Friday 1 February 2019

Raspberry Valentine Cookies

Have you ever encountered a recipe that when you first read it you thought would be of little use to you, and yet somehow it turned out to be a staple, used year after year?  This cookie began with one of those recipes.

I was given some Rycraft cookie stamps for Christmas one year.  They were beautifully made, with intricate designs cast into fired red clay and a smooth glaze on the handles and tops.  Turned out, though, that I rarely used them. They failed to make the cut when I was packing up to move house a couple of years later but the recipe sheet that came with the cookie stamps stayed with me through the move, tucked into the back of my well-thumbed Fanny Farmer Baking book.  I still refer to it several times each year.

Cookie stamps and molds require cookie dough that doesn't rise or spread a lot - that holds the relief patterns without a lot of distortion - and the recipe sheet included several of them, mostly versions of cookies I already knew how to make.  There was just one that I hadn't encountered before: Fruit Jello Cookies.

Fruit Jello Cookies are basically a sugar cookie coloured and flavoured with Jello. Because they hold their shape very well, the dough is excellent for rolling out and cutting with cookie cutters, and that's how this particular cookie came to be.  

The first couple of years I just cut out simple heart shapes for my Valentine's Day cookies, then I decided to make them into sandwich cookies filled with butter cream icing.  A couple of years after that I cut a window in the center of half of the cookies, and added seedless raspberry jam to the sandwich cookie filling. That version stuck.  I've made my Valentine's Day sandwich cookies with buttercream icing and seedless raspberry jam ever since. They're so good!

To make Raspberry Valentine Cookies, you'll need:

3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 x 4-serving-size package of raspberry flavoured Jello
2 eggs, beaten
2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

You'll also need some vanilla-flavoured buttercream frosting and some seedless raspberry jam.  

I don't have a recipe for the frosting - I just soften some butter, add in icing sugar a bit at a time until it reaches the taste and consistency I'm looking for, and mix in some vanilla.  If the frosting gets too thick while I'm mixing it up, I add a little bit of milk.  If you're not a by-guess-and-by-golly cook and prefer a recipe, there are lots of excellent buttercream frosting recipes out there. Almost every old-school general purpose cookbook has at least one.

Anyway...Once you have all the ingredients on hand:

Begin by creaming the butter, sugar, and fruit jello together until well combined.  Add in the beaten eggs and mix again until they're completely incorporated.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, then mix them into the batter.

Divide the dough into two halves and, working with one half at a time, roll the dough out between two sheets of waxed paper, to a thickness of between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick.  

Transfer the dough, still between the sheets of waxed paper, to a cookie sheet and place it in the freezer.  Leave it there for at least an hour.

Remove the frozen dough from the freezer, then line a second baking sheet with parchment paper.  As soon as the dough is soft enough to get a cookie cutter through it (this takes just a couple of minutes), cut out an even number of heart shapes and transfer them to the parchment lined pan. Use a smaller heart-shaped cutter to cut a window into every second cut out cookie.

Gather the left-over dough into a ball, roll it out between sheets of waxed paper, and return it to the freezer.  Use it to make another batch of cookies later.

Bake the cut-out cookies in a 400F oven for 6 to 8 minutes, then cool them on the pan, on a wire rack, to room temperature.

Spread the back of each of the not-window cookies with a layer of buttercream frosting.  Top the frosting with some seedless raspberry jam, but don't spread the jam right to the edges.  It'll spread out a bit when you put the lids on.  

Top each iced cookie with a lid - a cookie with a smaller heart shaped window cut out of it - and fill the window up with a little more jam.

Let the filled cookies sit for a while before serving so that the frosting and jam have a chance to set up.  

I like to enjoy Raspberry Valentine Cookies with a hot cup of tea.

Hint:  Put the small heart cut-outs onto a separate, parchment-lined cookie sheet, putting the sheet back into the freezer until you've made up a whole pan full of them. When you're ready to bake the little cookies, brush the tops of the small hearts with a little milk and sprinkle them generously with sugar.  Bake the small cookies just as you did the big cookies, and store them in an airtight container. They freeze well and make a fun garnish for a bowl of ice cream.