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Valentine’s Day Treats

Graphic by Luke Theodossy

Valentine’s Day can be stressful, with or without a special someone to share it with. With things to worry about like what to buy, where to go, how much to spend, what to do, sometimes a quick and easy solution is what you need. Making your own Valentine’s sweets may seem hard or stressful, but these two cookies are easy to make, and use ingredients you can find in your pantry or easily at Safeway, and delicious to eat.

Heart-Shaped Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing:

Sugar cookies are relatively quick and simple to make, using a few, common  ingredients for both the dough and icing and short . The cookies’ heart shape and colored icing gives them a strong Valentine’s feel while they can be manipulated and used for a variety of other holidays, or even just for fun. 

Ingredients:00

Cookies: 

  • 3 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of very cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup of granulated (fine white) sugar
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Royal Icing:

  • 2 cups of powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of water
  • Red (or pink) food coloring

Directions:

Day one:

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. In a large bowl (a stand mixer works the best if you have one) beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla with a hand-held mixer on medium high speed until the mixture is fluffy and doubled in volume. As there are few (not very) wet ingredients, it’s important that you beat this part to the right fluffiness, about two to four minutes. Lower the beater speed to low and add the egg, beating till just combined and scraping down the sides to get the stragglers.

With the beater still on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. If using a stand mixer (a bowl and beaters combined in one machine), just add the ingredients gradually. If using a hand beater, get someone else to hold the beater and slowly add the dry ingredients, or do each with one hand. If the ingredients aren’t added slowly and all together, the dough ends up being mostly powder and crumbs, with a few chunks here and there, causing lots of extra work. Beat the dough–the speed increased to medium low–until it clumps on the beaters and/or around the side of the bowl, about two to three minutes.

Pour the dough onto a piece of parchment paper about half the size of a cookie sheet and mold it into a rough, six-inch square and place another sheet of parchment paper over the dough. If you do not have parchment paper, clean a section of counter and generously coat it and a rolling pin in flour instead. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough, working from side to side and occasionally rotating the dough 90 degrees as to prevent cracking. If wrinkles begin to appear, stop and smooth them out before continuing to roll out the dough. Stop rolling when you have an even sheet of dough about ⅛ to ¼ of an inch thick. Stick the sheet of dough in the refrigerator–ideally for overnight, but at least until the dough is cold and firm to the touch. If your refrigerator doesn’t have space for a large sheet of dough, just cut out the cookies in the heart shapes and stack them on a plate or air-tight container and refrigerate.

Day two:

Prepare two cookie pans by laying parchment paper over them (again, this isn’t necessary but does save some tough cleaning later). Remove your dough from the refrigerator and carefully maneuver the dough onto a section of cleaned kitchen counter generously dusted with flour. Cut out your cookies with your chosen heart-shaped cookie-cutters and place them on the prepared pans with about one to two inches between them. However, if you cut out your cookies before refrigerator, place them on the trays immediately. Bake the cookies for ten minutes or until they get a slight golden brown color. Bake only one tray at a time and keep the rest of the dough in the refrigerator during the baking as to keep the dough cool before baking.

When you take the cookies out of the oven, let them sit for about five minutes before transferring them on to a wire rack to cool for 20 more minutes. Meanwhile, in between the cooking/cooling time, you can start to make the royal icing for the cookies.

In a medium-sized bowl, add the powdered sugar, egg, vanilla, salt and water and whisk them until they are combined. The consistency may seem a little overly thick, but once you start piping, a thinner icing would drip all over your cookie. Add the red food coloring a few drops at a time, whisking in between to make sure you are happy with the color. I added about ten drops, though different dyes will vary, and a pink dye will have completely different effects. 

Using a spatula, scrape the icing into a plastic bag and seal and/or tie off the top with a rubber band or clip. Take the cookies off the cooling rack and lay them on a piece of parchment paper on the counter or a plate. Cut a small hole in one corner of the bag and begin to ice the cookies, making sure they are 100% cooled–as warm cookies will cause the icing to melt. When icing, start by making an outline around the edge of the cookie and filling the space in from there.

After icing all of the cookies, place them on a large, clean plate and leave them on the counter for the icing to set–at least three hours.

Store cookies in a ziplock bag or air-tight container and consume with a friend, relative, special someone, or Netflix within three days.

Red Velvet Cookies with White Chocolate Chips:

These cookies are easy to make, great to eat, and beautiful to look at. The “red velvet” flavor adds a little something extra in comparison to making your run-of-the-mill chocolate chip cookies. Also, for a little boost of fanciness with barely any extra work, you can dip the cookies in melted white chocolate instead of adding white chocolate chips.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups + 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup of unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ cup (1 cup) of unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup of packed dark or light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup of granulated (fine white) sugar
  • 1 room temperature egg (either leave the egg out on the counter for a few hours or put it into a cup of warm–but not steaming hot, we don’t want to boil it–water to bring it to room temperature)
  • 1 tablespoon of milk
  • 2 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon of red food coloring (or as much as you want depending on the color you want)
  • 1 ¼ cup of white chocolate chips or 2 bars (eight ounces) of pure white chocolate

Directions:

Mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set the bowl aside. 

In a large bowl, use a beater to beat the butter on high speed until the butter is creamy (about one minute). Add the brown and white sugar, switch the speed to medium and beat until combined. Beat in the egg, vanilla and milk, until combined and add the red food coloring, beating until combined, and scrape down the sides of the bowl to get everything. Add more red coloring then you think you should, as the cocoa masks the red color and the cookies get browner as they bake.

Dump the bowl of dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and beat on low until a soft, sticky dough forms. If you’re unhappy with the red color, add some until you are. If using white chocolate chips instead of dipping the cookies, add the chocolate chips and beat on medium speed until the chocolate is distributed somewhat evenly throughout the dough.

Either cover the bowl of dough with a sheet of plastic wrap or scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, wrap it up, put it in a ziplock bag and chill for anytime between one hour to two days.  The refrigeration is necessary, as the cold allows you to roll the cookies into balls later.

Preheat your oven to 350℉ and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. If your oven is too hot, the cookies will end up flattening more, leading to a thinner and slightly crunchier cookie. With the correct temperature, cookies should end up slightly thick and a chewy inside. Additionally, while the parchment paper is not necessary, it does prevent you from having to scrape burnt or leftover cookie off the pan after baking, instead just throwing away the sheet.

Use a spoon (about two tablespoons) to scoop each lump of dough and roll it into a ball, placing it onto the pan. Only put about ten to twelve balls on each sheet, leaving at least an inch and a half for the cookies to spread and bake only one pan at a time. bake each batch for ten minutes or until cracks start to appear in the tops of the cookies. When you pull the cookies out of the oven, let them set for five minutes before relocating them onto a wire rack to cool, although these cookies can be eaten warm.

If dipping the cookies, give the cookies at least twenty more minutes to cool and break the bars into pieces and put them into a (non-metal, microwave-safe) bowl and stick them into the microwave. Melt the chocolate in ten-second intervals, stirring in between, until the chocolate is completely smooth. Be weary of seizing the chocolate, or microwaving the chocolate too much and messing up the texture. Dip half of each cookie into the chocolate and set them on the rack to harden, or, for a quick cool, put them into the refrigerator until the chocolate is hard. Store the cookies in a tupperware or similar container on the counter and consume within a week, or all on Valentine’s Day with friends or a special someone.