Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stained Glass Cookies

These festive cookies are what I would classify as fun for the whole family. Not only are they cool and pretty to look at, but they make a great collaborative activity for you to do with kids. I found these Stained Glass Cookies in my handy dandy Martha Stewart's Cookies cookbook and knew I wanted to challenge myself with them this holiday season. Normally, I consider rolling out sugar cookies to be a very painful experience, but I wanted to at least try my hand at this. If it worked out well, I knew it would be worth it.

It sounds so simple in the directions in the book. Simply mix together an easy sugar cookie recipe, then roll out the dough to cut shapes. Once you have transferred the shapes to a baking sheet, you can cut out small triangles, rectangles, whatever you want inside each shape. Once you have cutouts in each cookie, you fill it with finely chopped Jolly Rancher candies. You bake the cookies in the oven, and the candies in the centers get melted and fill out the entire cutout. Once the baking is complete, the cookies cool and the candies get hard again. But now, you have cool "windows" in your cookies, with pretty stained glass effects inside!

Maybe I was just fearing the worst, but I actually found that this dough was very manageable to work with! True, you need to do plenty of chilling of the dough in between steps to ensure that it doesn't get too soft, but as long as you follow the directions carefully it really isn't so bad. I enlisted the help of my five year-old son for these, and he loved making them. The faces on the cookies above are courtesty of him!

The funny part, though, is that he really didn't enjoy eating them. They look adorable, but they are a bit difficult to handle. The Jolly Rancher centers do eventually resume their sort of unwieldy texture within the cookies, so it's sort of like eating a cookie with a hard candy in the middle. Not the easiest thing to do. Still, I love the way these cookies look! They're going to look fantastic on cookie trays this year. And hey, the five year-old may not love them, but the two year-old does! I tell you, if it contains sugar, you really can't go wrong with making the little guy happy.

Stained Glass Cookies
makes about 2 dozen cookies

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/4 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
7 ounces (about 30) assorted colored hard candies, such as Jolly Rancher, colors separated, and finely chopped with a chef's knife

1. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder into a bowl. Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg; mix until smooth, 1 minute. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture, and mix until combined. Stir in vanilla. Wrap dough in plastic, and refrigerate until cold, about 45 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F with racks in upper and lower thirds. Roll out chilled dough on a well-floured surface to a little more than 1/8 inch thick. Cut out shapes using an assortment of cookie cutters. Using a metal spatula, transfer shapes to baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Using the tip of a paring knife, make a triangular shape (or any shape that you like) cutout in center of each cookie for candy filling. Reroll scraps, and cut.

3. Sprinkle candy in a single layer in hole of each cookie, avoiding edges of the cutout. Refrigerate until dough is firm, about 15 minutes.

4. Bake cookies until candy has melted and completely filled cutout and cookie edges are just starting to turn pale golden brown, 11 to 12 minutes. Do not let the cookies brown, or the candy centers may become bubbly. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks. Use a metal spatula to remove cookies from parchment. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 5 days.

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