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Monday, February 13, 2012

Will You Be My Valentine?

All photograph credits:  Seth Chrisman--what a sweetie!

This post is a grown-up mess-cipe, although you can certainly adapt this and have your children help you.  I couldn't resist posting my favorite sugar-cookie recipe and technique that I have been using for years and years at every holiday--Christmas, Valentines, Easter, Halloween--any time you need a sturdy, delicious cut-out cookie to decorate.

The recipe is from "The Joy of Cooking," Iced Sugar Cookies:

Here's What You Need:

3 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

20 Tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar

1 large egg, room temperature
1 Tablespoon milk
2 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest (finely grated lemon peel)  This is optional, but I find it cuts the sweetness and makes these cookies unique.)

Mixing bowls, wooden spoons, measuring cups and spoons.
waxed paper or parchment paper.

Here's What You Do:

Whisk together the first three dried ingredients.  In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric hand mixer until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add the egg, milk, vanilla and lemon zest and beat thoroughly.  Gradually stir the flour mixture into the sugar/butter mixture until well-blended and smooth.

Divide the dough in half.  Place each half between two sheets of waxed paper and roll out to about 1/4 inch thick. refrigerate until cold and slightly firm, at least 30 minutes.  

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease cookie sheets.  Remove top layer of paper from one of the sheets of dough. Cut out cookies in any shape desired and space them on the cookie sheets about an inch apart.  Form the scraps back into a ball, place between sheets of waxed paper, re-roll and keep in refrigerator until ready to use.

Bake one cookie sheet at a time for 6-9 minutes.  Watch carefully, and do not over bake.  I like to turn the cookie sheet half way through the baking time.  Let cool for a couple of minutes on cookie sheet and then remove to a wire rack to cool.

Decorate with frosting when cool.  If you don't want to use icing, you can sprinkle the dough with sugar sprinkles before baking.

To Make Valentine Sandwich Cookies:

Prepare sugar cookie dough.  Choose a heart-shaped cookie cutter in the size desired.

Cut two heart shaped cookies out—leave one for the base.  In the second cookie, use a smaller heart shaped cookie cutter and  cut the center out.

Bake as directed.  When the cookies are cool, spread a dollop of red jam on the base cookie.  ( I used home-made strawberry rhubarb jam, but you can use raspberry, strawberry, or even blackberry!)

Sift some confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar) onto the top of the second cut out cookie.  Place this cookie on top of the cookie with jam.

Voila!  What a scrumptious sweet treat for your Valentine!

Favorite Valentine books to read with your sweetie-pies:
By Eileen Spinelli
By Diane de Groat
By Felicia Bond
By Brenda Ponnay

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