Sam is in the process of creating a portfolio and she’s been diligently taking photos every weekend. Food photos. Last week, she saw a Betty Crocker 3D Christmas tree and asked me to replicate it so she could photograph it.
I said, “Sure!” No, problem, I thought. I’ve baked chocolate chip cookies dozens of times before. What could be so hard about baking cookies in graduated sizes? I bought a new bag of flour and a pack of chocolate morsels days ahead and Sam was so so excited. So was I.
But — *sigh* — it wasn’t as easy as I thought.
Using the tried-and-tested chocolate chip cookie Toll House recipe, I prepared the cookie dough. I filled my largest ice cream scoop to create the largest cookies. I baked them first because I knew that as the cookies got smaller, the baking time would also get shorter.
When the largest cookies had been baked and transferred to a wire rack to cool, I started with the next batch. I filled the ice cream scoop once more but removed about a teaspoonful of the cookie dough. I deducted two minutes from the baking time. I repeated the process, removing more and more cookie dough from the ice cream scoop each time.
By the time I had baked four batches of cookies, I tried making a stack. Gee, the sizes of the cookies were too near each other. My stack looked like a pyramid rather than a tree. I told Sam we had a problem, she asked me to bake a new batch but I was exhausted by that time. The baking came after I had cooked lunch, it was a terribly humid day and I was itching for a shower.
I felt so depressed that I blurted out the problem to Speedy as he stepped out of the shower. He went to the kitchen, pulled open a drawer and took out the graduated cookie cutters. Trim the cookies, he said, so we could get the sizes we wanted. Sam wasn’t too keen about the idea and pointed out that the cut cookies wouldn’t look like cookies anymore with the trimmed edges. But I pointed out too that the entire project was for a photography portfolio and she could still have a pretty-looking subject with all the angles, colors and textures.
Speedy picked out the correct sizes of the cutters, I trimmed the cookies and Speedy was right there eating the trimmings. We had to call Alex to come down and get it because the way Speedy was gobbling up the trimmings, it looked unlikely that there would be anything left for Alex. So, Alex came down, looked at the cookies and asked why I baked so few. But, I said, the cookies were primarily for a photo shoot, not for general consumption.
So, with the cookies trimmed, the stack looked a little better. I made sugar glaze and Sam started assembling. By the time the stack was complete and the glaze had been drizzled, Sam declared that it looked like a wedding cake, not a Christmas tree. Well, whatever, it was still a very pretty subject for photography. And then, Sam had this brilliant idea. She said she’d top the Christmas tree/wedding cake with a chocolate-dipped strawberry. I reheated the ganache in the fridge for her and… well, that’s the result in the photo.
Want to make a 3D Christmas tree with a stack of chocolate chip cookies? I suggest that you use several ice cream scoops in graduated sizes. Or weigh the cookie dough. Any of the following chocolate chip cookie recipes will be good for making a stack:
And use a thick frosting instead of pourable glaze. If I knew how to make frosting, I’d have made some. But I don’t even like frosting so the only things I learned to make are the only three frostings I like — butter icing, cream cheese frosting and sugar glaze. A thick butter icing should work but I’m not so sure of cream cheese frosting would go well with chocolate chip cookies.
Our 3D Christmas tree might look like a wedding cake but I can’t find fault with Sam’s photography. She’s really amazing.
Thanks for letting me use the photo in the blog, Sam.