Sunday, February 5, 2012

COOKIES FOR VALENTINE’S DAY

THE SLIPPERY SLOPE


Nothing says Valentine’s Day quite like chocolate; lovely, elegant handmade chocolates wrapped in shiny gold foil, snuggled up together and smartly tucked in a box all tied up with ribbon. Or decadent rivers of dark sauces and creams smothering something so special, so ooey, gooey, luscious as a single portion of cake, mousse or torte, something that sends shivers down our spine. Or is it a fragrant bouquet of roses that speaks louder than words? Plump, velvety red for passion, delicate yellow for constancy and friendship, orange for burning desire… placed in the open arms of the one we love, roses symbolize what Valentine’s Day is all about. Or, hmmmm…. could it be jewels, brilliant, glittering gems, a circle of diamonds or a deep red ruby, the color of our heart, that one dazzling, never-ending band slipped onto a finger or pendant clasped around the neck like a warm embrace binding us forever to that special someone. Candlelight and surprise, warmth and tenderness expressed in the most personal way possible.



Nothing says Valentine’s Day like ranting and raving, furrowed brows and “I warned you a long time ago how I felt about this faux holiday!” sneers. Astonishment and dismay at all the gaudy baubles and cheesy cards, cheap red velvet boxes and clich├ęd decorations, each more over the top than the next, stuffed into shop windows, the more the merrier simply to sell just another corny, vapid celebration. Obligations, anticipation, withering looks if desires and expectations are not met with enthusiasm, doubt and disappointment if flowers are not delivered, tiny, sentimental gewgaws not slipped across candlelit tablecloths, if our perfect, romantic notions are met with indifference and disgruntled sidelong glances and snide comments.

Sigh.

But I’m an old romantic at heart and that lovely no-man’s land between my birthday and Valentine’s Day is filled with hope, hints and baking. Almost anything goes, from treating myself to one more, teeny tiny, self-indulgent gift to creating cookies, cakes and puddings in feminine heart shapes, dotted and dusted with shimmering pink and red sprinkles. As the only girl in the house – yes, female, woman, there are more politically correct and accurate designations depending upon the topic discussed – but when it comes to birthdays and Valentine’s Day I am still a giggly, whimsical, hope-filled, dreamy, wide-eyed girly girl… so as the only girl in the house I have the undisputed right to pull out all the stops (well, within reason), the pink and the pearly, the shimmery and the frou-frou. I ignore the rolled eyes and smirks, the snorts of derision and the turned backs and I just carry on my merry way towards Valentine’s Day. Nothing is ever acknowledged nor is anything promised. Au contraire! They swear up and down year in and year out that Valentine’s Day is just a bunch of hogwash, a load of hooey, a hackneyed, silly, expensive just another day that deserves no more attention in this house than does Halloween.


But don’t I know them better than that? They know I have a weakness for love and romance and Valentine’s Day has just always been another chance for them to circle me with whimsy and enchantment and shower me with attention. And really anything will do. From those long ago days of my ugly duckling youth when every St. Valentine’s would slip by unrequited, and the shoebox decorated with care and emotion placed squarely on the corner of my grade school desk remained empty of vows of undying, undeclared love and my dreams sadly unfulfilled, veritably dashed to the ground, my need has grown each and every year, my expectations increase enthusiastically with each dinner, bouquet of flowers or jewel I receive against all odds. Each year they assure me that I can forget all about any special gallantry, no consideration would push them to treat the 14th any way other than as just another day. But I know better than that…

And so I tiptoe ahead through forbidden territory, these two weeks sandwiched between my birthday and St. Valentine’s Day. And hearts are the theme once, twice, over and over again. Call me corny, saccharine or just plain cheesy, I don’t care… hearts come pouring out every February. Cookies this week as we hunker down and snuggle up against the cold. Winter has settled in much to my delight, a fine layer of snow covers the ground slowly turning to slush and I wait for a second round of flurries tonight to set things right: a beautiful romantic white glimmering in the black of night. An evening en famille watching an old black & white comedy or a Hitchcock thriller, and a platter of freshly baked buttery sugar cookies enjoyed with the evening’s final glass of wine will suit me just fine.


My first Valentine recipe is heart-shaped cookies edged in pink and red. I mean, how much more romantic can one get than this? And bonus: they are absolutely divine: buttery, tender, full of flavor, not too sweet (just sweet enough, like the ideal sweetheart), the cherry-scented sugar crystals, rose petal nibs and colored sprinkles adding a wonderful crunch and a beautiful dazzle. Wrap them in ribbon and offer them to the one you love.


BUTTERY SUGAR COOKIES
Always tender, never crumbly or dry and less cloyingly sweet than other butter cookie recipes.

2 sticks (1/2 lb, 225 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
¾ cup (150 g) sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tbs Amaretto, optional
½ tsp vanilla – increase to 1 tsp if omitting the Amaretto
3 ½ cups (525 g) flour

To decorate:
1 lightly beaten egg
Colored sugar crystals, sprinkles/jimmies or sugared flower petal nibs

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating briefly after each addition just to incorporate.

Beat in the Amaretto and vanilla and then about a third of the flour until smooth. Gradually beat in as much of the remaining flour as possible using the electric beater, then stir in the rest with a wooden spoon or a spatula.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead quickly; if you haven’t stirred in all of the flour you can knead in the rest quite easily. Once you have a smooth, homogeneous dough, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Working with about half the dough at a time, roll it out to a thickness of not less than 1/8-inch (no less than .3 cm), being careful that the dough is very evenly rolled out. Carefully cut out shapes with your cookie cutters. Gently transfer to a cookie sheet (I use unlined, ungreased cookie sheets with no problem at all). If you want to decorate, just gently lift the cookies one by one, brush around the edges with a beaten egg, then dip in the decorative sugar before placing on the cookie sheets.


Bake for about 10 minutes. They will be set and appear cooked but they will NOT brown. You’ll know they are done because they will slide right off the cookie sheet when just nudged with a spatula. Remove from the oven and gently lift each cookie off of the baking sheet and place on a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before enjoying.

30 comments:

Sanjeeta kk said...

Oh those sprinkles are bang on..these cookies look like a perfect gift for Valentine day! Wish I could have baked something like this some 16 years back ;-)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Great cookies! A perfect Valentine's Day treat and gift.

It good to be a dreamer and to be a romantic!

Cheers,

Rosa

a spoonful of yumm said...

love the message in the 2nd image;-) the cookies look very pretty

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

Beautiful cookies Jamie. For some reason your stories made me remember that when I was in primary school we all exchanged Valentine's day cards with each other and no one was left out.

Love the vintage Valentine's day card. My grandmother and her sister were suffragettes. How quickly we forget that once women didn't have the right to vote.

Happy Valentine's Day and stay warm.
Sam

Maureen said...

Aren't these lovely! Definitely lovey dovey or girly cookies. Really pretty - you did a great job.

Lora said...

I say keep that pink and red flowing in Feb. My European husband does not get Valentine's Day either. He actually gets a bit terrified around this time of year thinking he might do the wrong thing. Those cookies look ment in your mouth delicious.

bunkycooks said...

It is fun to be a romantic and no matter how old we get, Valentine's Day is definitely one of those "holidays" where there is much anticipation of romance. Think the roses, a bauble and a romantic evening will work just fine. ;-) Love the beautiful cookies. too.

lisa is cooking said...

I have a weakness for Valentines' Day too. I can't help it. And, a corresponding weakness for sugar cookies. I'm going to have to do some baking before the 14th!

Priscilla - She's Cookin' said...

How cute are those vintage Valentine's, and I love the sentiments expressed :) Although, I dislike the retail hullabaloo, it's nice to have a day set aside for love! And beautiful homemade cookies, wine, chocolate, flowers and fancy baubles :)

areid15@yahoo.com.au said...

A lovely post and such pretty v day cookies!

Rambling Tart said...

I like simple pleasures like this, Jamie. :-) Such pretty little cookies with the cheeriest sprinkles. I love it. :-)

tasteofbeirut said...

Oh you are making me want to spend a few hours making these! They look like so much fun to make as well as inhale of course!

How glad the right to vote is considered a given !

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I just bought the perfect sprinkles to use with these beautiful cookies. I will definitely be making these.

Cake Duchess said...

Love your wanting romance for Valentine's. With hubs crazy hours, I don't expect any thing special that day...we celebrate other days through the year;) I would be happy settling done for end of day with glass of wine, plate of cookies and a good book:)

Sue said...

Yes, they definitely look romantic:)

Junglefrog said...

A girl gotta love a little bit of valentine, don't you think? ;)Nothing wrong with a little romance once in a while. As for those cookies; they are perfect and remind me that I haven't baked anything yet for valentine! Shock!

Terra said...

I love how you frosted the sides only, they look soooo beautiful! Amaretto would be pretty amazing in a sugar cookie....well amaretto is pretty amazing in anything right? LOL! Hugs, Terra

Paula @ Spoons n Spades said...

These cookies look fantastic, especially with the sprinkles around the edges. Perfect for Valentines :-)

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen said...

I've never been a big fan of Valentine's Day but I do admit a little gesture on that day is always appreciated!

Yuri - Chef Pandita said...

Lovely cookies! Making heart shaped food in February is a must :)

Tickled Red said...

Ha! Guys love Valentines, just their way. Which works well for me, I'm more an easy evening in girl on VDay. The cookies are fab! I can't wait to make a batch for the guys. xoxo

Lisa said...

This is how I see it. If I have a Valentine, I love V-Day - if I don't, I eat lots of chocolate and ignore every other aspect of it. Love the cookies, so pretty!

Helene Dsouza said...

salut jamie!

inside our hearts we r all romantics I guesse, we just try to push it away, we want to show how unkitchy and strong we are. I am going to show ur cute cookie hearts to my husband (give him a hint indirectly) =D

Jeanne said...

LOL - Valentine's day used to be so fraught when I was a teenager!! Mostly I got no cards, but at least it was not as bad as my best friend, whose mom sent her a card every year, with pasted letters a-la-ransom notes (to disguise her identity!). Looking back now, it was a sweet thing to do but at the time we found it mortifying! Love the cookies... JP and the boys are lucky men!

Maris (In Good Taste) said...

These beautiful cookies are perfect for valentines day!

MyFudo™ said...

Really cute for Valentine's Day...I am missing my heart shaped cookie cutter :(
Perhaps i'll just use the regular shaped cookie cutter (boring, I know...) but I'll use my heart shaped sprinkles. Yey! Thanks for sharing!

Lizzy said...

Oh, these are so simple and beautiful!!! I love your description...they sound like the perfect sugar cookie!

Barbara Bakes said...

We do heart sugar cookies every year too. Love how you decorated the edges.

Anna @ The Littlest Anchovy said...

I have just discovered your beautiful blog! What a fantastic read :)
Love your heart cookies, I think I am going to have to get baking!

Baker Street said...

What a lovely treat Jamie! Perfect for valentines day! xx

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