These stained glass gluten free sugar cookies are the easy way to dress up cutout cookies for the holidays. You can even hang them from the tree!
This holiday season, I’m only tasked with making 4 boxes of cookies to gift to my husband’s team. He’s got a new job with a much smaller team that he works with locally in New York. I won’t say I’m sorry about it!
I always like to make sure there’s at least one shining star (pun intended 🌟) in each box of cookies. These stained glass gluten free sugar cookies tick ✔️ all the boxes.
They’re beautiful (see for yourself), simple and easy to make (the soft sugar cookie dough is made in one single bowl; the dough is not chilled before baking), and tender with just the right amount of sweetness.
I like to make the holes in the center the same shape as the cookies themselves, for dramatic effect. But you can certainly make round cookies and stamp out the center hole with whatever small cookie cutter you like best. You can even use a round center cutout and call them round ornaments!
Which hard candies work best in these cookies?
Almost any hard candy that you crush and place in the center of these cookies will melt in the oven in then firm right back up once cool. There are a few “rules” to follow though to ensure beautiful cookies. These amazing cookies taste great, of course, but their main role is to dress things up. 👗
Jolly Rancher hard candies are my favorite hard candy to use as “stained glass” in these cookies because the colors are the most vibrant—both before baking and after. Like any mixing of colors, if they’re combined they’ll melt into another color and it likely won’t be pretty. So keep those colors separate.
I’ve also successfully used Lifesavers hard candies in these cookies. The original flavors work best, since the colors are simple and bright. For the sake of taste, I’d love to try using butterscotch candies, but they tend to be a bit softer which might make them difficult to break into chunks.
How to crush the hard candies
You’ll want to crush the hard candies without turning them to dust, since the dust is almost impossible to keep confined to the center hole. Keep in mind that any candies that aren’t in the center will stain the cookies themselves. Plus, very small pieces of candy will melt more quickly and may burn before the cookies have baked completely.
Jolly Rancher hard candies in particular are relatively easy to crush into chunks. Simply place a few unwrapped candies of each color (or your favorite color) in a zip-top plastic bag, seal the bag, lay it flat on a hard surface, and hit it a few times quickly with a meat tenderizer or mallet.
Don’t use a rolling pin, or the hard candies will damage the rolling pin. Ask me how I know that. Ask me if my husband caught me and tried unsuccessfully to stop me first. 👨🛑✋🏻
How to make gluten free sugar cookies that are soft but don’t crumble
These cookies are so beautiful that even just one at the top of a gift box of holiday cookies will impress your friends and family. But the cookies themselves should taste good and as intended. These cutout sugar cookies, one of the favorite recipes especially this time of year, never disappoint.
They’re made with a combination of gluten free flour, granulated and confectioners’ sugars, only a touch of baking powder, butter, just one egg, and a bit of vanilla. The dough doesn’t even need to be chilled to hold its shape during baking.
The secret to having tender cookies is to use room temperature butter and egg, and a gluten free flour blend that has superfine rice flour so there is absolutely no grit in your cookies. If you’re using one of my preferred flour blends, you’re all set.
Butter and sugar are both tenderizers in baking, too. There isn’t a ton of sugar in these cookies, so the butter does much of the work. The single egg holds the cookies together enough that they won’t crumble but rather have that soft bite.
Ingredients and substitutions
Dairy: You can replace the butter in the cookie recipe with Melt brand vegan butter. The edges won’t be quite as clean, but the recipe still turns out.
Egg: There is only one egg in the cookie recipe, so you should be able to replace it with a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel). You may see some flecks of chia in the cookies, though.
Hard candies: Please see the full discussion above!