A couple of years ago, I made our first Advent cookie tree. I have always really enjoyed the process of baking and decorating the 25 cookies to be eaten over the course of the days leading up to Christmas, but I have to say that the process this year was better than ever. It is so much fun that the kiddos are now old enough to really take part in little projects like this one! Decorating the cookies with the colorful icing was, by far, the hit of the day for Jack and Charlotte. I am fairly certain that far more icing made it into their little tummies than onto the cookies.
I have used the same sugar cookie recipe for each year’s tree, and I have always been impressed with how fresh they manage to stay. This recipe was included with a set of cookie cutters from Williams-Sonoma that I received as a gift a couple of years ago, and once I tried these cookies, these instantly became my go-to sugar cookie. The cream cheese makes all the difference! This recipe makes a LOT of cookies, so I actually cut it in half this time around and had more than enough dough to make the cookies for the tree and then some.
Favorite Sugar Cookies
5 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
32 Tbsp. unsalted butter
6 oz. cream cheese
2 cups sugar
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
Have all of your ingredients at room temperature.
Sift together flour and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a flat beater, beat the butter on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the cream cheese and continue beating until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the vanilla.
Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 additions, beating in each addition before adding more. Beat just until combined, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Using floured hands, form dough into a smooth mound and divide into 2 equal portions. Shape each into a disk and wrap separately with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.
Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove 1 dough disk at a time from the refrigerator and let stand 10 minutes. Place the dough on a clean, floured work surface and roll out to a thickness of ¼ inch. Cut out as desired. Refrigerate the cookies until firm, 20-30 minutes. (I will admit that I have skipped this step before, but the cookies maintain their shape much better if you have the time to chill them.)
Bake cookies in a 350-degree oven until lightly golden on the edges, 14-16 minutes. Place baking sheets on wire racks and let cookies cool completely before decorating as desired.
In my quest to find the perfect icing for cookies that need to hold up when stacked and packaged, I came across this tutorial for glace icing on Our Best Bites. This icing dries firm with a glossy sheen, and as an added bonus, it tastes delicious!
To decorate the tree, I put the individual cookies in Wilton treat bags and then close tightly with the wired garland you can find in the miniature tree section at Hobby Lobby and other craft stores. By using the wired garland, you can simply twist the wires around the branches of the tree to hang them when you’re ready. Nothing to it, but it really does turn out to be such a pretty (and tasty!) decoration in my kitchen!
What a precious moment Jack and I shared during the girls’ nap time today. As I was setting out a lovely nativity given to me by Mom many moons ago, I had the opportunity to share the Christmas story with him: Mary and Joseph, the angel and the shepherd, the three wise men, and, of course, the baby Jesus. He was completely captivated, and after I was finished he whispered in his sweet little voice, “Tell me the story again, Mama.” It is so easy to forget the true meaning of the season, but today my precious boy reminded me of what this is really all about.
Thanks for stopping by!