Sunday, December 18, 2011

Through the Window: Stained Glass Cookies

Growing up in suburbia, it's sort of hard not to look in people's windows at night.  If you walk anywhere when it's dark, your eyes are bound to be drawn to the light.  And I confess, I've always liked looking in windows ... not in a creepy-peeping-Tom kind of way, but in a curious "gee, I wonder what those people are like" kind of way as I'm passing by.

When I was younger, I made up stories about the people in those houses.  I gave them dialogue.  I imagined what they were having for dinner.  Their lives were mostly more perfect than mine was.

Now, the older, wiser me knows that you can't know what someone is thinking, or feeling, or experiencing, just by looking in the windows.  Even if the lights are on and you can see them, admire the color of their living room and their taste in wall sconces, see what they're watching on TV ... you never have the full story, and you certainly can't know what is going on in their heads.  I've known people who lived next to victims of domestic violence for years, and never guessed what was happening.  On the flip side, I've known people who didn't even realize that their next door neighbor was pregnant until after the baby arrived.

The same is true for anything.  Facebook (which is a pretty self-selected public persona).  Blogs (ditto: remember Trey Pennington?).  Even reality TV (Michelle Duggar comes to mind).  Just because we think we can see every lovely or sordid moment of someone's life doesn't mean we know them.  Or can understand them.  Or feel their pain.  Or can speak on their behalf.  Or that we have the power and right to judge them.  The fact is, we simply don't have all of the evidence.

These cookies come out like beautiful stained glass windows.  They taste wonderful.  But don't try to look through them.  Because everything you see will be colored by Jolly Ranchers.

Stained Glass Cookies

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)


Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl; set aside.

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.

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.

Sprinkle candy in a single layer in hole of each cookie, avoiding edges of triangle. Refrigerate until dough is firm, about 15 minutes.

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.
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  1. Those cookies are as pretty as this post. I also can't help but to look into the windows. The house directly across the street from ours is the most beautiful on the block and the young family who lives there, hip couple, 2 young kids, seem to lead an idyllic existence. I can't help but watch the husband as he fires up the bbq on the porch, the kids running from room to room and the wife chilling with her apple laptop on the couch. And yet, as you say, beyond a cursory hello here and there, we have no real interactions with them and, therefore, actually no idea what is actually going on in their lives.

  2. Oh WOW I've never seen these cookies before. They look delicious.

    The one thing that drew me to peek into people's homes was their onions cooking as they prepared dinner. It always made me hungry and stepped up my pace to get home quickly.

  3. I like looking in windows as I walk the dog in the evening. But as a result of my own peeping, I always make sure that my own blinds are tightly drawn after dark when the lights in the house come on.

  4. This post is so true. You really never do know. Social networking sites only add to the mystery because they almost encourage people to put on a show for others.

  5. You are so right--we can never really know what others' lives are like just from what we see or hear. I think I forget that when I'm caught up in my own drama or am swamped in envy (am ashamed to admit to envy, but it exists). Thank you for this reminder today.

    And your pictures are always so beautiful. They, along with your descriptions, make me want to get into the kitchen and get to it!

  6. lovely post, justine. i can't wait to try to make these ...

  7. These look familiar! :) Yes, I did get your package--sorry, finals and the baptism/party this weekend kept me too busy to hop online, I really wanted to let you know that I got the box! Also: oh god, pretty pretty pretty please post the recipe for those cranberry white chocolate oatmeal I don't even know what cookies. My husband asked if he could have one and I thought about where I could hide the body so I wouldn't have to share. I want to eat them ALL OF THE TIMES, they are SO GOOD. :)

  8. I'm also super guilty of peering into windows. Especially the ones of more expensive houses on Park Avenue. Oops.

    I'm loving these stained glass cookie windows though! So cute!

  9. Lovely post and beautiful cookies! Just added them to my long list of things I need to bake. I didn't forget about giving you the cookie recipes. I have been so busy. I will get them to you soon, I hope.

  10. Absolutely love this lesson: "Just because we think we can see every lovely or sordid moment of someone's life doesn't mean we know them. Or can understand them. Or feel their pain. Or can speak on their behalf. Or that we have the power and right to judge them. The fact is, we simply don't have all of the evidence." Just Stumbled for the recipe, but also for the story above it.

  11. These are gorgeous. I love the idea of using Jolly Ranchers (at first I thought it was jam, and couldn't figure out how they'd turned out candied:)

    I lived in Holland for a short time and was always amazed at how people left their curtains/blinds open. Much more frequently than any other place I've ever lived. Walking down the street was endlessly fascinating to me because you had an unblocked view into so many peoples' lives. Well, superficially, at least.

  12. these cookies are gorgeous!!! almost too pretty to eat! (almost.)
    & i am an unabashed fan of looking in windows. but i am also super diligent about closing our own curtains at dark for the same reason. ;)

  13. These cookies are too cute!!! Thanks for sharing!

    Happy IComLeavWe week!


  14. I loved this post. I really needed this reminder. I'm guilty of thinking that I know or understand someone's life just from the little pieces that I see. That is especially true of bloggers, because I know that I put myself out there pretty completely so I guess I assume others do to. But that is probably not the case. And even if it were, they will express themselves in ways that are different from me. It's like you said, even if you know everything, you don't know their pain or their struggle. I need to remember that. Thanks for the beautiful reminder.

  15. Not profound comment:

    I have always wanted to try these cookies but I am so afraid of the jolly ranchers sticking!


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