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Edible Christmas Tree Decorations

by . Featured in NIGELLA CHRISTMAS
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Introduction

I couldn’t have Christmas without these, or at least, not happily. Rituals are essential to give us meaning, a sense of ceremony, and making these peppery, gingerbready edible decorations is how I have always marked with my children that Christmas has begun.

Instant Royal Icing can be tricky to find in the US, in which case you can make your own Royal Icing by mixing 2½ cups confectioners' sugar with 2 tablespoons of meringue powder. Add 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of warm water and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until the icing has thickened and forms soft peaks.

I couldn’t have Christmas without these, or at least, not happily. Rituals are essential to give us meaning, a sense of ceremony, and making these peppery, gingerbready edible decorations is how I have always marked with my children that Christmas has begun.

Instant Royal Icing can be tricky to find in the US, in which case you can make your own Royal Icing by mixing 2½ cups confectioners' sugar with 2 tablespoons of meringue powder. Add 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of warm water and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until the icing has thickened and forms soft peaks.

Edible Christmas Tree Decorations
Photo by Lis Parsons

Ingredients

Makes: 35 - 40 biscuits

Metric Cups

For the Biscuits

  • 300 grams plain flour (plus more for dusting)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 100 grams soft butter
  • 100 grams soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs (beaten)
  • 4 tablespoons runny honey

For the Icing and Trimmings

  • 300 grams instant royal icing (from packet)
  • edible glitter or gold or silver balls

For the Biscuits

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 stick soft butter
  • ½ cup soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs (beaten)
  • ¼ cup honey

For the Icing and Trimmings

  • 2 cups instant royal icing (from packet)
  • edible glitter or gold or silver balls

Method

  1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3/350ºF.
  2. 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 runny honey, though don’t use all of this liquid if the pastry has come together before it’s used up.
  3. Form 2 fat discs and put one, covered in clingfilm or in a freezer bag, in the fridge while you get started on the other.
  4. Then dust a work surface with flour, roll out the disc, also floured, to about 5mm / ¼ inch and cut out your Christmas decorations with cutters of your choice, which could include fir-tree shapes, angels, stars, snowflakes, and so on.
  5. Re-roll and cut out some more, setting aside the residue from this 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.
  6. Now take a small icing nozzle and use the pointy end to cut out a hole just below the top of each biscuit (through which ribbon can later be threaded).
  7. Arrange the pastry shapes on the lined baking sheets and cook for about 20 minutes: it’s hard to see when they’re cooked, but you can feel; if the underside is no longer doughy, they’re ready. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.
  8. Make up the instant royal icing, beating it until it’s thick enough to be able to cover the biscuits with a just-dripping blanket of white; but don’t beat it for as long as the packet says or you’ll have icing so thick it will need to be spread with a spatula and you won’t get such a neat outline.
  9. Carefully ice the cold decorations, using a teaspoon (the tip for dripping, the back for smoothing), and scatter sparkles or sprinkles as you like. When the icing is set, thread ribbon through the holes and hang on your tree.
  1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3/350ºF.
  2. 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, though don’t use all of this liquid if the pastry has come together before it’s used up.
  3. Form 2 fat discs and put one, covered in clingfilm or in a freezer bag, in the fridge while you get started on the other.
  4. Then dust a work surface with flour, roll out the disc, also floured, to about 5mm / ¼ inch and cut out your Christmas decorations with cutters of your choice, which could include fir-tree shapes, angels, stars, snowflakes, and so on.
  5. Re-roll and cut out some more, setting aside the residue from this 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.
  6. Now take a small icing nozzle and use the pointy end to cut out a hole just below the top of each biscuit (through which ribbon can later be threaded).
  7. Arrange the pastry shapes on the lined baking sheets and cook for about 20 minutes: it’s hard to see when they’re cooked, but you can feel; if the underside is no longer doughy, they’re ready. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.
  8. Make up the instant royal icing, beating it until it’s thick enough to be able to cover the biscuits with a just-dripping blanket of white; but don’t beat it for as long as the packet says or you’ll have icing so thick it will need to be spread with a spatula and you won’t get such a neat outline.
  9. Carefully ice the cold decorations, using a teaspoon (the tip for dripping, the back for smoothing), and scatter sparkles or sprinkles as you like. When the icing is set, thread ribbon through the holes and hang on your tree.

Additional Information

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Make the biscuits up to 1 week ahead and store in an airtight container. Ice the biscuits the day before needed to allow them plenty of time to set.

FREEZE AHEAD TIP: The raw cookie dough can be made and frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw in the fridge overnight. The cooked biscuits can be made and frozen in sealable bags for up to 6 months.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Make the biscuits up to 1 week ahead and store in an airtight container. Ice the biscuits the day before needed to allow them plenty of time to set.

FREEZE AHEAD TIP: The raw cookie dough can be made and frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw in the fridge overnight. The cooked biscuits can be made and frozen in sealable bags for up to 6 months.

Tell us what you think

What 3 Others have said

  • Made these with my Grandkids over Christmas week. Easy, actually good to eat and the kids had a blast decorating.

    Posted by PeggyPotter on 9th January 2015
  • I love this recipe. I made these edible decorations for the first time this year. I decorated my whole Christmas three with these beautiful cookies. And it looks so nice I am going to do this every year!

    Posted by fonskleintjes on 17th December 2012
  • These were the first gingerbread biscuits I ever made, quite a few years ago when the book was published and I fell in love with their photograph inside the cover. I loved this recipe, easy to make and very fragrant. I remember making a batch of this recipe as personalised snowflakes to decorate my boss's corporate Christmas lunch and add some rusticity to a cold Boardroom and the room smelt amazing. Those and the cupcake cover from Goddess probably ignited my passion for sugarcraft and 4 years later and a few sugarcraft medals in tow, I still make those as wedding favours, now finely Royal Iced wih intricate flooding and piping. Thank you Nigella.

    Posted by Nanoushka on 17th December 2012
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