Stained Glass Cookies

“We can EAT these?” Andrew (age 5) asked incredulously.

“Yes, you can eat them,” I replied, “they’re cookies. You can also hang them from your tree.”

“What’s inside?” asked Matthew (7).

“Lifesavers. And Jolly Ranchers.”

“LIFESAVERS? AND JOLLY RANCHERS?”

It’s as if Santa himself had just poked his head through the fireplace. The boys, my young neighbors, dissected and demolished the ones they had each picked out to eat. It was all I could do to keep their hands off the remaining cookies. Oddly, they went straight for the hard candy center, and only after it was discussed (“What is this, watermelon? Must be a Jolly Rancher”) and devoured, did they move on to the cookie border.

Stained Glass Cookies Recipe

  • Yield: Makes 2 to 4 dozen cookies, depending on how large you make them.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 30-40 hard candies (such as Life Savers), preferably in several flavors/colors

Method

1 Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.

2 In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add molasses and vanilla extract, mixing until incorporated. Add egg and mix until light and smooth, about 1 minute on medium speed.

3 Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Fold dry ingredients into wet mixture. Use electric mixer to blend just until flour is incorporated. Divide dough in half and flatten into two disks. Wrap disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour and up to 2 days.

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4 Remove any wrappers on candies and separate them by color into plastic bags. Using a mallet to crush candies.

stained-glass-2.jpg stained-glass-3.jpg
5 Place one disk between two large sheets of waxed paper and roll to 1/4-inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut dough into desired shapes. Transfer cookies to prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Using a smaller cookie cutter or a knife, cut shapes into centers of cookies, reserving these center bits to add into extra dough.

stained-glass-4.jpg stained-glass-5.jpg

6 Use a spoon to sprinkle the crushed candy into the hollowed-out centers of the cookies, filling to the edges. Try to keep the candy within the centers. Any candy specks that fall on the cookie will color the cookie.

7 If cookies will be hung as ornaments or decorations, poke a small hole in the top of each cookie before baking.

8 Bake 9 to 10 minutes. The candy should be melted and bubbling and the cookies just barely beginning to brown. Remove baking sheets from oven and place on wire racks to cool. Allow cookies to cool on pans at least 10 minutes; otherwise, the candy centers may separate from the dough. When cookies are completely cooled, remove and store in an airtight container. String with ribbon if you want to hang as an ornament.

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Many thanks to my friend Heidi in Carlisle, Mass, who pointed me to a recipe in Yankee Magazine from which this recipe was adapted.

Links:
Santa, Baby - Stained Glass Cookies - from Chef Paz

64 Comments

  1. Garrett

    Wow, these are awesome. I made gingerbread men into ornaments one year, but never attempted this. I’ve seen this once before, but never done so well. Awesome job Elise!

  2. Elise

    Speaking of gingerbread, Garrett, you can make this style of cookie with gingerbread dough too. That would be kind of fun, wouldn’t it?

  3. Pille

    This is a popular way to decorate gingerbread cookies here in Estonia – I’m so glad you’ve discovered it, too! I’ve made them before (see here) to decorate ‘normal’ cookies, but it’s also a great idea for making gingerbread houses (as in stained windows).
    Happy Holidays, Elise!!

  4. Amy

    We made these once when my brothers and I were little. One of my brothers licked all the life saver centers while they were hanging on the tree.

  5. Brian

    Heh. Be careful with these! My Mom made something similar one year, and after we all went to bed our dog destroyed the tree to get at them! Best Christmas ever!

  6. Jess

    Oh wow does that bring back memories. I remember making those kinds of cookies when I was about 13 years old.

  7. Terry B

    Elise–the incredulous joy of your two young neighbors is what the holidays are really all about to me. Beautiful cookies and excellent photos. For years, we used some gingerbread men cookies my mother had given us as ornaments. They finally broke or crumbled, one by one. May need to try these as replacements.

  8. EB

    I don’t know that I could eat these! They’re so pretty. Ahhh who am I kidding. I could eat these.

  9. Meilin

    Too Cool! Pretty too. Great photo! I love the kids’ reactions. ;-) This might just tip me over the edge and convince me to buy cookie cutters. :-)

  10. Sylvia

    I love the middle candie, a stunning treat for the Christmas tree.

  11. Lindsey

    Could I make chocolate cookies and put candy cane bits in the middle? (I Still have leftover candy canes from the peppermint bark :-D )

  12. SJK

    Elise, thanks for another great recipe (many of our family favorites have come from your site)! My husband and I made these tonight and they are beautiful and delicious. You rock! :)

  13. Andrea

    Wow, I’ve never seen anything like that! So pretty, simple and clever. Those neighbor kids are going to talk about you for years, you realize that don’t you? :) (In a good way of course).

    love ya
    A.

  14. Susan

    How beautiful these are! They really look like stained glass. I tried to make something similar several years ago and they were awful. The lifesavers oozed all over the place and I had a hell of a time chipping it off the baking sheet! Oh well, you definitely have “the touch”!

  15. Vivian

    I made these yesterday for my son’s class party today and they came out beautiful AND tasty. So often beautiful cookies only look beautiful.

    One word of warning, we tried to make some xmas trees with small circles cut out to look like decorations, but larger cutouts seem to work much better. The small holes didn’t hold the candy as well and you couldn’t really get the same stained glass effect, they looked more slightly burnt.

  16. Jolene

    These cookies are the coolest idea, haven’t seen any like them, awesome paussum

  17. Andrea

    Those are just beautiful, like stained glass ornaments! They will make pretty and delicious gifts.

  18. Liz

    Made these this past weekend with my 19 yr old home from College. Came out terrific. Remembered them from when I was a child will make again. So pretty, thanks for sharing the recipe!

  19. janvoddy

    What are lifesavers? We have fisherman’s friends but I dint think they are the same and no idea about a jolly rancher? Maybe a fruit polo but I think they are too hard.

    LiveSavers and Jolly Ranchers are brands of hard candies sold in America. ~Elise

  20. Eva Whitley

    My roommates and I made cookies like this in college some 30 odd years ago. The difference is we rolled out “snakes” of dough (like Play-dough) and molded them into shapes with openings. Then we put the crushed candies into the openings and baked.

    That was the year everything on our tree was edible–we also did popcorn and cranberry garlands and other decorations (although the oranges studded with cloves were questionable as to how edible they’d be after several days on a tree). Cheap enough for poor college students to do, but clever enough to be admired!

  21. Farah

    This used to be a fun cookie making adventure when we were younger – I loved watching my mom crush up all the candies! I also find that grown-ups are also amazed at how beautiful these cookies turn out. Nice work!

  22. Jeff R

    I wish I had found this sooner as they look awesome and have bookmarked for future decorating ideas. I wonder if you doing this with heart shaped cookies for Valentines would turn just as attractive. Something to try although Gingerbread is not thought of as a traditional treat on V-Day.

  23. Summer D

    Tips:
    -9-10 minutes was a bit long for me, some of the candy discolored by 9 minutes.
    -Big holes are definitely better, at least 1″
    -Try making large cookies with several holes (we did big gingerbread men with faces and buttons in different colors)

  24. Pamela

    These are awesome cookie ornaments. I will do some of these for Valentine :)

  25. Elena

    These cookies are so beautiful…
    I’m an italian girl and I didn’t understand very well what you mean for hard candies (also beacause there isn’t the brand Life Savers in Italy). We have big round fruit candies that are “hard” but I think they’re not the same.
    Can you post a photo of the candies so I can find something similar here?
    Thank you

    Hello Elena, here is a flickr photo I found of hard candy. The candy is hard, not chewable. They come in different colors and flavors. ~Elise

  26. Elena

    Thank you so much
    You’re very kind :)

  27. Amanda

    Well — after years of decorating with fondant, I tried these, and found out that:

    1) large cutout shapes work best
    2) keep tiny candy shrapnel from flying when you crush by wrapping your plastic baggie in a kitchen towel
    3) I tried to cheat and substitute decorating sugars with a few — only to find out they don’t melt like the lifesavers and ranchers do
    4) a silpat mat is a godsend for a project like this… they don’t stick at all!

  28. Kelly Geddes

    I used glasier fruits they worked great.

    http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=49349&id=707593916&saved

  29. Heidi

    We made these cookies today, but they were so hard to remove from the parchment paper. How did you get them off after they were cooled without leaving the paper stuck to the back of the candy?

  30. Massie

    I am planning on making these cookies either tomorrow or the day before xmas. Where can you find some really good cookie cutters?

    I found some good cookie cutters at a local cake decorating and baking shop. You might be able to find some online, or at your local grocery store. ~Elise

  31. Amanda K.

    I made these today and they were fantastic. Couple things that might help others… first, I could not make the transfer from rolled cookie to the cookie sheet without breaking the dough. I solved this problem by rolling the dough on parchment paper, doing my cutouts and stained glass on the same parchment, then I just picked up the whole thing and placed it on the cookie sheet to bake. You can’t make as many at a time, but they cooked so fast, it didn’t really matter. Second, my cooking time was about 6-7 minutes – not 9-10 as indicated.

  32. Renee

    I have tried this while making a gingerbread. I made a mosaic looking thing by crushing different colors together.Great concept.

  33. Jess

    Wow! This recipe was so amazing–and so beautiful. I saw the pictures and just had to try it, and it turned out wonderfully! I will definitely have to try some more of your recipes…if they are half this good I know they’ll be a smash hit with my family. Thanks so much!

  34. Anna

    These are so pretty! But I just tried to make them and the dough spread onto the glass part. Is there a way to keep it from getting it messed up?

    Make bigger openings? You might try chilling the prepared cookies before baking them. ~Elise

  35. Connie

    I have been thinking about these since last Christmas when I first saw them and finally I will be making them today! I can’t wait. Any homes for sale in your neighborhood Elise, I want to live next door to you? Your blog is the only one I read every day, I love it. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

  36. Karey

    A friend and I just finished making these – although we kept calling them “lollipop” cookies – Delicious, fun, and easy! If anyone ever wants to try out cutout cookies for the first time, I would reccomend this recipe. This is the first cookie recipe for cutout cookies that I have truly liked. The cookies could actually be picked up and transfered to the cookie sheets for baking even after they were warm and were rolled out 4 times! Maybe it’s the molasses… Thanks Elise!

  37. Abby Izor

    I love these cookies! I made them yesterday and they turned out great! My daughter will be giving these to her 1st grade teacher as a Christmas gift. Thanks, Elise!

  38. cindy

    Can you make this with sugar cookies? I, nor my family, likes molasses or gingerbread. I thought the stained glass look would look beautiful with the sugar cookie with maybe some colored sugar sprinkles.

    I haven’t tried it with sugar cookies, but if you do, please let us know here how it turns out. ~Elise

  39. melaine

    This recipe looks really cool, but I tried to split the recipe in half, and it is really hard to put in half of an egg.

  40. Bill Poole

    Awesome cookies they work great

  41. DanB

    Stained Glass Cookies! This post and recipe brought back some happy childhood memories, thank you so much.

  42. A

    In excitment I showed this to my brother one evening and he was wide eyed with amazment (that was like, a week or 2 ago) every since then every time I bring up the words ‘cooking’ ‘dessert’ or ‘cookies’ he asks.
    “Hey, when are you going to make those cool window cookies? Can you make them tomorrow.”

    And I reply. “I will soon OK.”

    I’m dying to try this out but I need my moms help (I’m no expert on cookies yet). We’ll see how they turn out.

  43. GailM.

    This recipe needs to be in every grandmother’s toolbox. I’m always looking for fun things cook with my grandkids especially at Christmas time. This is definitely going on my “To-do with the grandkids” list.

  44. Jessica

    I was so disappointed. I LOVE baking and trying new recipes. I’m having a “cookie exchange” party and thought these would make the perfect favors. The lifesavers only melted right on half the cookies and there wasn’t any rhyme or reason as to which turned out. I followed the directions carefully and even tried adjusting the baking time and the thickness of the cookies. I guess I’m no Martha Stewart with this particular recipe :-(

  45. Tina

    How long do you think these will last sitting on the tree? I plan to just use them as ornaments, but not actually eat them. Well.. I might eat a few after they’ve cooled on the rack. =)

    I don’t know. A few weeks? As long as the environment is dry, they should last a while. ~Elise

  46. marta

    They are little masterpieces!!!

  47. Karen

    This is a great recipe. INSTEAD of jolly ranchers or life savers I bought a box of Satin Hard Candy mix ( the kind they sell at christmas) and used the red, green, orange and peppermint ones from the box. I liked the spicy flavors for the christmas cookies as apposed to the fruit flavors. Worked great!

  48. Ivy

    Egads! These are beautiful and the recipe seems very simple. Somehow I was wrong though. I’ve been waiting for two weeks to make these for Christmas and made them today. My cookies stuck to the paper so horribly I had to use flour.. which created more monster problems. Also I was so careful with the filling not to stray any out of the little cutouts.. but they bubbled all over anyway. I was intending to use these hanging from a small tree as the center piece on the food table.. now I cannot, they look like a tot made them and we don’t have children yet!

  49. Megan

    I am new to Christmas cookie baking – these were easy, came out beautifully – thanks so much. The hardest part was finding cookie cutters that fit inside of each other – I used two different stars – I will look for trees for next year.
    I used Lifesavors and the red came out the best!!!
    Thanks again.

  50. C

    Can I use refridgerated store bought sugar cookie mix?

    No idea. But if you try it, please let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise

  51. Condor

    Is it okay to use honey instead of the molasses?
    Thanks.

    You could try it that way. I haven’t made the substitution so don’t know how it would turn out. ~Elise

  52. Ana

    I used honey instead of molasses and it turned out great! Very delicious cookies! But the “glass” part not so well… Wax paper sticks to it, and there is nothing you can do about it. And there are bunch of tiny bubbles on the glass, so it doesn’t look perfect at all. I tried to zoom in the original picture from the recipe – looks like there are bubbles there too. Great idea but very hard to make it perfect:-(

  53. Desirae Debellis

    Love these! I’ve been making these for over 30 years.. They were great fun when I was a kid. Now as a mom, I cheat and use frozen cookie dough, still taste the same. I did notice that I had to make sure the rolling pin and cutting board were well floured prior to working with the dough or it was a sticky mess. Otherwise, I’m sure this is one of those recipes that my own kids will teach their kids, and so on…

  54. Sharlene

    Be careful what shapes you use for this. I have a small gingerbread man cookie cutter but not much else so I cut a small hole in each and filled with candy. While cooking, the candy bubbled over the edges of the middle circle. The green Jolly Ranchers didn’t have much colour, but the red ones made the little men look like they had gaping gunshot wounds right in the middle of the chest. Tasty but frightening.

  55. Kayla

    I made these and they were so fun! The one thing I did have a problem with was that the Lifesavers candies didn’t cook clear like the Jolly Ranchers did. I will exclusively use Jolly Ranchers from now on they give the best “glass” look. And they didn’t bake as long, but other than that they were fantastic.

  56. Juliette

    For those outside the US, hard candy is equivalent to boiled sweets in the UK (e.g. pear drops, rhubarb and custard, Fox’s glacier fruits) or boiled lollies, e.g. barleysugar in NZ and Australia.

  57. Noa Rapoza

    OK, so how do you keep the candy filling from sticking to the paper? I used parchment paper on my cookie sheet, but after it cooled, and I tried to lift the cookies off, the candy part was completely stuck to the paper! We ate around that part because we didn’t want to eat paper :) I would love to know the secret to keep this from happening.

  58. Michelle Petit

    I just made my first batch of these. Last time I made something like this, I was about 13 and in Home Ec class. They are rather involved, but turned out great. I found these awesome candy canes by Wonka called “Original Spree” candy canes, very beautiful. These appear to be only issued during the holidays. Anyway, they melted beautifully without being too hard (came out a little chewy, in fact) and did a true stained glass look, with multi-colored “panes”. I’ll have to blog about this culinary success. YAY! o/

  59. Erica

    I made these mini art pieces this Christmas and hung them in our kitchen window (beneath a real piece of stained glass) and they looked amazing! Loved how glass-like the Jolly Ranchers appeared. I also cheated and used sugar cookie mix, but it still functioned the same way and came out just fine! These were a hit–will definitely make these for gifts again next year.

  60. Erica

    Just read one of the other comments–to insure cookie removal with ease: I used parchment paper also and allowed the cookie (namely the candy part) to cool a few minutes before removing.

  61. krista

    HEY!! do the candies have to be lifesavers or jollyranchers? IS this because of the hardness of the candy?? BTW.. this recipe is one of the best I have seen!!! you provide pictures so i can see what is being done!

    The candies need to be “hard candy” which is easily available in the US in the form of jolly ranchers or lifesavers. ~Elise

  62. nupur

    Hi Elise
    Thank you so much for this beautiful recipes, I have tried a few of your recipes(lot of your ingredients are not available in India.
    When I tried this recipe, my dough became very sticky and just won’t leave the baking paper. Can I add more flour to it?

    I would try refrigerating the dough first. If that doesn’t help, add a little bit more flour. ~Elise

  63. nupur

    Hi Elise
    Thank you for the tip. My cookies turned out nice… well not as nice as ur images. :)
    A tip for anyone in South East Asia/ India : Use poppins, nothing else gives that glazed effect. i tried almost everything.

  64. Gabrielle

    I had the same issue as Noa with many of the cookies sticking to the paper, although we ate them just the same. We then tried to spray PAM on the tray instead of using parchment paper, but to little avail. I would love to know the secret to not getting the candy filling to stick to the paper or tray!

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