We'd gladly spend December inside a candy cottage, between frosting swirls and peppermint sticks. But while our cookie roster is longer than Santa's list, we'll stop short of hanging them from the rafters. Learn to transform familiar snacks into a festive feast for the eyes. We don't recommend nibbling them post-assembly, but we have faith that you and your kin can sample plenty along the merry way.
Use royal icing -- piped from a resealable plastic bag with a corner snipped off -- to hold houses together and "glue on" decorations.
1. With a serrated knife, saw a graham cracker into 2 squares. Saw off top corners of another cracker to create a peaked roof; make 2.
2. Pipe icing onto bottom and straight edges of a peaked piece. Place on an upside-down paper plate; use a small object, such as a spice jar, to prop it up. Repeat to pipe icing onto edges of a square piece, and adhere it to peaked cracker. Remove spice jar, and adhere other pieces with icing.
3. Saw a cracker into 2 squares for the roof. If desired, spread icing onto roof pieces and decorate with candy; let dry. Pipe icing onto top edges of house, and adhere roof pieces. To display, place plates on a tray and cover with shredded coconut snow.
Haul out your holly -- and your Life Savers. Gummy garlands are delightful to look at and even more fun to make. Buy extra candy in case you, er, lose some along the way.
Gumdrop Christmas Garlands
"Any candy you can pierce, you can make into a garland," creative director Eric Pike says. Try Swedish Fish, Lifesavers, and gummies of all sorts. Let little ones arrange the candies and hang their creations where they like. But watch out: They might gobble more than they string.
Tips: Try wrapping a candy garland around an evergreen-draped banister for a land-of-sweets look, or swag it on a mirror. Just avoid the fireplace or other heat sources, or the treats might melt. Dental floss and waxed twine are both great for stringing.
Tempered white chocolate is cast, cut, and stacked into striking tree shapes. While every component is edible, the result is far too pretty to eat.
White-Chocolate Star Tree
2 3/4 pounds white chocolate, coarsely chopped, plus three 4-ounce pieces for tempering
1. Line a 12 1/2-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with acetate.
2. Place 2 3/4 pounds chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring a saucepan with 2 inches of water to a simmer, and then reduce heat to low. Set bowl with chocolate over saucepan, and let melt, stirring gently with a rubber spatula, until chocolate registers 118 degrees on a candy thermometer. (Watch the chocolate carefully, as heating and cooling times may vary.) Remove bowl from saucepan. Add remaining chocolate, and stir until chocolate cools to 82 degrees. (Remove any unmelted pieces with spatula.) Return bowl to saucepan, and let stand, stirring occasionally until chocolate registers 86 degrees to 87 degrees.
3. Pour chocolate into prepared sheet, spreading evenly. Tap bottom on work surface to even out chocolate. Refrigerate until set, about 45 minutes (chocolate will be easier to cut if slightly soft).
4. Place chocolate on a work surface. Heat 1/2 inch of water until steaming. Working with 1 cutter at a time, starting with the largest and working down to the smallest, place cutter in water to heat. Remove with tongs, and dry completely. Press cutter into chocolate, pressing all the way through. (You can use the bottom of a small bowl to help press down if it's too difficult.) Carefully remove chocolate from cutter. Repeat with same-size cutter. Then repeat with remaining star cutters, cutting out 2 of each, but only 1 of each of the smallest 3 stars. Cut two 1-inch rounds. Reserve chocolate scraps.
5. To assemble the trees: Melt 3 ounces of scrap chocolate. Using melted chocolate as glue and a small paintbrush, glue 2 rounds together for truck. Glue 1 of the largest stars on trunk, followed by remaining largest, rotating each slightly to stagger points. Repeat, gluing stars, largest to smallest, and rotating each slightly to stagger points and create a tree shape. Turn the last (and smallest) star on its side to create the tree topper. (For a medium tree, leave out the 2 largest stars; for a small tree, leave out the 4 largest.)
Rocking Around the Christmas Tree
…Literally. Wind those inimitably craggy, crystalline strands around a foam core, and bedazzle to your heart's content.
Foam tree forms in various heights
Rock candy on string, cut into 3-inch pieces
Crystals or rhinestones, in various shapes and sizes
Lucite tea-light holders
1. Beginning at the bottom edge of 1 foam form, apply a 3-inch square of hot glue. Press rock-candy pieces firmly into glue until set.
2. Repeat, working your way up the tree. Fill in any gaps with loose rock candy until the form is completely covered.
3. Affix crystals or rhinestones to the tree using stylists' wax (so you can remove the pieces and use them again next year), spacing them as you would ornaments. (Tip: You can also use other candy, wrapped or unwrapped, to embellish your tree. Simply attach with hot glue.)
4. Apply hot glue around the opening of 1 tea-light holder. Center the tree on top; press firmly until set.Tip: If you have difficulty finding tea-light holders, you can also use a glittered wooden block as the trunk for the tree.
Little Gummer Boy
Edible accents needn't be over-the-top -- just a nibble will do.
Holiday Gumdrop Pops
Stack gumdrops, dot them with sprinkles and other candies in creative ways, and watch the colorful confections come to life as snowmen, Santas, and other icons of the season. Wrap the candy pops in cellophane bags, and then attach them to gifts or slip them into stockings. Or create a holiday display: Partially fill a large glass jar with sanding sugar, and stand the figurines on flower frogs in the sparkling "snow."
Slide gumdrops onto candy sticks to create body of each pop. (Use leaf-shaped gumdrops for holly pop.)
Use top half of 1 small gumdrop for hat. Trim 2 oblong candies for arms. Use candy-coated seeds for buttons and pom-pom. Poke candy where facial features will go with a skewer; use sticky tip to pick up and place nonpareils for eyes and nose.
Use 1 flattened gumdrop for base of tree. Use 1 small gumdrop for trunk. Cut sides from 1 gumdrop; press sides around top of stick, for treetop. Flatten 1 gumdrop; using an aspic cutter, cut out star. Insert sprinkles for lights.
Trim top of head; top with 1 candy wafer and half of 1 small gumdrop for hat. Using a skewer (see "For Santa"), place nonpareils for eyes, mouth, and buttons. Insert sprinkle for nose.
Use halves of small gumdrops for berries.
Use 1 small gumdrop for stem. Use sequin sprinkles for dots.
Auld Lang Sign
If you're iffy about exposing your treats to open air, here's your compromise. Luminous holiday packaging is a natural match for glittery eyelash yarn.
Chocolate squares of choice, still in wrapper
Glitter eyelash yarn
Tapestry needle or similar
1. Using a screw punch fitted with a 2mm bit, punch a hole in each upper corner of desired number of wrapped chocolate squares.
2. Thread punched squares onto eyelash yarn with a tapestry needle (or other blunt needle).
3. Hang garland as desired.
Christmas in the Air-Popped
Popcorn garlands are nothing new, but this hand-strung wreath brings the idea full circle. Leftovers offer a welcome excuse for a holiday movie marathon.
1. Cut the center out of a paper plate.
2. Cut a 3-foot length of waxed dental floss; tie one end to plate.
3. Thread other end through needle, and string popcorn.
4. Wrap strand around plate; tie off.
5. Add strands until wreath is covered (layer to fill gaps).
6. Loop ribbon and hang; glue on a bow.
More from Martha Stewart:
15 Kitchen Shortcuts That Will Change the Way You Cook
19 Tips for Perfect Laundry Every Time
47 Ways to Maximize Space in Your Kitchen
20 Super-Efficient, Super-Effective Ways to Clean All the Things
Here's another delicious way to deck your halls.