Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Valentine's Day Cookies. And Chocolate Frosting.

When Patrick was born on February 15th it didn't really hit me how close his birthday was to Valentine's Day until he turned one. Valentine's Day has never really been on my radar. It comes around every year, of course, but David and I have never made a big deal about Valentine's Day. We still don't but that doesn't change the fact that every February 13th I remember I need to send some kind of card/treat to school for 50 kids. This year I was actually on top of things and assembled 50 iPhone valentines in the days leading up to February 14th, thanks to this (I used Kit Kat bars as 'iPhones' since I couldn't find boxes of candy hearts). I was also leading a team meeting at work on February 14th and got it into my head that I should make Valentine cookies as a treat for the group. This is classic 'me'. Feeling a bit of pressure? Trying to juggle both Valentine's Day and birthday treats? Why not seek out another activity to make things that much more interesting? So I found me a simple recipe for Valentine's Day Vanilla Cut-Out Cookies, searched out my heart-shaped cookie cutter and got to it.

Making sugar cookies can be very therapeutic. I've made them for teacher gifts two year's in a row now at Christmas and both times I found the process to be completely enjoyable. I love everything about making sugar cookies, from the sound of the mixer as it beats together the butter and sugar to the smell of the finished product, raw cookie dough. I even like rolling out the dough; smoothing and stretching, making a blank canvas for my cookie cutters. And after I've cut various holes into my canvas I can smoosh the scraps all back together and roll them out again to start the process anew. What's not to like?

The recipe I used to make the dough is pretty basic and includes ingredients I generally have on hand. I didn't have light corn syrup so substituted an equal amount of honey, figuring that Valentine cookies can never be too sweet. The resulting cookies did have a slight honey taste but it was subtle and not at all unpleasant. In fact, I preferred the taste of these cookies to the ones I made at Christmas. They have my preferred texture for a sugar cookie - not too hard, not too soft. The icing was all store bought. I'm not fond of making icing. For cake, sure, but for cookies not so much. So this is what I ended up with:

After I finished these I knocked out some vanilla cupcakes with (home made) chocolate icing for Patrick to take to school on his birthday. Now that I have admitted that I don't shy away from using store bought icing when needed I can share a really cute story about Patrick's birthday cupcakes. At the dinner table the night of his birthday we had this conversation:

Me: Did your friends like your birthday cupcakes Patrick?
Patrick: Yup. My friend Susie asked me to ask you what can of icing you buy from the store, because it tasted better than the can her mom buys.

Again, to be clear, I have nothing against convenience products. I use them myself. But at the end of the day nothing beats good old butter and sugar. So in addition to the cookie recipe linked above I've included a recipe for homemade chocolate icing below that tastes so good, it's better than icing in a can. And you can't get much better than that.

Chocolate Frosting - from Dad's Own Cookbook

5 oz semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp heavy cream (I used 2% milk)
2 tsp vanilla extract

Melt chocolate in microwave and set aside.

In medium bowl using hand held mixer on medium speed, beat butter until light and fluffy. Add melted chocolate. Gradually beat the sugar into the butter mixture until fully incorporated. (Note the recipe I followed advises to sift your icing sugar. I was feeling rebellious and did not. No biggie.) Beat in the salt, heavy cream and vanilla until frosting is smooth and spreadable. Makes enough to ice a 3-layer cake or 24 cupcakes (with leftovers!). 

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