Makes a good brooch too…

Flower Cookie Centerpiece

Flower Cookie Centerpiece

Mr. Maple Tree, a certain gentleman who resides outside of my living room window, has finally started to sprout leaves. I noticed this development about a week ago when one tiny little green bud appeared at the end of a branch. This week he is displaying what looks like green pom-poms. Soon those will grow into full-fledged clusters of green leaves. Tree hugger? Me?

I love winter, but will happily admit that this year’s snow fest was a bit of overkill on the part of Mother Nature. My winter boots asked for disaster pay. (Rim shot, please.)

Bottom line: finally, spring is here.

In the Big Apple this is school vacation week. I live near a middle school that normally clangs with the screeches of hundreds of teens. But the quiet this morning reminded me of a western town in a John Wayne movie just before the Dalton gang arrives. The only thing missing was the tumbleweeds.

I am an unapologetic Peeps addict, so I tend to think of Easter as Christmas with marshmallow. Oh, and instead of poinsettias, tulips and daffodils are on display. While I’d love to have a garden—and a gardener to maintain it—alas, it seems as a dweller of the big city the only crop I seem to be able to grow with any abundance is dust. (There’s a joke there, somewhere. Something about dust bunnies and Easter bunnies, but I haven’t quite figured it out yet.)

I enjoy watching Ina Garten, TV’s Barefoot Contessa walk outside her kitchen door to snip something from her garden and arrange it simply in a water glass and use it as a centerpiece. I could try the same thing, but there’s no rosemary growing in the hallway. (My landlord would frown on that.)

You do what you can with what you’ve got. I can’t grow flowers but I can bake them. So try this on for size: a little Martha Stewart-style crafts project I call the Butter Flour Eggs Cookie Centerpiece.  I started using cookies as cake decoration a while ago, so it is not a stretch for me to try to find other venues in which to display their beauty. (My first thought was to use them as Christmas tree decoration. But living in a New York apartment, there are a few disincentives to leaving food sitting around.)

At heart the cookies are made from basic shortbread dough—my same easy to roll recipe that I used on Valentine’s Day. To my eye these sugary flowers always look like they were drawn with a sparkly crayon, which makes them perfect for occasions where children will be among the celebrants. Using a bit of royal icing (a/k/a edible Elmer’s Glue) I attached a bamboo skewer to each one and grounded that firmly in a cupcake. Two or three plates of those down the center of a long table will be my centerpiece at Easter dinner.

The color palette is your choice; you can see I gravitated towards groovy ‘60’s yellow and pink. I won’t be insulted if you find my choice a bit loud and decide to go with something a bit more subtle (zzzzzzz). Your choices are as wide as the colors of sanding sugar you can find. For these cookies I recommend rolling the dough to a hefty ¼” thick. Paint a bit of egg wash on the unbaked cookies and sprinkle with the sanding sugar before baking. Cool thoroughly before gluing the skewers with Royal icing and allow a few hours for the Royal icing to harden and dry.

Don’t feel confined by a vanilla cookie or the flower cookie cutter. A couple of Christmases ago I made little chocolate wreaths with Royal icing that looked like brown Wedgewood.

If your kids are home from school this week, the cookie centerpiece is a great project for you to supervise. And if you’re not feeling ambitious don’t worry about the royal icing and skewers: just stick the cookie right into the frosting.

This reminds me of a friend who used to have a country house. No slouch in the kitchen, if you visited him during the winter chances are you would be served a steaming plate of Cincinnati Chili. During warmer months the chili was retired but you could look forward to hand churned ice cream or “Dirt Cake” which was (I think) chocolate pudding and cake served in a real (sterilized)clay pot, topped with chocolate cookie crumbs (the dirt) and a real flower. It was pretty convincing until he started spooning it onto plates.

You can do the same thing with the cookie centerpiece, although for my money the cartoon-y quality of the cookies matches cupcakes better. Don’t go crazy with the cupcakes here—you can even use store bought. I made very simple white cupcakes and placed everything on simple white plates.

No surprise here: as usual for me the cookies are the star of the show.


Use this recipe for the cookie dough: I Heart Shortbread Cookies.

And it’s not too late to bake for Good Friday or Easter. Click here for my recipe for Hot Cross Buns.


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