Sweet Hearts

When I think of Valentine’s Day I think of red roses, little tiny cinnamon candy hearts  – pure sugar (which I am so addicted to), beautiful valentine cards made of white paper lace doilies and shortbread cookies in the shape of hearts all decorated with pink and white icing.  These are mostly memories from childhood  – well not the roses so much – and come to think of it not the cinnamon candy hearts either as that obsession is rather current.  But I do have childhood memories of exchanging cards inscribed with “Be Mine”!  Really, Valentines Day is about sharing with your loved ones – as Paula Dean says in her latest blog, “it needn’t be a lot of hoopla, just a spectacular cake and a cup of hot chocolate set up in a cozy spot.”  And of course she makes the spectacular cake – and what could be better than a red velvet cake on Valentines Day!  I will try and find the recipe -it looks very do-able – except for maybe the fancy decorations on the icing – but that can be altered no doubt!

I think Paula is right – if the focus of Valentine’s Day is love, then why not find a way to do something simple and meaningful – not outrageous and expensive, and certainly not stressful!  And make sure that you include all those you love – the special people that mean a so much to you.

Paula suggests baking a red velvet cake – a great idea!  I will suggest making shortbread cookies in the shape of a heart and package them up for wee gifts.  And I have just the receipe for you!

This past summer my sweet niece Laura married her sweetheart Eric and we made shortbread to celebrate.

My sister Carol, Laura’s  mother had bought cookie cutters in the shape of a “E” for Eric and “L” for Laura hoping to use these at some point along the way leading up to the wedding  – and we decided at the 11th hour to make these cookies as a bit of a surprise for Laura and put them in the gift bags for guests.

And so began the hours of baking dozens and dozens of cookies, and cutting each shape carefully – the “E” was much harder than the “L”!

Some like to bake shortbread lightly so that there is little to no brown on the edges, but I prefer to make mine slightly browned as I think it gives it just that little extra crispy texture and it melts ever so nicely in your mouth – maybe the melting is all about the butter really!  And yes, you can decorate with icing but I prefer just to sprinkle with sugar – it gives it that very homemade feel – and they really taste good that way!  (And notice they don’t look perfect – they just look homemade – and that is fine with me!)

And so we packaged the “L” and “E” and put them in the gift bags with a few other treats and the shortbread was a great hit with the guests!

So why not make some sweet hearts for your sweet heart this week – your kids can give them to their friends – or better yet – you can sit down in a comfy chair and spend some time with someone you love sipping tea and eating shortbread!  Now that is a beautiful thought!

Shortbread Cookies:

2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt

1 cup (2 sticks) (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar

1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract

For Chocolate Dipped Shortbreads:

6 ounces (180 grams) semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Shortbreads:In a separate bowl whisk the flour with the salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a handmixer), beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes).  Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated.  Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill the dough for at least an hour.

Preheatovento 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) with the rack in the middle of the oven.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the doughinto a 1/4 inch (.6 cm) thick circle.  Cut into rounds or other shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter.  Place on the prepared baking sheets and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. (This will firm up the dough so the cookies will maintain their shape when baked.) Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until cookies are very lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

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