Green Cherry Cookie Trees
1 8-ounce jar green maraschino cherries (about 1 cup), well drained and finely chopped
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup butter
Green paste food coloring
1 cup white baking pieces
2 teaspoons butter-flavor or regular shortening Small multicolored decorative candies
Place chopped cherries in a fine sieve and squeeze out excess liquid; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl stir together flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs and starts to cling.
Stir in cherries and a small amount of green paste food coloring. Form mixture into a ball and knead until well combined and nearly smooth.
Divide dough in half. If necessary, cover and chill dough for 30 minutes to 1 hour or until easy to handle.
On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough at a time to 1/4- to 3/8-inch thickness.
For each tree, cut dough using a 1-inch star cookie cutter (for the treetop) and 4 star cookie cutters that gradually increase in size from 2-1/2 to 4 inches.
Place cookies 1-inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake in a 325 degree F oven for 12 minutes for smaller stars and 14 minutes for larger stars or until bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool.
In a heavy small saucepan heat white baking pieces and shortening over low heat, stirring frequently, just until melted.
To assemble each tree, stack 5 stars, one of each size, with the largest on the bottom and the smallest standing on edge on the top.
Spread a little of the melted white baking pieces mixture between cookies as you stack them.
Drizzle or pipe melted white baking pieces mixture over each tree. Sprinkle with decorative candies. Makes about 6 cookie trees (depending on cutter sizes).
Make-Ahead Tip: Bake and cool cookies as directed. Freeze in airtight freezer container up to 3 months. Thaw 30 minutes at room temperature before assembling into trees.