Buttery sugar cookies get an easy and festive look with melted hard candy “stained glass” windows. They are sure to be the star of your cookie exchange!
It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a big batch of sugar cookies (or two, or three!). These were a lot of fun to make, and so pretty we wanted to hang them on our Christmas tree. It’s amazing how easy the stained glass effect is to achieve. Anyone can do it, and I’ll show you how!
First you’ll need some different colors of hard candies. I use and recommend Jolly Ranchers for the best transparent stained glass effect. Use a zip-top bag and small hammer to crush the candy, or a rolling pin. All that crushing will cause the candy to poke holes in the plastic bag, so be prepared for a little spillage. After crushing the candies, transfer each color to separate bowls.
My favorite sugar cookie recipe works well because it has no chemical leaven in it. This means the cookies won’t puff out of shape or spread much while baking.
You’ll need at least two cutters, one large to cut the cookie, and a smaller one to cut out the middle. If you don’t have graduated cookie cutters, you could use a biscuit cutter, and then use a bottle cap to cut out a smaller center.
Ornaments and star shapes seemed like a good fit for the stained glass effect. After stamping the shapes out of the dough, lay them on a large parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill them before filling them with candy so they hold their shape as they bake.
You may need to stir the crushed candy a little before you begin filling the cookies because it is prone to stick together and clump. Spoon candy into the centers of the cookies. If you spill any candy on the sheet, tidy it away with a wet paper towel.
Look how pretty the filled cookies are! Make sure all of the candy is within the edges of the cookies, and pieces are not sitting on top of the cookie dough. My motto is ‘pretty cookies in, pretty cookies out’. That means they should look neat and tidy going in the oven so they’ll have the best chance of looking nice after they’ve baked.
After about 5 minutes of bake time, remove the cookies from the oven and carefully spoon in more candy. Return them to the oven to finish baking. This is a different method from most stained glass cookie recipes, but I find it creates a vividly colored ‘glass’ panel, and it makes the cookies slightly more sturdy.
Stained Glass Sugar Cookies
- 1 14- ounce bag fruit-flavored hard candies unwrapped
- 1 cup 2 sticks, 1/2 lb. unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup 200g granulated sugar
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 3 cups 375g all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
- Pinch of salt
- Place same colors of candies in separate zip-top bags. Use a rolling pin or small hammer to crush the candies. Pour each color of crushed candy into separate bowls.
- Beat butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer just until incorporated. Add egg and almond extract. Mix again on low speed. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
- Add the flour and salt. Mix on low speed until dough is formed and there are no longer any streaks of butter in the mixing bowl.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form into a ball. Wrap the dough tightly and refrigerate 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Working on a well-floured surface, knead dough slightly, squeezing it with your hands to flatten ball into a disc. Roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut shapes with larger (4-inch) cookie cutters, and then stamp a smaller shape from the center of the larger cookie. Lay shapes with cut-outs in the centers on a cookie sheet. Refrigerate 30 minutes. This will help the cookies maintain a crisp shape during baking.
- Use a spoon to fill the centers of cookies with crushed candies. Bake 5-7 minutes, or until crushed candy is melted. Remove cookies from oven and carefully fill each with more crushed candy. Bake an additional 5 minutes, or until the newly added crushed candy is melted and smooth. Remove pan from oven and let cookies cool completely on pan. When the cookies are cool, gently remove them to a platter and serve.