Puzzle Cookies

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    This time of year,  I really enjoy watching the Holiday Cooking Specials on TV.  One of these is the Christmas Cookie Challenge with hosts  Ree Drummond and Eddie Jackson on Food Network.   This show brings together some really awesome cookie decorators who must bake delicious and beautiful cookies in order to win the competition.  
      I am not an awesome cookie decorator.  But, when I saw one of the challenges was to bake puzzle cookies, I knew that it was something that I wanted to try!  Puzzle cookies would make adorable gifts for friends, neighbors and grandchildren.  As you can see in the above photo, I made a puzzle of Christmas Trees and Snowmen.  You could make as many snowmen as family members and put a name on each one.  This type of puzzle can be made as long as necessary.  Maddy had the idea of making a wreath with ornaments that pull apart off of it for everyone to enjoy.  This time, I stuck with this long puzzle. Here is how I did it:
puzzle cookies
    I rolled out my dough on parchment paper on the cookie sheet.  I used cutters to cut out the shapes that I wanted to use and decided how I wanted the shapes to fit together.  When I knew that, it was easy to use one cutter to make the cookie fit into the other.  Do you see how the tree on the left looks like it is in front of the snowman to the left of it?  I simply used the corner of the tree cutter to cut out a portion of the snowman so that they would fit together. I used this technique all along the row of shapes.  Of course, you can make your cookies any shape you would like! There are endless options! 
     After they were cut out, I baked them close together so that they wouldn't spread to the point of not fitting together.  (I saw a contestant use this technique on the show and it seemed to work for her!)  I used this recipe because it doesn't spread too much when baked. I have had my collection of many different cookie cutters for years.  But, if you need some great Christmas shapes.  This looks like a great set
puzzle cookies
     After the cookies are baked and you are getting ready to decorate them, use a sharp steak knife and gently break them apart.  Try not to notice that I broke off a corner of my Christmas tree.  I will disguise that with frosting. 
    Now you are ready to get your frosting ready and decorate! 
    For the frosting, I forgo the meringue powder and use about 4 cups of powdered sugar, 1/2 c corn syrup and enough milk to get the consistency that you want.  Plus, I flavor the frosting with vanilla or almond extract. Then, I divide it into bowls to make the colors that I need.  For black, I usually use brown because I add cocoa to the frosting.  It adds a little extra flavor and dimension to the cookies.  Who doesn't like a little bit of chocolate on their sugar cookie?  
puzzle cookies
    The first thing I do is outline the shapes so that I can flood them with a bit of thinner frosting.  
puzzle cookies
         Next, I flood them with the frosting.  You will be surprised at how quickly this corn syrup type frosting develops a dried top, allowing you to pipe details on top of the flooded background! 
Sometimes I pipe details and sometimes I use sprinkles.  This time, I  used both! 
puzzle cookies
     I told you that I'm not an amazing decorator, but I think that they look pretty cute!  I piped on Christmas Balls on my trees, but topped them with a sprinkle star.  I used sprinkle holly and berry on the snowman's hats, and sprinkle coal eyes, but I piped on the scarf.  
     These are something that my grandchildren will love! If I added a book about Snowmen, it would be an impressive little Christmas gift at the family Christmas party, or a centerpiece on the dessert table!  It was a lot of fun to try.  If you try your own version of a cookie puzzle, I would love to see pictures! 

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