When people plan holiday celebrations, I am always assigned the task of bringing desert. My family usually ask for specific deserts but sometimes they let me be creative. This is one that I have made several times. It goes over pretty well at most gatherings.
This particular desert serves double duty--centerpiece and desert. Bonus: you don't have to find a place to store it after the holidays.
Step 1: Cookie Ground
The base of the centerpiece is a sugar cookie. You can use another kind of cookie if you prefer but this is my brother's favorite. It also works well with a layer of white frosting (snow). I bake the cookie on a pizza pan but you can use what you have on hand.
I use a recipe from VKBakes in an instructable called Christmas Sugar Cookies.
It is important NOT to put the dough all the way to the edges of the pan. I did this once. Not good. The cookie expands while it bakes and I had burnt cookie all over the bottom of the oven. It just dropped off the pan. The clean up was horrible.
Step 2: Frosting Snow
My brother always wanted the sugar cookies to be frosted. That is actually what inspired this project the first time I made it.
After the cookie has cooled, spread on a thin layer of frosting. I usually use a simple almost glaze frosting.
1/4 cup butter--softened
2 cups of powdered sugar
a drizzle of vanilla (let's be honest, who measures vanilla)
warm water or milk
Mix the first 3 ingredients. Add water, a little at a time, until the mixture is thick but will almost pour.
Spread on the cooled cookie.
Step 3: Rice Crispy Snowmen
The recipe is so simple. Melt a half stick of butter with a bag of marshmallows. Pour in 3 or 4 cups of rice krispies and stir. My sister and I have been making these since we were kids.
If you are making snowballs out of your rice crispy treats, you do have to work quickly. You need to get them made before the mixture cools to much. I try to keep the stove on really low. It can also be easier if you find a helper or two--just make sure they have already eaten so they don't snack while they work (I have lost a couple of snowmen that way). I usually only use 2 balls per snowman but you can do 3.
Spray cooking spray on your clean (washed) hands. Grab a handful of the warm mixture. Quickly press into a ball. Set aside and grab some more. Do not stop to admire your work. If your helper needs the constant pat-on-the-back support and encouragement, do it while you continue to work. You really have only a limited time to finish. Make as many balls as you can. Someone always steals one, so it helps to have more than you need. If the mixture cools too much, you can try to gently re-warm it but I usually find it is easier to just leave it on a cookie sheet to finish cooling and make do with as many balls as I was able to make.
Step 4: Decorating the Snowmen
Once the snowballs are cooled and hardened, it is time to start putting the whole centerpiece together.
If your frosted sugar cookie still has soft frosting, press the bottom snowball into place. Use a bit of fresh frosting to hold it if necessary. Alternately you can use a bit of melted chocolate as your glue. I always have melted chocolate ready at this point--it works so well when it comes to stacking the snowballs and holding decorations in place.
Place a slightly smaller ball on the first one. Hold it in place for a minute or two until the chocolate glue holds. Unwrap a fruit-by-the-foot and unroll enough to make a scarf. Wrap around the snowman's neck. Add eyes--any small round candy works. I used chocolate chips. Two small pretzel sticks pressed into the ball make the arms but I did not use them this time.
The hat is easy and can be made in advance. A marshmallow is dipped in chocolate and then placed on a non-stick mat. Slide it around to make the chocolate puddle into a nice circle. Leave the marshmallow in the center of the circle until the chocolate has hardened. Peel it off the mat carefully so you don't damage the brim. Use a bit of melted chocolate glue to hold it in place.
Single snowballs make good snowchildren. For a school party, you can try making a ring of small snowmen so that each child can have one.
Step 5: Final Touches
We always have a lot of nibblers at family gatherings so I like to plan for it. Add extras to the centerpiece but don't mention how many of them disappear before dinner. It is the holidays and the excitement will get the better of most children (even the 50 year old children).
Snack sized candy bars or starburst candies (unwrapped) make nice stacks of gifts. Just pipe a frosting ribbon and bow to make them look like wrapped gifts.
Take the broken pretzel pieces and coat them in melted chocolate. Drop a nice size pile in the middle of the ring of snowmen. Press a mini marshmallow on the end of a couple of the arms so that they can toast their marshmallows over the pretzel fire.
Be creative with your finishing touches. Use what you have on hand. Let me know what you try--I am always looking for new ideas.
This time I just made a crowd of snowmen.