You will need a number of metal (or other heat-safe) cookie cutters for this recipe. It yields 12-16 small (around 2") shapes, or 8-12 large ornaments. The exact yield will depend on the size of your cookie cutters. If you do not have enough cookie cutters to make all of the ornaments at once, this recipe divides easily, so you can make it in two batches.
- 2.5 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 4-5 drops food coloring
- 1 tsp flavoring or extract of your choice (optional)
- 1 recipe royal icing or purchased decorator's icing (optional)
1. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil or parchment paper, and place your metal Christmas cookie cutters on the baking sheet. Make sure that your cookie sheet is perfectly level, and the cutters fit flat on the bottom of the tray. If there are any gaps, the candy will leak out and not form perfect shapes. Spray the entire tray and the insides of the cutters with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Place the water, sugar, cream of tartar, and food coloring in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to avoid sugar crystals forming.
3. Insert a candy thermometer and cook until the candy reaches 300 degrees. Do not stir the candy during this time.
4. Once the mixture reaches 300 degrees, remove it from the heat. If you are planning on eating any of the ornaments, you can add a teaspoon of flavoring or extract at this time. If you have a heat-safe measuring cup or pitcher with a spout, you can pour the candy into it to make it easier to fill the cutters. Carefully pour the candy into the prepared cookie cutters, filling them about ¼-inch thick. If the candy thickens too much before you have filled all of the cutters, place it over medium heat briefly, just until it is fluid enough to pour.
5. Once the candy has begun to set but is still warm and pliable, use the tip of a toothpick or skewer to punch a hole near the top of the candy shapes. Once the candy is fully set, carefully push it out of the molds. Depending on the shapes you use, this can be a delicate process, so be very slow and cautious.
6. If desired, you can decorate the ornaments with royal icing or a store-bought writing icing that will harden upon drying. Gel icings and buttercreams will not work for this purpose.
7. Thread decorative string or metal ornament hangers through the hole in the top of the ornaments, and hang them on your tree. If your climate is not too humid, you should be able to enjoy these candy ornaments for weeks. Although all the ingredients are edible, I do not recommend eating them after they have been hanging on a tree for several weeks!