Tangram Christmas Cookies

Today I’m sharing a family heirloom… my Christmas cookie recipe. But I gave it a little Left Brain Craft Brain STEM spin by adding some tangram puzzle fun.  Hope you enjoy these yummy Tangram Christmas Cookies!  They’re buttery rich, royal icing frosted and mathematically fun, plus they come with a free printable template.  No cookie cutter required.  Keep reading to the end for this week’s installment of the Love to Learn Linky, too.  This post contains affiliate links.

Tangram Christmas Cookies are a tasty way to combine baking with the problem solving of tangram puzzles. Math never tasted so good! Builds STEM skills, too.

 

What is a Tangram?

A tangram is a Chinese puzzle that consists of seven shapes called tans.  The tans consist of 5 right triangles in three different sizes, a square and a parallelogram.  The tans are then manipulated to form various shapes.  They are good for building geometry skills as well as developing spatial awareness and problem solving.

Tangram Left Brain Craft Brain

Tangram Christmas Cookies Recipe

Servings: Makes about 42 cookies (6 tangram squares)

Cookie Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened but not warm
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cream cheese

Cookie Instructions

To make the dough:

  1. Make your superfine sugar by pulsing sugar in your food processor for 10-15 seconds.
  2. Mix your dry ingredients (flour, sugar & salt) in a standing mixer.  Or in a large mixing bowl if you’re doing it by hand.
  3. Cut each stick of butter into 8-10 pieces.  Then, while mixing on low, add the butter 1 piece at a time.  Mix until butter is incorporated and mixture is crumbly.  This takes about a minute.
  4. Add the vanilla and cream cheese and continue to mix for about a minute.  Dough will still seem a little crumbly.
  5. Knead the dough by hand to pull together the crumbles and make sure the cream cheese is evenly distributed.
  6. Divide the dough in half and flatten into a one inch thick disk.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes).

To roll & cut the cookies:

Tangram Christmas Cookies Roll and Cut Left Brain Craft Brain

  1. Print out the Tangram Christmas Cookies Printable Template and cut along the outside square line.  I used regular printer paper, but you could use parchment paper for a slightly sturdier template.  If you want to make smaller cookies, use the print 2 per page option.
  2. Tear off two sheets of parchment paper about 2 ft. wide.  Sprinkle one sheet with flour and place a disk of dough in the center.  Roll out 1 dough disk to a 1/4″ thickness.
  3. Place template on dough.  Cut all the way through the dough along the outside of the square with a large kitchen knife.  For the inside lines, just press knife lightly along the lines to score the dough.  Remove template and then cut through center lines completely.
  4. Place cookies on parchment lined cookie sheet.  When sheet is full, place in refrigerator for 10 minutes before baking.
  5. Repeat until all the dough is cut.

To bake the cookies:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375º F.
  2. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet after five minutes.  Do not over bake the cookies, they should be just slightly golden brown at the edges but still pale in the center.
  3. Cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Royal Icing the Tangrams

Here’s my royal icing disclaimer…  I’m so not an expert cookie froster and I’m an inherently lazy baker.  So I take the cheater way out with royal icing.  No piping the edge, just slather it on and cover with sprinkles so any mistakes are hidden.  Oh and the sprinkles make them so much more yummy anyway.

Decorating Cookies Left Brain Craft Brain

Royal Icing Ingredients

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder {affiliate}
  • 5 tablespoons water
  • Gel food coloring

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl or a stand mixer bowl combine powdered sugar and meringue powder.  Mix on low (with splash screen on!) for about 30 seconds to break up any clumps.  Then add water and mix on medium for about 6-8 minutes, stopping in the middle to scrape the sides of the bowl.  The icing should look thick, like paste.
  2. Divide your icing into as many bowls as you want colors.
  3. Next add water to each bowl, small baby spoonful by baby spoonful until icing passes the 10 Second Test.  To conduct the 10 Second Test, pick up a little icing on your baby spoon and pour it back into the container.  Slowly you will see the drizzle settle into the bowl of icing so that the surface is smooth and you can’t see where the drizzle was anymore.  You want to add enough water so that the drizzle disappears in about 10 seconds. If it takes longer than that, it’ll be too thick to spread.  Less than that and it’s too runny.
  4. Now add your gel food color until you reach your desired color.  Remember that colors will deepen after a few hours so you can stop adding color before you get that perfect shade.
  5. Icing the cookies is as simple as spreading and then sprinkling with toppings like colored sugar or non-pareils.  My favorite trick is to ice cookies on a cooling rack on a rimmed baking sheet.  This allow extra sprinkles and frosting to drip off the cookies.

Frosted Tangram Christmas Cookies Left Brain Craft Brain

Designing with the Tangram Christmas Cookies

The Babe and I had fun coming up with designs with the cookies.  A Christmas tree, a candle and a candy cane all worked well.  We would have made a wreath but we had eaten too many of the little triangles :)

Tangram Cookie Designs Left Brain Craft Brain 2

Candy Cane Tangram Cookies Left Brain Craft Brain large

Other Math and Cooking Ideas from the Love to Learn Linky:

Love to Learn Links Christmas Cooking and Math

To see more amazing kids’ activities featured this week, check out my co-hosts posts:

Christmas in the Kitchen with Kids from One Time Through

35 Christmas Crafts for Kids & Toddlers from A Little Pinch of Perfect

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Love to Learn Linky

Now it’s time for some more links!  I hope you’ll join me and a few of my friends for a fun and educational linky party. Bloggers, share your posts every Thursday and watch as we round them up and share them all over the place.  Almost anything goes, we’re just hoping your activities teach kids (or us!) something (science, art, cooking, behavior, crafting, parenting etc…). The Love to Learn Linky is hosted by:

Left Brain Craft BrainLeft Brain Craft Brain (leftbraincraftbrain.com):  Anne is an ex-engineer, current stay-at-home mama writing about crafty ways to encourage creativity (and brain power!) in our kids.  Each of her projects gives kids the chance to learn about a new subject and do something crafty at the same time.

 

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Totschooling (totschooling.net): Viviana is a blogging mom to a toddler and a preschooler, sharing ideas and resources for early education. She specializes in unique, hands-on printable activities that are educational, fun and inspire creativity in young minds.

 

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A Little Pinch of Perfect (alittlepinchofperfect.com):  Katie combines creativity, play, and learning for the perfect mishmash of fun activities that keep kiddos entertained throughout the day. She wholeheartedly believes in the power of play and feels that all activities naturally provide a fun way to learn.

 

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One Time Through (onetimethrough.com): Sue is an Elementary School Teacher currently on leave to be at home with her preschooler son.  She shares ideas for connecting and learning with kids through meaningful, play-based activities that nurture curiosity and creativity.

 

Love to Learn Linky Etiquette:

Grab a Button!

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Tangram Christmas Cookies Left Brain Craft Brain FB

21 thoughts on “Tangram Christmas Cookies”

    1. leftbraincraftbrain

      Thanks so much Jodie! I figure might as well try to get some learning into the season of sugar overload :)

    1. leftbraincraftbrain

      Thanks Sue! Yes, the cream cheese makes all the difference… Plus these are perfect for making with kids because there’s no raw egg in the dough. Because you know they love to steal a bite or two.

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