"Because life is good, home cooking is best, and there is always something to be grateful for." - Christy Jordan

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Premature Valentine's Day Cookies

I love Valentine's Day.  Seriously.  I don't know why I love it so much. It must because there are red and pink hearts everywhere... or maybe it's because it's a great excuse to eat an obscene amount of chocolate. I think that might be it. Mostly, it's a holiday that lets you celebrate your loved ones.

I've been thinking about what kind of Valentine's Day baked goods I'd be making this year, but of course I couldn't decide on just one!  I finally decided on red velvet cake balls, chocolate cupcakes and these cute little sugar cookies. I didn't want to have a sugar overload at my house, so I'm making all these things in stages. That's why I call these "Premature Valentine's Cookies" because I know it's still January, but it never hurts to start celebrating early :)

I got the idea for these from one of my favorite food blogs, Bake at 350 .  You should see the cookies on this blog. Oh. My. Gosh. They are INCREDIBLE! Bridget, who is also a Texas girl, is so talented! I swear all her cookies are absolutely perfect.

I've been wanting to try Royal Icing for a while now, but I've just been intimidated. I think I studied Bridget's tutorial on it at least 10 times until I finally had it all planned in my head. I think it came out well, for my first try at least! I'll warn you though... it was very labor intensive and I'm going to use royal icing on special occasions ONLY. I just don't think I have the patience to do this all the time!

I used Bridget's recipe for sugar cookies and royal icing. These cookies are AWESOME. They're firm enough to decorate and taste really good!

Tips: I doubled the recipe and softened my butter for one batch and used cold for the second and really it doesn't make that big of a difference. If you use the cold butter it will just take a little longer to cream it with the sugar. I also used unsalted butter and added 1/2 tsp. of salt to the dough. Here's the recipe!

Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies

3 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. sugar
2 sticks of salted butter, cold  (or see note above this!)
1 egg
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract (if you don't like the almond flavor, just use all vanilla)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the flour and baking powder; set aside. Cream the sugar and butter together in an electric mixer. Add the egg and extracts; mix well to combine. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until just combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom.

The dough will be crumbly, so knead it together with your hands as you scoop it out of the bowl for rolling. (Just combine it into a flat-ish mound and get your rolling pin out!)

Roll onto a well-floured surface and cut into desired shapes. Place on parchment paper lined baking sheets (Bridget recommends freezing the trays with cookies for 5 minutes before putting them in the oven... I didn't do this and they came out fine.) and bake 10-12 minutes. (VERY IMPORTANT: The cookies should not be brown. They should just look baked. Parchment paper will prevent them from browning on the bottom, but make sure you don't let them get brown on top!)  Remove from oven and let the cookies sit on the tray for a few minutes on the sheet and then transfer them to a cooling rack.

Royal Icing

4 tbsp. meringue powder (I got mine at Hobby Lobby on the baking aisle)
scant 1/2 c. water (a little less than full)
1 lb. powdered sugar, sifted (sifting is VERY important, don't skip doing this!)
1/2-1 tsp. light corn syrup (This will keep the icing shiny!)
few drops of clear extract (I used clear vanilla)

Combine the meringue powder and water. With the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat until combined and foamy.

Sift in the powdered sugar and beat on low to combine. Add in the corn syrup and extract, if desired.

Increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high and beat for about 5 minutes, just until icing is glossy and stiff peaks form. (You should be able to remove the beater from the mixer and hold up and jiggle without the peak falling.) Do not overbeat! The icing will be thick!

Divide into enough containers for the amount of colors you want (I did 3) and colored them with gel food colors (These are SO much better than liquid food coloring because they don't change the texture and the colors are brighter). Cover with plastic wrap touching the icing when not using.

Bridget gives a WAY better tutorial on this. Here's a link to it! Royal Icing

Hope y'all enjoy!! Stay tuned for more Valentine's treats :)

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