I deliberately saved the “stained glass” Christmas cookie recipe for last, primarily because it was clear by late summer that I would probably be winding up this bit of insanity by the end of 2013, and I thought it might be fun to have cookies that are clearly Christmas cookies in December rather than in August or May. Another reason? Hard candy. We are not big fans of hard candy here. We enjoy having all of our teeth in relatively healthy condition, and frankly, just the thought of making cookies using dark brown sugar and light corn syrup, and then adding crystalline panes of color via broken bits of hard candy made my teeth hurt. I really didn’t think we would like them at all. Also, I thought these cookies would be hard. Hard as in difficult, complicated, and time-consuming to make. So I kept putting this recipe off, and it wound up being last.
This past Sunday afternoon, Bruce and I unwrapped a pound of hard candy, sorting the four colors (red, orange, yellow and green) into four different plastic bags. I carried the bags to the basement, putting them on a towel on the workbench and smacked each sphere with a hammer, breaking them into chunks whilst trying not to crush them into a powder that would melt to an opaque pane with too little color. I won’t lie. I found that activity a bit cathartic.
Then I mixed the cookie batter, lined cookie sheets with aluminum foil, rolled out the dough and played with my cookie cutters. The dough has to be about 1/4 of an inch thick, so rolling it out wasn’t too difficult. The bridges between the panes of “glass” had to be at least 1/4 of an inch wide, so the unbaked cookie shapes were easy to transfer to the cookie sheets without them breaking apart. Turns out this task was more play than work. Add to that filling the spaces with colorful broken candy bits and then painting on the egg white, and well. It was fun!
Brushed with egg white for an overall shine, these glistening confections are essentially sugar cookies. They are buttery, rich with vanilla and delicious. The gimmick of the candy panes is not overpowering, unless of course you dislike smiling. Because they will make you smile. They are fun and sweet in a sentimental way more than a knock-your-socks-off sugary way. If you cannot stomach the thought of eating them, you can bore a hole in each and thread them with ribbon for hanging on a tree or in your window. Cookies that can double as suncatchers and ornaments! I thought I would be throwing away the leftover crushed candy bits but no. I think I will have to make these again. Although maybe not this year. How long does hard candy keep?
And that’s that. The end of Sharon Tyler Herbst’s The Joy of Cookies. I have not put the book away, however. I left it open on the kitchen counter-top book-stand at the double fudge brownie page. There are mocha and double chocolate chunk variations I think we will have to try. In 2014. At our leisure.