Serious Eats: Recipes

Stained Glass Cookies

[Photograph: Caroline Russock]

20091130-cookieman.jpgGrowing up in a Jewish household always left me with a bit of envy around the holidays. I loved Hanukkah with all of the chocolate gelt, potato latkes, and especially the eight days of presents, but there was always a part of me that yearned for a tree to decorate. Unwrapping boxes of delicate ornaments and stringing lights seemed so appealing to my young mind. Over the years I made a point of inviting myself over to as many friends houses as possible to assist in this festive practice and appease my Christmas envy.

The edible ornaments, strings of popcorn and cranberries, and the intricately iced gingerbread people were always my favorite. It was my love of edible adornments that inspire me to make these Stained Glass Cookies from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion to share with my tree-decorating friends.

These cookies are a two-part process that involves both baking and candy making. The dough is simple enough with a mix of fats including butter, cream cheese, and shortening spiced with nutmeg, vanilla, and ginger. The recipe calls for the dough to be chilled overnight, and that is a step that can't be rushed; the dough needs to be thoroughly chilled so that when it's rolled out it doesn't stick and can hold the decorative shapes made by the cookie cutters.

Once the cookies are baked, the scary, fun, exciting, and slightly dangerous candy making begins. The candy centers are nothing more than a basic hard candy recipe. It's entirely up to you how you choose to flavor and color your candies. I chose seasonal red and green flavored with orange and lemon, but only because I didn't have any peppermint extract on hand. The candy mix has to reach a temperature between 300°F and 310°F—known in candy making as the hard-crack stage—or else it won't harden completely. Making the candy centers requires a lot of handling hot stuff so have those oven mitts ready.

If making candy isn't your thing, The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion advises that you can use store bought candies instead. Just place the crushed candies in the center of your cookies before baking. Not all candies will melt at this temperature so be sure to do a few test runs. Jolly Ranchers and swirled peppermint candies work very well.

I've just finished filling my Stained Glass Cookies and they look beautiful. I cannot wait to see them hanging from the branches of an evergreen sparkling along with the Christmas lights.

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