Happy Valentines Day! Love is, as we all know, stupendously wonderful and should be spread generously all day every day, to everyone – and so should scrumptious cookies – but any extra celebration of it isn’t exactly harmful, so let’s go for it. Bake these little treats for your best friend, your crush, your mama, or just for yourself, and make someone feel a little bit extra special. This recipe for basic vanilla cookies is very useful and can be varied with all kinds of different flavours and colours, and the decorating possibilities are endless. I found the recipe in a book by Laura Tabor, but have changed it ever so slightly. With plain biscuits or cookies it’s easy to get carried away with the decorating and forget about the flavours, but if the flavour and texture aren’t there, it doesn’t matter how intricate the decorations – you are supposed to eat it and enjoy it. This dough is easy to work with, and the cookies come out crisp, buttery and delicious. I made the roses with royal icing, but there are plenty of ready-made decorations you could use instead like pre-made roses that you simply attach with some royal icing or edible glue; other ideas could include mini-meringues with a little piece of gold leaf on, a border made from popping candy, or a brushing of edible glitter or powder. One could simply write a word or message with royal icing, and it will look lovely (or brush the text with edible gold dust).
185 grams Butter
240 grams Sugar (1 1/4 cups)
390 grams Plain Flour (4 cups)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons Vanilla Sugar or 1 teaspoon Vanilla Powder
Food Colouring ( I use Wilton’s Gel Colours)
- Soften the butter either in a stand mixer (my preference), or use a bit of muscle and a wooden spoon or spatula. Add the sugar and stir until the mix lightens in colour and becomes creamy, then add the egg and vanilla (or other flavouring if you fancy). Add the food colouring here, or add it later if you are doing more than one colour.
- Sift the flour and salt and add it little by little into the batter, no need to be too precious, just not all at once. Mix for a few minutes until a dough has formed that is holding together and coming loose from the edges of the bowl. If you are doing different colours, divide up the dough and colour the pieces with a little gel colour. Roll the dough in to a ball (or balls, if you have different colours). I used a dark pink gel colour.
- Wrap the dough (or doughs) in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Take the dough out to soften slightly and set your oven to 160°C if you are not using colouring, and 140°C if you are using colouring (this is to avoid the cookies browning or altering the desired colour so we bake for a little longer in a lower temperature)
- Lightly flour your work surface and using a rolling pin, make the dough 4-5 mm in thickness and use whichever cookie cutter you wish, I actually used a highball glass which worked fine. If the dough is sticking to the surface or rolling pin, just use a little extra flour. The dough will yield about 25 large cookies or 40 small ones.
- Transfer with a palette knife to an oven tray with baking parchment (or a greased baking tray). Bake for 12-15 minutes if you have the oven set to 160°C or 17-20 minutes if the temperature is 140°C. It all depends on the size of the cookie and your oven, so watch them closely after ten minutes have passed. Even if they are slightly under baked, they are still delicious, so that is to be preferred to over baking (and risking discolouring). Let the cookies cool completely on a rack or a tray before decorating.
250 grams Icing Sugar
1 Egg White
A few drops of Lemon Juice
Food Colouring, if desired
- Mix the icing sugar and egg white together, and add a couple of drops of lemon juice, you want the icing to be quite stiff so better to start with just one drop and add more if it is too thick to be able to write with. If you want to colour the icing, do so and divide into different bowls. Make sure you cover the bowl with cling film until you are ready to use the icing, as it dries out quickly. You can store it in an air-tight container for 3 days in the fridge.
- Put the mixture in a piping bag with a very small nozzle (or if you are using a disposable piping bag, cut a very small hole to write with) and write your message, or decorate as you wish. You can always practise on a piece of parchment paper before the cookie, if needed.