Have a Holly Jolly (Ranchers) Christmas!

Jolly Ranchers got me into trouble once when I was in 6th grade. Keep in mind, I was the straight-A, never-in-trouble, nice-to-everyone band geek. But there was this girl in 6th grade (I'm looking at you, Lindsay) who HATED me for no reason. She literally had no reason to be mean to me, other than the fact that she was crappy to pretty much everyone. Her dad was a doctor, and she seemed to think that made her better than everyone else. But she really seemed to have it out for ME. One day she decided to tell the teacher that I was stealing Jolly Ranchers and Starbursts from the his prize stash. This was utter B.S. because I didn't even like those candies - I've always been more of a chocolate girl. AND I WASN'T A THIEF. My teacher believed her, I got in trouble, and for the first time in my life I truly wished harm upon someone: I wished that stupid Lindsay would go step on a Lego.

Brutal, I know. I guess we all have that breaking point that takes us to a dark, dark place.

Well decades have passed, and I've moved on. I hope Lindsay has grown up to be a better person and that her kids don't leave Legos on the floor. And I've reached a place in my life where the thought of Jolly Ranchers doesn't make me bitter. #personalgrowth #maturity #totallynotbitter #myhusbandlovestoremindmethatiwasinmiddleschoolDECADESago #stopplayingjurassicparkmusiconmybirthdays

I'm super glad that I've moved on from that clearly-traumatizing time in my life, because it turns out that Jolly Ranchers are actually pretty awesome. They still aren't something that I'll sit and munch on, nor are they something that I would want to steal, but they are kinda tasty. And it turns out that they make kickass cake toppers!

No joke! If you crush them up, put the bits into metal cookie cutters or foil, melt them in the oven, then let them re-harden, they make super pretty stained-glass looking thingies!

In my internet travels, I've seen lots of people do variations of this technique with different hard candies - normally to make them look like agate. I've been wanting to try it, and what better time than at Christmastime?! I wanted to do some agatey looking things, but I also wanted to try out some more Christmasey shapes. So last week I stocked up at Winco and got to experimenting.

Side note: if you have a Winco in your area, I highly recommend you check out their big bins for your baking supplies. Its magical!

This thing took some trial and error.

Emphasis on error...

But no worries. Stick with me and I'll tell you all the things that ended up working for me.

After some messes and colorful language, I finally got things to somewhat turn out. My first semi-successful attempt provided some abstract looking, agate-ish, cake toppers. These have the more uneven edges, which I actually think look pretty when accented with lustre dust.

The kid liked it! And he enjoyed munching on some of the broken pieces from the highly unsuccessful attempt.

Safety note that should be obvious: When broken, these candies can have sharp edges. So kids should be supervised, etc. This is no different than making shanks out of candy canes (you know you've done it), but I don't want to get sued. So consider yourself warned.

With a little bit more experimentation and some input from the hubs, I was able to make some that had smoother edges and a more defined shape.

I used butter rum Life Savers for the brown. They aren't as clear or smooth as the Jolly Ranchers, so I'm not as crazy about them. But I needed something brown - and they did make my house smell delicious as they melted. I wanted to use those little brown root beer flavored candies that look like barrels, but I couldn't find them anywhere! If anyone knows where I can find some, message me please. I feel like they would look better.

Anyways, without further ado, I present the method that seemed to work pretty well.

STEP 1: CRUSH IT

Put a bunch of candies in a ziploc bag. I recommend double bagging - the candy dust seems to escape when only using one. Some will still get out when double bagged, but it was significantly cleaner than using just one.

Using a meat mallet, rolling pin, hammer, or other weapon of destruction, start beating the $&!# out of the candy. It doesn't take much force for them to shatter, but I like to hit them hard anyway. Its oddly satisfying and a great way to get out your pent up aggression.

Beat it until the pieces are pretty small - ideally mostly dust. The dust will look opaque, but as it melts will become clear and shiny again.

As you can see, I didn't beat these as much as I probably should have; there are still some pretty good sized chunks in there. But I was in a good mood and not feeling very violent. Plus, this picture is very deceiving - those bowls are really small.

STEP 2: GET YOUR SHAPES ON

For the more agatey/abstract ones: I used non-stick foil (with the non-stick side up) to make circles. I have a set of plastic circular cookie cutters in various sizes, so I just tightly wrapped the foil around them and removed the cookie cutter, leaving a nice circle. I did a few sizes and set them on my flattest cookie sheet, which I lined with non-stick foil (just in case there were any leaks).

For my big Christmas tree, I just shaped the foil into a triangle and called it good. There was really no skill to that one.

For the more distinct shapes: I used metal cookie cutters, which i coated with a hefty layer of baking spray (i.e., Pam for Baking). I then set them on top of my flattest cookie sheet, which was lined with non-stick foil, and sprayed again.

STEP 3: GET YOUR COLORS ON

Get creative!!! Get more creative than I did and use lots of colors. I pretty much stuck with red & green for this, because Christmas.

I used a spoon to get the candy bits into the shapes, then a clean & dry paintbrush (that I use exclusively for baking) to move the candy around within the shape. You don't want to use your fingers - the candy gets really sticky when it comes into contact with your skin. I suppose you could use latex-type gloves, but I haven't tried that. The spoon/brush method worked great and was really easy.

Put a good amount of candy in there - I'd say at least 1/4 -1/2 inch. I think my first batch broke because I made them way too thin.

STEP 4: BAKE IT

Put them in a preheated 300-310 degree oven. Some of the recipes I saw said 350, but I found that to be way too hot. These will only need to bake for 4-6 minutes, depending on size and how fine you crushed them. Just keep your oven light on and eyeball it. You can tell when they're ready - they will look totally smooth and shiny.

STEP 5: MOLD IT

Once you take them out of the oven, they will start to harden again almost immediately. I found out the hard way that, when using the cookie cutters, you do NOT want to let them completely harden before you separate them from the cutter. Even with all that spray, there's a good chance they'll stick to it and break when you try to remove them.

Let them sit undisturbed for a minute or two, then start working them out of the cutter. They'll mostly keep their shape, but will be kinda pliable.

Another disclaimer: Don’t burn yourself.

You'll be able to use your fingers to fix any parts that become misshapen. You can smooth and sharpen the edges and get rid of any parts you might not want. You'll want to work kinda quickly because they harden so fast.

For this reason, I find it best to just bake 2-3 at a time. When I did more, the last ones I got to started to harden too much and broke.

If you just did circles or other shapes with foil and no cutters, you don't need to worry as much about getting them out quickly. Especially if you don't mind the more uneven, abstract edges. The non-stick foil comes off easily even if you let them totally harden before removing them. But if you want to clean up the edges at all, you'll still want to get them out while they're pliable.

Once you're happy with the shape, set them on a paper towel or parchment paper to finish hardening. Once they're done, I like to wipe them off with a paper towel to get rid of any residual baking spray.

At this point you can be done! Use them on a cake, as cupcake toppers... whatever floats your boat. If you want an added level of pretty, there's one more easy step you can do.

STEP 6: SPARKLE

At your local Michaels, Hobby Lobby, etc, you'll find some amazing stuff called "luster dust." It generally comes in a little vial, and you can get it in all kinds of colors. Its basically like edible super-fine glitter. I like gold and silver the best.

If you put a small amount in a little dish and add a teensy bit of vodka to it, you pretty much have edible metallic paint! Its so pretty!

Take another clean for-baking-only little paintbrush and have fun with it. I like to accentuate the edges - it gives it a fancy and more finished look. You can also use it to add little details to the design.

And there you have it! These really are fun to do, and so festive and unique! Each one you do is different, and can be as colorful and fancy as you want. And I think they translate really well into Christmas decorations. To me, the stained-glass effect combined with the sparkle just scream "holiday." They'd also do beautifully for other holidays (think cinnamon Jolly Rancher hearts for Valentines Day) and for birthday cakes (maybe using blue and clear ones to make "ice" for a Frozen cake). Or maybe you just want to try them for a random Tuesday because you feel like smashing something - I totally get it.

Have fun with it! And if you decide to try some, post your pictures on Instagram or Facebook and tag me -- I'd love to see what you come up with with!

Instagram: @baking.and.bourbon

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone! Even you, Lindsay.

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