trees. You don’t have to use star shapes for the trees. You can use circles or any other round shape with fluted edges