As you plan a special dinner for your valentine, you might want to include the traditional red color in your menu, as I wrote the other day. I have a couple of red shirts and tops that I might plan to wear on that evening as well.
Over the Holiday season I made some Linzer Cookies, which are distinguished by being made in two layers. The bottom cookie is brushed with jelly and the top cookie, which has a cutout, allows the jelly to show through. They are very pretty and went over well with my friends and family.
But you could take the principle of the jelly and apply it to a simple cutout cookie just as well. Long ago I read somewhere that everyone ought to have a heart-shaped cookie cutter, and it couldn't be much easier to make the great Chef Alton Brown's sugar cookies, roll them and cut the dough into heart shapes, and brush the tops with jelly after they have cooled out of the oven.
Don't attempt to brush the cookies before they have cooled to room temperature, though, because heat can melt the jelly and cause it to disappear into the cookies. Use powdered sugar to assist in rolling out the dough, and in your recipe use super-fine baker's sugar if you want them to be pale and shortbread-like.
I mention again that light-brown sugar works well in almost any cookie recipe, and there are also some blonde-type sugars, such as Demerara Sugar and the wonderful Zulka Sugar from Mexico, that will also work superbly in sugar cookies; any straw-colored raw sugar has a nice flavor to lend to baking. Here is a repeat of Brown's recipe and the relevant variations for Valentine's Day dessert.
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup baker's superfine sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Place the butter and sugar in the large bowl of an electric stand mixer and beat until they are light in color. Add the egg and milk and beat to combine.
Put the mixer on low speed and gradually add the flour in three stages, and mix until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in fourths, wrap each piece in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Sprinkle the surface where you will roll out the dough with powdered sugar. Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle your rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick.
Move the dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking. If the dough has warmed during rolling, place a cold cookie sheet on top of it for 10 minutes to chill.
Cut into heart shapes, place at least 1-inch apart on a greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until the cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges, rotating the cookie sheet halfway through baking time.
Let the cookies sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move them to complete cooling on wire rack. Serve as is or brush with jelly for red hearts. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
One jelly that works particularly well for this recipe is red currant jelly, and you can also get "purple passion" darker currant jelly. If you like strawberry or raspberry jelly they will work just fine, or you can get more than one and experiment with the slight variations of red and darker colors that you will get with different fruits.
If you live in Tucson, as I do, you can stop by Sprouts or one of our supermarkets and get Cheri's Prickly Pear Jelly, which has a unique taste that you cannot duplicate with any other fruit.