Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine Cookies

"A hundred hearts would be too few
To carry all my love for you."
~ Author Unknown


Last week I made Valentine cookies, and I hope this will become an annual tradition. These were a labor of love, but I am so pleased with the results.

Valentine Cookies

These lightly sweet cookies with a touch of lemon would be perfect with a cup of tea. The dough holds its shape well during baking, so it works well with cookie cutters.

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1cup sugar
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

Lemon Meringue Icing:
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups confectioners sugar

For cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees at least 30 minutes before baking. Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add the egg and extracts, and mix to combine. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and  salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet a little at a time, mixing after each addition. Chill the resulting dough for at least 2 hours before turning the dough out onto parchment paper sprinkled with flour. Coat your hands and rolling pin with flour, and roll the dough to a thickness of 1/4- to 1/2-inch. Sprinkle with more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes, and place the shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 until the edges of the cookie are just beginning to brown. Remove the cookies to cool on the counter before decorating.

For meringue icing, beat egg whites and lemon juice with a handheld electric mixer until frothy. Gradually add confectioners sugar and beat until glossy. The icing is the proper consistency for covering the cookies when you lift the beaters and drips of icing stay on the surface of the icing for a few seconds before blending into the rest of the icing. Fill an icing bag with a small tip with the meringue icing, and fill one cookie at a time. To do this, pipe an outline around the cookie, then fill it in by piping icing back and forth across the cookie. The icing should blend in to create an even coating. Work quickly, and cover any icing left in the bowl when not in use, as it sets up very quickly. Allow the icing to harden completely before continuing to decorate.  

I experimented with a new technique for decorating many of these Valentine cookies. I found edible wafer papers at Fancy Flours, and they really are easy to use. With dry hands, you cut designs from the wafer paper and use a sponge brush to paint the back of the cut-out with corn syrup. Then you gently press the wafer paper to a cookie covered in hardened icing. Once the wafer paper dries for a few hours or overnight, decorate as desired. I used a stiff decorators icing to add the final details to these cookies.

I did not have enough wafer paper to cover all the cookies, so some cookies were decorated with meringue and decorators icing only.

Decorators Icing

I did not want to use butter or margarine in this icing because I wanted it to be very white and stiff. I used Wilton gel paste to tint a little of the icing for the rose buds and leaves.

1 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk
1 pound confectioners sugar
Beat shortening, vanilla and milk with a hand mixer until thoroughly blended. Add sugar gradually, and beat well after each addition.

Here are a few more of these sweet Valentine cookies -- a gift of love for the hearts we hold dear.

"In melody divine,
My heart it beats to rapturous love,
I long to call you mine."

~ Author Unknown

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