These Edible Christmas Decorations from Nigella Lawson's Nigella Christmas are another sweet way to (pardon the pun) spruce up your tree. They also make wonderful additions to any tin of cookies since they serve two purposes: to be tasty and look festive on a tree.
The dough, which comes together in seconds in the food processor, is a riff on gingerbread (minus the ginger) that's spiced with cloves and black pepper. It's another one of Nigella's perfectly textured cookie doughs—just soft enough and with little-to-no stick factor.
She advises you to smear your finished cookies with a spoonful of icing to make for a cookie blanketed in snow. Since the cookies pictured next to the recipe in the book were so intricately decorated, I decided to try my hand at the more elaborate icing technique and broke out the pastry bag.
The icing is an ideal consistency for piping, firm but still sticky enough to adhere to the cookies. As it turned out, piping little snowflakes and leaves onto my cookies wasn't as difficult as I had imagined it would be and the cookies looked adorable with a light dusting of edible glitter.
Just a quick word about the icing: It might look dried in just a few minutes but leave the cookies undisturbed for at least an hour or two to prevent any possible icing smearage.
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- For the cookies:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1-2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) soft butter
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2 large eggs beaten with 1/4 cup runny honey
- For the icing and trimmings:
- 2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 2 tablespoons meringue powder
- Edible gold or silver sprinkles
Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and pepper in a food processor and, with the motor on, add the butter and sugar, then, slowly, the beaten eggs and honey, through the feed tube, though don't use all of this liquid if the pastry has come together before it's used up.
Form two fat discs and put one, covered in plastic wrap or in a resealable bag, in the refrigerator while you get started on the other.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Then dust a work surface with flour, roll out the disc, also floured, to about 1/4 inch, and cut out your Christmas decorations with cutters of your choice, which could include fir-tree shapes, angels, stars, snowflakes, and so on.
Re-roll and cut out some more, setting aside the dough scraps from thus first disc, well covered, while you get on with rolling out the second. When you've got both sets of leftover clumps of dough, roll out and cut out again, and keep doing so till all the dough's used up.
Now take a small piping nozzle and use the pointy end to cut out a hole just below the top of each cookie (through which the ribbon can be later threaded).
Arrange the pastry shapes on the lined cookie sheets and bake for about 20 minutes: it's hard to see when they're baked, but you can feel; if the underside is no longer doughy, they're ready. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.
Mix together the confectioners' sugar with the meringue powder and 3 tablespoons water, beating it until it's thick enough to be able to cover the cookies with a just-dripping blanket of white.
Carefully ice the cold decorations, using a teaspoon (the tip for dripping, the back for smoothing), and scatter sparkles for sprinkles as you like. When the icing is set, thread the ribbon through the holes and hang on your tree.