What else is there to say about Dorie Greenspan? She's been called a "culinary guru" by The New York Times, she's a three-time James Beard Foundation winner, she's worked with Julia Child, Daniel Boulud, and Pierre Hermé, some of her fans started an online baking club called Tuesdays with Dorie (the French counterpart is called French Fridays with Dorie), and her blog was named one of the top 20 food blogs in the world by the Times of London. Greenspan's latest book (her 11th!), Baking Chez Moi: Recipes From My Paris Home To Your Home Anywhere, was written with the home cook in mind.
We've taken one of our favorite recipes from the book, Dorie's Stained Glass Cookies, and created these holiday snowflake cookies. We used a mini food processor to crush the candies (careful not to overfill the cut outs for the glass). If you want to hang these as ornaments like we did, make sure to make the hole to string them up before they go into the oven!
Stained Glass Cookies
Makes about 40 cookies
Every February you can count on two things being in the French news: pictures of pastries and chocolates for Valentine’s Day; and pictures of the president petting a cow. February is when the Salon de l’Agriculture sets up in a huge convention space in Paris, and it’s absolutely obligatory for the president to make an appearance with at least one farm animal and at least one made-in-France piece of farm gear. I wish you could have seen the always elegant M. Chirac with a cow.
I don’t go to the fair for the animals or the heavy machinery (although every French schoolboy does); I go for the food, and there’s so much of it that it’s hard to take it all in. The Salon is where I saw a stained glass cookie that delighted me.
The “windows” of the stained glass cookies were made from heirloom candies and speckled with seeds and spices, and the parts of the cookies that weren’t cut out were decorated with tiny bits of herbs. France has a long history of artisanal candy making—centuries ago, candies were made in monasteries and some still are—and old-fashioned candies continue to be cherished.
Back in New York, it became clear that heirloom wasn’t going to be practical, and so that’s when I started using Life Savers. I know they’re not the same as violet candies from Flavigny, but . . .
I opt for simple—I cut the dough into small rounds and then cut out a smaller round to fill with crushed candy—but you can go wild with these, cutting out many windows in whatever shapes you like. Let your inner cathedral builder loose. This dough is also delicious baked into plain cookies.
For the cookies
2 sticks (8 ounces; 226 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (100 grams) sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2½ cups (340 grams) all-purpose flour
For the decoration
About 15 Life Savers or other hard candies
1 large egg, for glazing
Small seeds, such as poppy or flax (optional)
Fresh herb leaves, such as tarragon, thyme or cilantro (optional)
Sugar, for sprinkling
To make the cookies: Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter, sugar and salt together at medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the vanilla. Add the flour all at once and pulse the mixer on and off a few times to start blending it in. With the mixer on the lowest speed, continue to mix in the flour, scraping the bowl as necessary, until you have what look like curds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and finish blending the dough by pulling off small hunks of it and pushing each hunk across the work surface with the heel of your hand. Then gather the smooth dough into a ball, divide it in half and press each half into a disk.
Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll the dough between sheets of parchment or wax paper to a thickness of about 1/8 inch; thinner is better than thicker here. Slide the paper-sandwiched dough onto a baking sheet or cutting board (you can stack the pieces of dough) and freeze for at least 1 hour. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.)
When you’re ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
The candies need to be pulverized. I do this with a mortar and pestle, but you can put them between sheets of parchment or wax paper and bash them with a rolling pin or skillet. Crush the candies by color—you don’t want to blend colors.
To cut out the cookies: I use a 2-inch round cutter—though you can cut these into any shape and size you want—and, to make the windows, a ¼-inch pastry tip.
Beat the egg with a splash of cold water.
Remove one piece of dough from the freezer and cut out cookies. As you cut them, place them on the lined baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Use the pastry tip to cut out one or more windows in each cookie. Fill the cutouts with crushed candy, keeping the candy level with the cookie. (After I cut out the windows with the small end of the pastry tip and clean away the little plugs of dough, I insert the tip in each hole and use it as a funnel to fill the cutouts with the candy—it’s a neat trick.) Sprinkle 2 or 3 seeds onto the candy in each window, if you’re using them. Using a pastry brush, brush the dough very lightly with the egg wash, avoiding the candy. If you’re using herbs, “paste” them onto the dough. Finally, lightly sprinkle the cookies with sugar. (Save the dough scraps to combine with the scraps from the other piece of dough.)
Bake for 8 to 9 minutes, or until the cookies are almost firm and the candy has melted but not turned brown. You’ll want to bake these longer because the cookie part will be pale, but resist. (I’ve overbaked them so that every candy color went to brown. They weren’t as attractive as they might have been, though the golden cookies were still good.) Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and allow the cookies to cool until the candy hardens, then lift them off the sheet with an offset spatula and put on a rack.
Repeat with the remaining dough: Gather the scraps together, reroll them, chill and make more cookies, cooling the baking sheet before using it.
Serving: Put these on a white or clear glass plate so that their colors sparkle.
Storing: These will keep for 1 day in a cool, dry place. If you make plain cookies, they will keep for about 4 days—it’s the candy that has a tendency to turn soft and sticky.
Bonne Idée: Stained Glass Cookie Decorations: If you’d like to use these cookies as ornaments for a Christmas tree, cut the cutouts larger and, right before you slide them into the oven, poke a small hole in the top of each cookie—I use a drinking straw to do this—so that you’ll be able to run ribbons through the baked cookies.
Excerpted from Baking Chez Moi: Recipes From My Paris Home To Your Home Anywhere by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014).
Art Direction: Claudia Wu; Styling: Michelle Gatton; Hand Model: Donna Yen