With their sparkling "stained glass" centers, these cookies are beautiful served alongside another dessert, or with a cup of hot apple cider on Christmas Eve. I find baking them on a silicone baking sheet is the best way to keep them intact, but parchment paper will work as well.
When these cookies are hung from a Christmas tree, light shines through the colorful candy centers, creating a beautiful stained-glass effect. Your kids will be so proud of their creations!”
*Gluten-free flour works really well in this recipe. The cookies are still buttery and flaky. If you choose to use the gluten-free flour, simply lower your oven temperature by 25 degrees and check for doneness a minute or two early.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and citrus zest. Beat until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until the dough becomes smooth.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. (A higher temperature will burn the cookies.)
Line two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.
Roll the dough 1/4" thick on a lightly floured surface, then cut out large stars. Arrange the stars about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets, then use the smaller star cookie cutter or a knife to cut an opening in the center of each cookie. Place one piece of hard candy in the opening of each star. (Note: The candies may need to be cut in half, depending on the size of your cookies.) If you're planning to hang your cookies from a tree, use a drinking straw to punch a hole in the top of each cookie.
Bake until the candies are melted and the cookies are barely golden, about 8-10 minutes or 6-9 minutes for gluten-free. Allow the cookies to cool and the candies to harden before removing them from the baking sheets. Cool completely before eating.
Note: The centers will have the same firmness as hard candy when the cookies have cooled. Please use your best judgment as far as hard-candy precautions when offering them to children.
Recipe adapted by Amanda Haas from Donata Maggipinto's Christmas Family Gatherings