These adorable sweet and buttery cookies make a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift and are sure to put a smile on anyone’s face.
Valentine’s Day Cookies, also known as ‘omg it’s almost V-day and I need something fitting the occasion’.
I hate to admit this but I have been pretty scattered and forgetful lately. From the dumb moments like spelling refrigerator with a d, or thinking that a twig got caught on my shoe and trying to shake it off only to discover it was actually a loose shoe lace, to the even more pathetic moments like plugging my charging cable into my car when it’s turn off and wondering why my phone isn’t being charged. ‘It must be the cable’, I thought for 2 whole minutes. That and a lot of other embarrassing things have been happening lately. Have you ever had a week like that? A week where you feel like it is difficult to act like a normal human being? *Awkward silence where it’s just me who’s a hot mess*.
I still think refrigerator should be spelled with a d though, it would just make so much more sense. C’mon Natanja, focus! Alas, spelling is not my strong suit (nor is grammar……WHY did I become a blogger again?!) However, if there is one thing I’m pretty good at, it’s baking. I bake with a certain confidence. Whenever I work on developing a recipe I start the project with such confidence thinking that my first attempt will turn out amazing. Sometimes that happens…but most of the time it really doesn’t. Recipe developement is hard work and it usually takes quite a few attempts till a recipe turns out the way I had envisioned it.
These Valentines Day cookies really hit the sweet spot, literally. They are soft, sweet, buttery, vanilla-y and so so very fragrant! I made the cookies two days before continuing with the icing and kept them stored in the oven. OMG my whole oven smelled of vanilla! I should find a way to bottle this scent and sell it to candle making companies. Sorry Yankee Candle, but your ‘sugar cookie’ scented candles could really use an upgrade!
The adorable cookie cutters were a birthday gift a few years back so unfortunately I am not 100% sure what brand they are. However, I am guessing that these are exactly the same. Because my cookie cutters are so tiny, I got A LOT of cookies from the dough, I’d say about 90. Feel free to freeze half of the dough and use it for another cookie baking session. If you only work with half the dough, be sure to cut the icing recipe in half.
Let’s take a look at the ‘science’ behind this recipe for a minute. A surprise you might encounter is that these cookies are made without baking powder or baking soda. This isn’t a mistake. Since we are decorating these cookies we want them to spread /puff up as little as possible. There is also no need for mechanical leavening such as creaming the butter and the sugar together. Whenever you work with a sugar cookie dough, you do not need a leavening agent. In fact, you want to mix the ingredients together swiftly and then let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Yes 2 whole hours, no cutting away from that time! The dough needs to be chilled, otherwise it won’t hold up when you are cutting out your shapes. However, a dough that is too cold will tear when rolling it out. So it is best to lay it out for about 10 minutes before starting to roll. If you find that the dough is still too cold, you can knead it once more with your hands.
And yes, real vanilla is key when making these cookies. They taste way better when you use a vanilla bean instead of artificial vanilla flavoring. I know I know, those beans are expensive! I’m not saying you have to use them for everything, but in a recipe like this the flavor really shines through since there aren’t a lot of ingredients. Trust me on this.
Now to the decorating. I used my favorite royal icing recipe by Wilton. I like working with royal icing because you can easily adjust the thickness and it dries down perfectly. I used three different colors, white, rose and violet. Keep in mind to use very little amounts of food coloring if you want to achieve pastel colors. In order to keep the icing from hardening while you are working, place a damp cloth over the bowls of icing. The dampness will prevent the sugar from crystallizing. #royalicinghack For outlining and flooding the cookies I used Wilton 4 round tip and for decorating Wilton 3 round tip and Wilton 17 open star tip. To make the clean up easier I opted for disposable piping bags.
Ok, I promise that’s all the lecturing I’m going to do for today. Keep those tips in mind…but also have FUN! Get a friend, kid or spouse to help and make a day of it. Baking isn’t about perfection it’s about making something delicious and having a good time. There will always be a few uglies, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t delicious! 🙂 Happy Valentine’s Day.Print
adorable little heart and love shaped sugar cookies
- 1 vanilla bean
- 350g flour (2 and 3/4 cups)
- 100g sugar (1/2 cup)
- 200g butter, softened (7oz)
- 1 egg, room temperature
- pinch of salt
- zest of half a lemon
- Scrape out the seeds of 1 vanilla bean and set aside.
- Combine all ingredients and the vanilla in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and mix until you have a uniform dough.
- Divide dough into two discs and wrap into plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 2 hours.**
- Once chilled, set out one of the discs on the kitchen counter for about 20-30 minutes to slightly warm up.
- In the meantime, preheat your oven to 200°C or 400°F. On a floured surface roll out the dough (about 6mm or 1/4 inches) with a floured rolling pin. Cut out shapes as desired and place onto a baking sheet fitted with parchment paper.
- Bake for 7-8 minutes. (Oven times may vary depending on the strengh of your oven.) Take the cookies out when they are slightly undone and let them set on the hot baking sheet.
- Continue until all cookies are baked. (Working with at least two baking sheets makes everything a lot easier.) Let the cookies cool completely.
- Before starting, make sure the bowl and whisk attachment are completely grease free.
- Combine the meringue powder, powdered sugar, salt and water in the bowl of a standmixer and whisk until icing forms peaks, about 6 minutes. Add in the vanilla and almond extract and whisk once more.
- Divide in 3 different bowls and using a toothpick tint as you desire. Add very small amounts of food coloring, you can always add more later.
- At this stage you can also use more water to thin down the icing. Use a thin consitency for outlining and flooding the cookies and a thick concistency for decorations. Allow icing to set for at least 15 minutes before adding another layer of icing. If using sprinkes, add right away before icing sets.
- Allow icing to set for at least 3-4 hours before storing.
- *The amount of almond extract will depend on the brand you use. I used 5 drops.
- **Feel free to freeze one of the discs for another baking session. The unbaked dough can be frozen for up to 3 months. Keep in mind to cut the royal icing recipe in half if doing so.
- Cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 4 weeks in an airtight container.