This year, while perusing Ravelry, someone asked where they could find candy that looked like Christmas lights. This gave me an image of hard candy in bright colors shaped like the big old fashioned Christmas lights, and lead me to a recipe for hard candy ornaments on the Food Network site, which I made. Except I apparently don't have any cookie cutters that look like Christmas lights, so my original vision wasn't quite fully realized. Excuse me while I add "cookie cutters that look like Christmas lights" to my shopping list for next Christmas.
The recipe as posted on the Food Network site was rather lacking. In details, in photos, etc, so I've decided to type up all the tips from the comments and post it here along with how I went about it.
Candy Ornaments (makes about 12)
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 16 oz bag of Jolly Ranchers
- Vegetable oil
- Meat thermometer or other pointy thing (ideally metal but a toothpick could work)
- Brush (for brushing oil)
- Parchment paper and paper towels
- Cookie tray and cooling rack
- Cookie cutters! Next time I might make Christmas rocket ships to go with my mittens and so forth.
- A sharp knife
Preheat oven to 350F.
Place parchment paper on baking sheet and spray liberally with cooking spray. Pick your cookie cutters: the larger, simpler ones seemed to work best so as pretty as that snowflake might be, it might be super frustrating to remove from the cutter later!
Place cookie cutters on the tray. I recommend doing about 6 at a time--I did all twelve at first and had to pop half back in the oven to soften them back up. Brush each cookie cutter inside and out with vegetable oil, then place unwrapped Jolly Ranchers inside. Be generous, I pretty much filled it up as high as it could go. The thinner the ornament, the more annoying it was to remove them from the cookie cutter. Be careful though, because you want the candy to melt completely without bubbling.
By now, all the individual unwrapping means you're oven is definitely pre-heated. Stick those babies in for 6 minutes. Take the tray out of the oven and put it onto the cooling rack. You've got to move fast but carefully now, because it's easier to do some of this while the candy is still hot.
Brush your knife with vegetable oil, and start cutting the overflow off from the edges of the ornaments (you can see the cherry Jolly Ranchers really overflowed from the mitten and ornament cutters on the left). I just piled up the extras by color onto a spare bit of parchment paper. I held onto them until after I was done, in case any ornaments broke and needed to be remade. Make sure to reapply oil every now and then.
During this time, you should also use the meat thermometer (dip the tip in vegetable oil) to start making holes in the ornaments, if you want to add string to hang them with (or tie them on as a gift tag). This is something that will take a few attempts, as the soft candy will start to ooze back in, so alternate pulling the overrun candy from the edges of the cookie cutters and making the holes.
After I did this, I put the ornaments onto a plate with paper towels to help sop up the excess oil. Be careful--if any of the ornaments are still too warm (and therefore too soft) they'll stick to the paper towels and you may get bits of paper towel on your ornaments.
Now, take your knife (remember, you want it oily still) and insert the tip between the candy and the cookie cutter gently. The candy should still be a bit soft but not so soft it gets terribly deformed. You want to get the cookie cutter to release from the candy, so work it carefully around the edges. It seemed more effective for me to not do the entire edge, but to get it to release here and there all around (so not like a grapefruit but more of a perforation approach). Carefully push the candy out of the ornament--if you aren't careful, and/or the candy is too soft, you'll wind up with a slightly deformed shape, like the ornament below.
Once all of your ornaments have been freed and are cool, wipe them off with a paper towel to remove more excess oil. If you made holes, once they're cool and firm, you can insert your twine/string/wire through the hole. In the one at the top of this post, I used a twist tie and some yarn.