Delicious and beautiful sugar cookies with a hint of molasses and a see-through candy “window” make these a fun and festive Christmas cookie recipe! The cookie dough is super forgiving and the candy centers are so easy to make–perfect for baking with kids or for cookie exchanges.
For the cookie dough:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 20 to 30 hard candies, such as Jolly Ranchers*
For the icing (optional):
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon milk
- First, make the cookie dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer, beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in molasses, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and egg until well-combined.
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. Add to butter-sugar mixture in three additions, stirring after each to fully incorporate dry ingredients.
- Divide dough into two pieces. Press each piece into a 1-inch-thick disk, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or up to 2 days.
- Next, assemble the cookies: Divide candies by color into several resealable plastic bags. Use a meat tenderizer, hammer or rolling pin to crush candies into small pieces. Set aside. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375°F and line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
- Remove and unwrap one disk of chilled dough from the fridge. You have two options here: Either roll out the dough between two large sheets of parchment paper, or roll out on a well-floured surface (sprinkle some flour on top of the dough before rolling out, too). Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch-thick, then use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Use smaller cookie cutters or a sharp paring knife to cut out smaller shapes in the centers of each cookie. Transfer the cookie cut-outs to the prepared baking sheets, spaced at least 1 inch apart.
- Spoon or sprinkle crushed candies into the small cut-outs in each cookie. You’ll want to completely fill the holes, but not overfill. Be sure to remove any candy bits that are stuck to the tops of the cookies, or they will dye the cookie.
- Bake the cookies for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are just set and lightly golden and the candy centers have completely melted. Cool cookies at least 10 to 15 minutes on the cookie sheets so the candy cools enough to remove easily from the sheets. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Repeat Steps 5-7 with remaining cookie dough (you can reroll the scraps at least 2x, so use as much dough as you can!).
- Once cookies are fully cooled, decorate with icing (optional): In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, corn syrup, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and milk until a smooth, thick icing forms (it should have the consistency of thick honey). Transfer icing to a piping bag or resealable plastic bag; snip off a small tip (you’ll want it really small for precise decorating).
- Pipe icing onto cookies as desired. Allow icing to set completely before stacking, about 30 minutes.
- Store finished cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
- *You can use any clear/see-through candy for this recipe, such as Jolly Ranchers, Life Savers, transparent lollipops, etc.
- I highly recommend using silicone baking mats to bake these cookies so the candy won’t stick. Parchment paper works well, too, but may give you just a little more trouble.
- Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.
Keywords: molasses cookie dough, sugar cookie dough, windowpane cookies, candy cookies, cookie icing