Monday, June 21, 2010

[Cookie 080] Stained Glass Trees


Happy Solstice! Happy first day of summer! Are you celebrating? I absolutely am! I'm sitting here in my living room, windows and doors open to the backyard, with The Beach Boy's "Endless Summer" on the turntable. While it's not my favorite Beach Boy's album, it seemed like the thing to do--songs of surfing, sun, summer, sand, and other sibilant synonyms. But, as those of you who live in California can attest, June is never that hot and summery; it's actually a little on the cool side, temperatures staying in the mid-70s with the occasional overcast sky. Weird. But, in my opinion, nothing beats a nice cool breeze as the sun beats down through the smoggy air. None of that nasty humidity that those east-coasters have to suffer through, oh no. Just dry, arid days ahead of me. But until those truly Californian oppressive heat waves really begin to set in, I'll be able to rev up my oven without worrying about dying of heat stroke in my kitchen. Good! Good! That's very promising, don't you agree?


So what's a nice summer cookie? Something colorful? Yeah! Something sweet, like popsicles and snow cones! Something a little childish, because summer is really a season owned by children and childhood memories, right? Something fun to make, definitely not boring or too sophisticated for that matter. Okay, okay, I've got it. Although these Stained Glass Trees might seem like a Christmas cookie, screw it--make them into stars, and you've got an instant 4th of July cookie.


Okay, so I'll admit, these cookies were literally at the bottom of my list. I did not want to make them. Nope, they looked pretty gross in my opinion. Jolly Ranchers in my cookie?! No!! Sounded entirely blasphemous and contrary to all my beliefs regarding the noble baked good that is the Cookie. You don't mix candy and cookies. One or the other, choose. So, I decided to make these and give them away so I wouldn't have to eat them.


So I did just that--I gave them away. But, truth be told, they were actually pretty tasty! Besides being quite beautiful in their own right, the super thin layer of melted Jolly Rancher in the cookie's "window" provides just the right amount of sweetness and delicacy. If the layer of candy was any thicker it would probably be gross and hard to eat, but as it is, the thin glass-like layer melts in your mouth without getting all stuck in your molars. And it shatters in such a fun way when you bite into it--really, just like glass, except totally NOT deadly to eat!! Awesome!! No trips to the hospital! Ok, what I'm trying to say is that these guys were a pleasant surprise and far better than I had expected.


And they are really fun to make: You get to unleash your inner fury and smash the hell out of these candies! I used a big ol' hammer to crush the candies (which are actually a little difficult to break), but that was only after I had tried to break them with the bottom of a can of sardines, which got badly dented. Could have had a really disgusting disaster on my hands if I broke that can. Sardines and Jolly Ranchers. Let's not talk about that.


So, use a hammer. Or rolling pin. Or your BARE HANDS, which I think is what Martha probably did (great mental image, amirite?!). Wouldn't want to mess with her, no no no. Once you've broken them up, you roll out the dough, use your favorite cookie cutter and then take a paring knife or small round cookie cutter to cut out the windows in the center of each cookie. Sprinkle a few chunks of Jolly Rancher into the middles and bake. Use just the blue and red candies inside star-shaped cookies and you are ready for your Independence Day picnic! Or use yellow and purple candies and you can go ape-shit over the Lakers like everyone else in Los Angeles, except myself. Am I really the only person who doesn't give a shit about sports?? Sorry, tangent--back to cookies.


Anyway, I hope you give these cookies a try and not be as judgmental of them as I was when I first laid eyes on the recipe. If you're looking for a good cookie to give to kids, or to make with them, I'd definitely recommend these. But I think grown-ups would like them too--especially grandparents! Aren't grandparents the patron saints of hard candies?

Stay cool, folks...


Stained Glass Trees (or Stars)
Makes about 3 dozen

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 7 ounces assorted clear colored hard candies, such as Jolly Rancher, colors separated and finely chopped (about 30)

  1. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl; set aside.
  2. 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.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.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 a 5-inch tree-shape cookie cutter. Using a metal spatula, space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Using the tip of a paring knife, make a triangular cutout in center of each cookie for candy filling. Reroll scraps, and cut.
  4. Sprinkle candy in a single layer in hole of each cookie, avoiding edges of triangle. Refrigerate until dough is firm, about 15 minutes.
  5. 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 up to 5 days.

{End Results}
Baking Difficultly: 3.5/5
Ingredient Accessibility: 5/5
Tastiness: 2.5/5 (The cookie itself has no flavor, a little disappointing)
Attractiveness: 4.5/5
Is it worth it?: Maybe. Not for the taste of the cookie, but worth it for the uniqueness of the end result, I guess.

Drink: Iced tea! Something cold and refreshing and summery. Maybe this delicious fizzy cucumber drink?
Song: Good Vibrations -- The Beach Boys
Activity: It's time to relax on the back porch, I say. Or don you best bikini and head to the shores!


screwdestiny said...

I was SO happy that the Lakers won! And I live in Wyoming. But I was a California girl so they are my team. Now I kind of want to do what you suggested with their colors.

DaniBrava said...

these are ADORABLE!!! so cute for summer :)

Patricia Scarpin said...

They're lovely, Lizzie!

ali said...

I hate sports too.

Lyndsey G said...

Yum they look awesome!