Makes 30 cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour
15 small hard candies for cookie center (I used Jolly Ranchers), crushed
To make the dough: Using an electric mixer at medium-high speed, cream the butter, gradually adding the sugar. Beat in the egg until evenly mixed, then blend in the vanilla extract and salt.
With a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the creamed ingredients, about one third at a time, until evenly blended.
Divide the dough in half. Flatten each portion into a disk and seal in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
To create the cookies: Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover a sturdy baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat the foil with cooking spray. Between 2 sheets of waxed paper lightly dusted with flour, roll the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. Remove the top sheet.
Cut out the cookies with a large cookie cutter or a round biscuit cutter. Use a lightly floured spatula to transfer the shapes to the baking sheet, leaving about an inch between cookies. Remove the centers of the cookies with a smaller cookie cutter of your desired shape.
Place a pinch of crushed hard candy into the center of each cookie and bake until the cookies start to brown lightly around the edges and the candy is melted, about 8 to 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely. To prevent sticking, line your serving plate or tin with waxed paper and place additional waxed paper between layers.
To create ornaments: Immediately after removing cookies from oven, gently dot a small hole in the top of each cookie with a toothpick. Gently swirl the toothpick in a circular motion to create a larger hole. Allow cookies to cool completely, then hook through each hole with a wire ornament hook. Garnish with a ribbon, if desired, and hang. This is a fun activity for kids and a delicious treat to pluck from the tree! I recommend eating the cookies 1-2 days within hanging them.
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