Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and you know what that means?…The first sugar rush of the new year! There is more sweet traffic flowing than we see at Halloween (The CANDY Holiday!) Oh boy, do I love Valentine’s Day. I can dive into a box of Reese’s Hearts, and surface a new woman. Conversation hearts, Valentine’s M&Ms, Runt hearts (which are incredibly hard to find), and the list could go on and on. As much as I love, and limit my children to, all of those sweet treats, the thing I love most is homemade, handmade goodies.
My sister and I make iced sugar cookies every year at Christmas time and deliver them to our friends and neighbors. Now we do it in two different states, but it has become a tradition that we both cherish. I have tried different recipes and altering this one, but it never competes with the original. Although, we most associate it with Christmas, I make this recipe for any occasion, baby showers, birthdays, Easter, fall, and especially VALENTINE’S DAY! There is something so delightful about a heart-shaped cookie iced in red or pink and covered in sprinkles.
I usually mix up extra dough and let my kids work on their own cookies to bake, while I do the ones for our guests. It is basically like giving them playdough. 🙂
Let’s dig out your cookie cutters and sanding sugar and bake up a plate for your children or neighbors.
Gather all of your ingredients so that you know you have enough to make a recipe. Nothing’s worse than whipping up a batch only to realize that you used all of your cream of tartar to make play dough yesterday. Butter, powered sugar, and egg, vanilla, almond extract, flour, baking soda and cream of tartar.
First you cream the butter and powdered sugar. After they combine and look nice and fluffy, slowly add in the egg and the extracts. When that is combined, add your flour mixture. A good Home Ec. teacher would tell you to sift together the flour, baking soda and cream of tartar and then add it in slowly. However, I want to teach you my little trick, that I think works just as well. I add in my small dry ingredients (baking soda and cream of tartar) directly to the butter mixture. After a few seconds of letting that mix in, I follow with the flour. When everything is combined, portion out onto plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight. If I’m planning ahead, I freeze the dough and then put it in the refrigerator the night before.
When you are ready to bake your cookies, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. Now prepare to make a mess. Sprinkle a good dose of flour on a surface and roll the dough to less than a 1/4 of an inch thick. Be sure to dip your cookie cutter in the flour, as well, for an easier cut. When you have crammed as many shapes on the dough as humanly possible, carefully take a spatula and transfer to the parchment.
Bake for 5-7 minutes, until just before the edges start to turn. My kids were having a crisis while these were baking and I forgot to set the timer, so the back row got a little crispy. Now set them aside and let them cool while you whip up the icing.
When it comes to sugar cookies there are two major types of icing; royal or cream cheese. I do both, and I like both. Choosing the type you want to use completely depends on what you are going for: design or taste. Royal icing is what is used to make the beautiful, intricate designs you see in the case at your local bakery. Cream cheese is soft and rich and wonderful. It isn’t always easy to make it smooth, so I highly recommend using sprinkles…lots of them.
Cream softened butter and cream cheese together. Add as much vanilla as you would like. I say a teaspoon, but I probably do 1.5 (at least). We LOVE vanilla. When those are combined, add in your powdered sugar. One pound is what the recipe calls for. That can be translated to one box or 4 1/4 cups. When you finish mixing it all up, be sure and reward your little helpers by letting them lick the paddle. You’ll be their best friend for five minutes.
Now it’s time to get down to business. Separate out your icing into different bowls so you can incorporate food coloring. My favorite food coloring is Americolor, and you can find it at Hobby Lobby. Go by and pick up a “Super Red” before you even think about mixing up red icing. I used to use a whole bottle, just trying to make a color that wasn’t more on the pink side. That is, until I found Super Red.
I typically do the majority of the decorating. I set aside some for the kids to do by themselves and let them go wild. That way, just in case we have finger-licking as we make treats for their class, the germs will stay within the confines of our house. This way they are learning the art and time investment of a good cookie, but I can still gift a more evenly iced treat to our friends.
As you think about Valentine’s Day, consider baking these treats that are near and dear to my heart!
Iced Sugar Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup powered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 375. Mix first 5 ingredients thoroughly. Combine flour, baking soda and cream of tartar with a wire whisk and blend into the butter mixture. Wrap portions in plastic wrap and chill 2-3 hours or overnight.
Roll out portions onto a floured surface. The thickness should be less than 1/4 inch. Cut out shapes and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack then top with icing and sprinkles.
CREAM CHEESE ICING:
1 pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
4 1/4 cups of powdered sugar; 1 box/ 1lb
food coloring and sprinkles
Combine cream cheese, butter and vanilla in a mixer. Slowly add powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Portion out icing into bowls and add desired color for cookies.