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Growing up in a Jewish family, I had plenty of fun over the holidays with lighting the menorah, eating piles of latkes and, of course, enjoying eight days of presents for Hanukkah. However, I was always jealous of my friends who celebrated Christmas because all I wanted was to decorate a Christmas tree.
You know that episode of “Friends” where everyone sticks ornaments all over the place and Monica spins the tree around with the perfect arrangement on her side? Well, I am now Monica and these cookies are my gorgeous Christmas trees. I finally get to string colorful (candy) lights across a much more tasty medium.
The base is a buttery sugar cookie that bakes well in any shape, so you can use all sorts of cookie cutters, especially if you happen to have a tree-shaped one. I was so eager to decorate that I whipped up a quick powdered sugar glaze to make the candies really pop, though royal icing would yield an equally beautiful background. Whether you aim for perfect strands of chocolate lights or toss candy on for more of a Picasso tree (or make some into menorahs as well), your holiday guests are sure to love these tasty cookies.
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 Tbsp. milk or cream
1 cup chocolate chips, melted
1 cup mini M&Ms or candy-coated sunflower seeds (or other candy, if desired)
1. Beat the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together, then gradually add it to the dough.
2. Split the dough in half and chill until firm, at least 90 minutes.
3. Heat oven to 375 degrees F and line cookie trays with parchment paper or grease with cooking spray.
4. Roll the dough out to 3/8-inch thickness and cut into desired shapes (for Christmas light cookies, I recommend about 3-inch circles or other festive shapes). Place on the prepared trays and bake for about 8 minutes, or until just golden around the bottom.
5. Whisk the powdered sugar and milk or cream together until smooth. Spread onto the cooled cookies. Drizzle the melted chocolate in lines across the cookies, then press the candies on top. You can also use other candy in various patterns as ornaments. Refrigerate once set.
Makes about 16 cookies
Kayla Saslow, a member of Whisk, is studying food science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her blog, “The Nerdy Chef,” makes food science approachable and entertaining.