For my first Gourmet, unbound post, I chose this recipe for Stained-Glass Teardrops that appeared in the December 2002 issue. Actually, these cookies are doing double duty as my contribution to Gourmet, unbound, as well as my contribution to the bakery table at my church's Christmas fair. I chose them because they are festive, seasonal and attractive, all traits that I hope will make them good sellers.
The idea of these cookies is to roll out the dough nice and thin and cut out shapes -- as indicated by the title of this recipe, The Book intends for teardrop shapes -- and then to cut out a smaller shape in the center of the cookie and fill it with crushed hard candy. As the cookies bake, the candy melts and liquefies. As it cools, the candy hardens and forms a colored "stained-glass" window in the center of the cookie. It's a neat little bit of kitchen alchemy.
I made the cookie dough a day in advance. First, I whisked together some all-purpose flour and salt in a bowl. Then I put a stick-and-a-half of softened butter and some granulated sugar in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I beat it until it was light and fluffy and then beat in an egg and some vanilla extract. I slowed the mixer and added the flour and salt bit by bit. Interestingly, there's no leavening agent like baking powder or baking soda in this recipe, so, the resulting cookie is very flat and dense. There's also not a whole lot of moisture in this dough, and it gave the Kitchen Aid a real workout. No way a handheld mixer could manage this dough. Once the dough was all mixed, I divided it into three pieces, flattened them into five-inch disks, wrapped them in plastic and put them in the refrigerator to chill overnight (The Book says to chill for at least two hours.)
The next morning, I got ready to make the cookies. First, I unwrapped some sour balls and divided them by color (red, green, yellow and orange) into small zip-top bags. Then, I got some of my frustrations out by smashing the candy to bits with a rolling pin. I put my candy dust aside and moved on to cookie making in earnest.
I took one of the dough disks out of the refrigerator and put it between two pieces of wax paper and rolled it out to about a ten-inch circle. I couldn't find any teardrop cookie cutters like the ones called for in The Book, so I used a three-inch circle cookie cutter to make the outer cut. I placed the round cookies on a Silpat-lined cookie sheet and made the smaller cutouts in the centers of the cookies. I found some Christmas-themed mini cookie cutters at the grocery store, so I used them to cut a Christmas tree, candy cane, gingerbred man or bell out of each cookie. I filled each cutout with some of the candy dust: green for the Christmas trees (duh!), red for the candy canes (ditto), yellow for the bells and orange for the gingerbread men (close enough, right?).
While these cookies were easy enough to make, they were still very time consuming because of equipment limitations. You absolutely have to make these cookies on a silicone baking sheet liner like a Silpat, otherwise, you'd never get the melted candy off the baking sheet. You also have to allow the cookies to cool completely before removing them from the Silpat to allow the melted candy to harden. I only have one Silpat (those things are expensive!), so between cooking and cooling, it took about a half-hour per batch, and with four batches, that's a half a day right there.
The finished cookies were really very pretty, or at least most of them were. Some of the cookies browed too quickly and were a little more "golden" than I would have liked. I also put a little bit too much crushed candy in some of the cookies and it either bubbled over the top of the cookie or seeped underneath, giving less-than-attractive results. But the ones that came out right really did look like little stained glass windows. The Book suggests that these cookies would make lovely Christmas tree ornaments, and I'm sure that they would, but, we've been down that road before, and I'm not going there again. The flavor of the cookies, though, was just ... meh. The sugar-cookie base was tasty enough, but nothing to write home about, and the cookie and hard candy tastes and textures don't really compliment each other all that well. In all, I'm glad I made them to have learned a new technique, but I don't think that I'll make them again any time soon.
Date Cooked: November 28 & 29, 2009Degree of Difficulty: Medium (time consuming without two Silpats)
Rating: Appearance A-; Flavor B-