My Material Life

An Expressionist Modern Cookie Chapel

Le Corbusier’s Notre-Dame-du-Haut / Source:

Last month we made a pit stop at Harris Ranch during a road trip to Southern California, and they had a very large gingerbread house on display with a number of melted candy windows.  I’ve made stained glass cookies before and I must have seen this technique on gingerbread houses previously, but for some reason it seemed new and inspiring and I figured I’d give it a try with a chapel that made an impression on me in an old art history class – Le Corbusier’s Notre-Dame-du-Haut, also known as Ronchamp.

I thought the seemingly random-placed windows would be a good showcase for some melted candy glass and the curves would provide some additional interest to a simple box.  I wanted to keep the chapel light in color like my inspiration, so I decided to use my favorite cut-out cookie dough recipe from Penzey’s.  But before you get to making your dough for a project like this, you need to start with some drawings.

I guessed at the size on my original sketch, but once I made a plan and started drawing some elevations, I revised my dimensions.  Have you ever taken a drafting course?  It’s a good skill to have if you like to make things.  Basically, the plan shows the dimensions of the footprint of my chapel, while the elevations show the actual size of each of my four pieces.  My chapel is small enough that I could draw it to actual scale on regular copy paper.  You may notice that I reversed my pieces once I made my elevations.  But I reverted back to my original plan when I cut out my dough.  This wasn’t any problem because I cut out my elevations and used them as patterns for cutting my dough, and I could simply turn over the pattern to change the direction of my cookie piece.


Once you’re happy with your drawings, cut out your elevations to use them as pattern pieces.  Then you can make your dough (recipe here).  I rolled mine out to about 1/4″ thick and used a pizza cutter to cut it.  Then I transferred each piece to a parchment-lined baking sheet.


Next I scored some windows with a knife, using my original sketch as a rough guide for where to place them.  I used the knife to cut through my window pieces and then I used a toothpick to remove the cut-outs, clean up the cut edges, and remove dough crumbs from inside the windows.


I experimented with a few other shapes on the two back pieces.  I used a turkey baster with its bulb removed to cut the circles.  Then it was time for the candy.


Jolly Rancher hard candies work great for this.  I just set them on a paper towel, kept them wrapped, and used a pounder to gently break them up.


Next I filled the window cut-outs with the broken candy pieces, put the tray in the oven and crossed my fingers that this would work.


About half-way through the cooking time (6 minutes total at 400°), I took a peek to see how the windows were filling and I added a little more candy where it looked like it was needed.  I guess I forgot to take a photo when the chapel pieces came out of the oven, but oh my goodness, they were so beautiful, especially once they’d cooled and I held them up to the light!

To put your chapel or any cookie architecture together, you’ll need to decide whether you want to use boiled sugar or royal icing as your glue.  You can easily find recipes and guidance for both online.  I used boiled sugar even though it’s a more dangerous method because of the risk of getting some on your skin; I thought it would give me a more modern finish than royal icing.  What I didn’t take into account was how quickly boiled sugar turns really, really dark.  I’d have to rethink that next time.

I left my chapel open at the top because this design is all about those windows and I knew I’d want to light it with tea lights in glass holders inside my chapel box or maybe even some small LED string lights I found this year.  Isn’t it nice when an idea you have in your head actually meets your hopes for it when you bring it to life?  Too bad this won’t last, but I guess that’s a part of its appeal.



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