“The way to a person’s heart is through the stomach”
Treasure after sweet treasure- there so many kinds of Valentines to give and to get on February 14th. The homemade kind are my very favorite (unless however you were planning to surprise me with precious jewels). Last year, I made some sparkly Valentine cards to send my sweethearts and the feedback was awesome. This year, I thought I would change it up a bit and whip up an even sweeter kind of Valentine greeting – one that comes with cookies.
If you read the post back in June on my Graduation Cookies, then you are already familiar with the cookie dough recipe that I use for baking sugar cookies. Once the dough is ready, make sure you chill it in the refrigerator for at least an hour before rolling it out to cut your cookies. Spun Sugar in Berkeley and online store Cheap Cookie Cutters have great selections of cutters for every occasion. For this romance themed batch I used an X and an O purchased at Spun Sugar, various sized hearts and this set of mini cutters.
After cutting out your first dozen or full baking sheet of cookies, bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Smaller sized cookies will take between 6-7 minutes, depending on how hot your oven runs. Larger ones will need between 10-12 minutes baking time before they are ready.
After they’re baked, let your cookies cool down for at least 90 minutes (ideally on metal racks) before icing them. Icing a warm cookie will wreak havoc on the icing consistency, as the heat may cause it to run. When you are ready to ice, prepare your bowls of icing using the different colors you would like to decorate your cookies with. Professional looking, firm icing is due to merengue powder, and I use Wilton’s for perfect results every time (the recipe is included inside the can of powder).
For my Valentines Day cookies this year, I wanted red, pink and white icing and always use AmeriColor gels to create just the right shades. I chose Super Red (flavored with strawberry extract) and Soft Pink (flavored with vanilla extract) for this batch. Depending on which powdered sugar you use to make your icing, the resulting plain “white” icing in your bowl can sometimes look greyish, so I also use another Wilton product called White-White Icing, to ensure that my white icing looks pure as the driven snow. I always keep it in my baking supplies cabinet, because you can also use it in buttercream frosting to brighten the frosting shade from butter-yellowish to pure white.
I usually set aside a bigger portion of white icing than the other colors; if I run out of one of the other shades I am using, I can always create a little more as needed. Always cover your icing bowls with damp paper towels when not using them, to keep the icing from drying out and hardening while you work. If possible, I like to start my project by icing my cookies light to dark, so that if I accidentally cross contaminate colors via the icing tools and brushes, the fix is easier to correct.
DO add your sprinkles to cookies before the icing dries, so that the particles can stay more securely on your cookie surface by drying right into the icing. I decorated mine with mini valentine hearts and jumbo heart sprinkles.
Let your finished treats dry for at least 8 hours before storing them or packaging them. A good strategy is to let them dry on cookie sheets first in the open air for a couple of hours, and then cover with thin, clean cotton dishtowels overnight so they’ve had plenty of time to dry/set and be ready for the next step.
Once your cookies are ready for packaging, get all your supplies laid out and ready to use. I picked up Valentine stickers from Target, place card holders from Paper Source, and plastic packaging bags from Daiso. Be sure to have some scissors, a stapler, colored felt pens and glue dots close at hand as well in case you need them for the finishing touches.
Select a place card to decorate and a sweets-loving valentine to address it to. The place cards are almost exactly the same length as the Daiso clear bags, so stapling them over the top opening of the bag after folding it down is easy and creates a perfect top for the cookie bag.
Staple the place card to the bag vertically; this makes perfect staple placement easier to accomplish and also makes for a cleaner look. My daughter once made these for her whole elementary school class, instead of handing out traditional store bought valentines cards and candies. I heard that this unique idea was a big hit with the other kids.
No matter what age, every Valentine, Gal-entine or Pal-entine on your list loves a homemade valentine greeting and tasty treat. Not only are they delicious to eat, they are easy and fun to make. Here’s hoping all your sweet dreams come true this Valentines Day.
Lisa Ihnken ©2018 All Rights Reserved