One of my favourite Christmas activities is to bake cookies to hang on our tree. This year I had much bigger ambitions than my usual heart/star/gingerbread man combo, or whatever shape takes my fancy from my cookie-cutter stash, and set out to make big cookie pendants that could be hung not just on the tree, but just about everywhere in our house.
Sure, you could use cutters in different shapes, but we’re taking it to the next level here. After deciding on a few very simple geometric shapes that could be combined in many ways to form trees, I made my own chevron and rectangle-shaped cutters using strips of card wrapped in aluminum foil. I adapted Martha Stewart’s Basic Sugar Cookie recipe by adding some pain d’épices spice mix (a combination of cinnamon, cardamom, clove, star anise and pepper) and orange zest for a more seasonal twist.
The cookies turned out very nice, but icing them was laborious and threading the shapes together far more fiddly than I anticipated – but I got there in the end!
Custom cookie cutters
Sturdy cardboard, cut into 3cm strips
1. Decide on your shapes – I used chevrons and rectangles for my trees, but wanted to arrange them a little randomly for a more deconstructed feel. Sketch them first with a pencil and ruler and note the measurements. You’ll be folding the strips of card to form your shapes.
2. When you are happy with your shapes, mark the card where you need to make your folds and use the ruler and scalpel to carefully score the card where necessary. Wrap your strips of card in aluminum foil, then fold them to form your shapes.
3. Join the ends with masking tape. Your cutters are ready to use!
600g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
450g caster sugar (I tend to cut out sugar by 1/3 when I bake)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp of pain d’épices spice mix (optional)
Zest of two oranges (optional)
Icing – don’t feel as if you need to stick with traditional Christmas colours. We think hot pink is surprisingly festive.
1. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
2. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
3. Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the butter and mix until well incorporated.
4. Gradually mix in the flour mixture and the pain d’épices spice mix and orange zest, if using.
5. Divide the dough in half, flatten each half into a disk, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour – overnight, if possible.
6. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line a tray with baking paper.
7. Let one disk of dough stand at room temperature until soft enough to roll. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface to about 5mm thickness.
8. Use your cutters to cut out lots of different shapes, transferring them to the prepared sheets as you work.
9. Now, Martha Stewart reckons you should put your shapes in the freezer for 15 mins until very firm. I skipped this stage as I felt my dough was still firm enough.
10. Bake in the oven for 10-15 mins, until lightly colored on the edges.
11. As soon as the shapes are out of the oven, use the pointy end of a chopstick to make holes for threading through your ribbon or string.
12. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before decorating with icing.
Now you can thread them with string, ribbon or wool – or go nuts with pompoms and tassels and other dangly bits.
Photography & Styling: Emma Scott-Child