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  • Mary Kay

Loving Valentine Cut Out and Decorated Cookies

"14 Days of Angels Baking Valentine Memories!"


Decorated with love, your special someone will swoon for these Valentine cookies!


Boxed and ready to gift, how can anyone resist these almond flavored cutout Valentine cookies?!They taste like candy, layered with the delicate almond flavored meringue-based Royal Icing piped over candy melts, all on a crisp almond sugar cookie.


This is one of my most popular recipes overall, and it is my absolute favorite. I’ve been making these cut-out cookies in different shapes, sizes, flavors and frostings for different holidays and fund-raisers for over a total of 20 years.


These lovely hearts are winners every time I make them! They have worked hard at fund-raisers for local community service organizations where they’ve sold for $25 to over $100 a dozen. I’ve made them for family events, weddings, workplace events, community service organizations and group picnics and potlucks. I’ve baked and decorated them for Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, nautical parties, St. Patrick’s Day, for beach events, puppy dog birthdays (for people only, of course), 4th of July picnics, Thanksgiving Day, Memorial Day events, New Years Eve dinners, and more.


Why are they so popular? Because they are unique? Because I use a hard frosting coating plus a meringue frosting? Because they are crispy? Because they’re almond flavored? How about deliciousness.

The frostings I use include a high-quality candy melt coating with a meringue based royal frosting. They’re fun to make, fun to decorate and even more fun to share with special family and friends.


I usually make these cookies and decorate them over a 3-day assembly work process. Stir them up and bake them one day and place in the freezer. Then frost and pipe the frosting the next day. Let the frosting dry overnight and deliver on the third day to the event. They can be frosted and piped on the first day, but I like to spread out the work since I’m usually baking multiple batches (10-20 dozen). That’s a lot of cookies to decorate.

I can even bake the cookies ahead to freeze for up to a month, then take them out to decorate them fresh for a special event. And, they travel well when they are coated with the high-quality candy melts that give them more strength to prevent cracking and breaking.


With the meringue-based buttercream frosting, the piping dries on the outside leaving the inside of the frosting soft enough for eating, making them ideal for careful stacking a couple layers with parchment paper in between.

This recipe makes 3-5 dozen cut-out cookies depending on how large or small you cut them.


Prep your pans and work space:

- I clean off all of my kitchen counters and kitchen/dining room table so I have plenty of space in which to work.

- Set up 5 cookie sheets by lining them all with parchment paper. I will bake on the papers twice, then toss them since these cookies are made with butter and generate a good amount of fat on the papers.

- I also set up my cooling racks ahead of time so everything is ready to go.


Preheat your oven to 375F degrees.

Almond Cut-out Sugar Cookies Ingredients and Directions:

Beat these two items until fluffy, with electric stand mixer:

1 C Sugar

1 C Butter, softened


Add these three items to the above and beat until mixed thoroughly:

2 Egg yolks (save the whites for an omelet in the morning)

1 t Vanilla extract

1 t Almond extract


Whisk dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and add to the above wet mix:

2 ½ C Flour

1 t Baking powder

Pinch of Salt


Beat all together on medium for a couple of minutes. The dough should come away from the sides of the bowl. If it seems to be sticky add a little more flour. The dough should be supple but not sticky.


Before rolling out the dough, if you want to tint it, this is the time to divide it and add your food coloring gel. Knead it thoroughly to spread the color throughout the dough. If you want a marbled effect, knead it very little before rolling it out.


Easily roll out your dough with no mess, non-stick:

This is the part I love! There is absolutely no extra flour needed for rolling out the dough. This eliminates a lot of mess and clean-up efforts. You will roll the dough between sheets parchment paper – it’s all non-stick.

- Cut two pieces of parchment paper about the size of your cookie sheets. I usually divide the dough in 2-3 equal amounts and form each into a ball. Place one ball between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll it out – do not add any flour. Leave the rolled-out dough in between the two parchment papers. Repeat with the other balls of dough. I usually roll the dough out about 1/8” thick, sometimes thicker.

- Lay each rolled-out dough onto one large upside down cookie sheet so they all lay flat. I use rimmed baking sheets to bake my cookies on, that’s why I turn the cookie sheet upside down. Place in the refrigerator for at least 60 minutes to chill.

- Pull one layer of rolled out dough from the refrigerator. Carefully peel the top parchment paper off the dough. Place it back on top, but do not press down. Flip it over and peel off the other sheet of parchment paper. Leave it off and start using your cookie cutters. With the lower parchment paper sheet lose, the individual cookies will easily lift off so you can set them onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets.

- I reuse these parchment paper sheets a couple of times – not too many times since there will be some butter leached onto them with each use.

- Bake before the dough warms up at 375F degrees for 8-11 minutes. If your dough has warmed up, chill it again for about 10 minutes. This helps prevent any puffiness while baking. My oven bakes hotter on one side, so I usually rotate the pan 180 degrees at the 7-minute mark. You can adjust accordingly for your own oven. This will help avoid any puffing up of the dough in the oven.

- Cool the cookies on the pan for a couple of minutes. Then, pull the entire parchment paper with the cookies on, onto a cookie rack to cool. The cookies should be barely golden around the edges and a nice golden on the bottoms.

- Repeat this rolling out and baking process for each segment of dough.

- What about the scraps? Press them together and roll out again between two sheets of parchment paper. This is another reason I like this process…there is no need to add more flour to roll them out, thus keeping them tender and crisp. And, there’s no floury taste from rolling them out again with more flour. I love it!

And, here’s a rerolling dough tip for you.

If the scraps you gather up are still pretty chilly and hard to roll out, stick the ball in the microwave on a piece of parchment paper for 3 seconds to warm it up just a tiny bit. Maybe another 2 seconds. Then roll it out easily and chill the dough again in the fridge before you cut out the cookies.


Repeat the dough rolling process:

Repeat the process with the rest of the scraps, rolling them between parchment paper sheets, chilling and cutting and baking your cookies until all are baked.


I freeze the cookies right away:

- If I am coating and piping frosting on to the cookies the next day, I like to freeze the cookies right away in covered cake pans, placing parchment paper between the layers to avoid any breakage. I reuse some of those parchment paper sheets I used for rolling out the dough.

- Sometimes I have frozen these cookies for up to a month, hidden in the back of the freezer, waiting for a specific event. Only once have I gone to the freezer to get some out for frosting…and found any missing. Arrrggghhh! Lucky for someone in the family, I did not have to bake any extras for that event.


Frosting and decorating the cookies:

- First make the Meringue-based Buttercream Frosting according to the recipe below. It’s also on the Wilton Meringue container. I use a quality meringue since I have found that some of the off brands have a funny taste. Cover the frosting with plastic wrap under a damp cloth. Set it aside and have it ready to put into piping bags with the piping tips you like to use.

- I like the frosting to be at room temperature for easy piping onto cookies. It can also be chilled overnight, just bring it to room temperature before piping it.

- Next, melt the amount of candy melts you need, in small bowls in the microwave, according to the directions on the package.

- I pull the cookies out of the freezer and begin to coat them, while they are cool, with the white or colored high quality candy melts with my small offset spatula. I use a different spatula for each color.

- Spread the surfaces of the cookies with the melted candies. With the cookies still being cold from being in the freezer, the candy melts will cool fairly fast and firm, so you may need to work fast. Be sure to give the cookies plenty of time to dry before you begin piping the frosting.

- Depending on the design of the cookies, I will coat part of all of each cookie with candy melts. For example, on my Santa Claus (hat and face cut-out) Christmas cookies I coat the hat portion of the cookie with red candy melts. The rest of that particular cookie is decorated with thick piped frosting for the pompon, mustache and beard, so candy melts are not needed over the entire surface. For my heart-shaped Valentine cookies I cover the entire surface of the cookie with the candy melts. It only takes the candy melts a few minutes to dry if you’re not dealing with humidity.

Meringue-based Buttercream Frosting Ingredients and Directions:

Beat until soft peaks form with electric stand mixer:

4 T Wilton Meringue Powder

2/3 C Water


Add and beat thoroughly. Begin beating slowly so you don’t fumigate the entire kitchen with powdered sugar:

2 C Powdered Sugar

Pinch of Salt


Alternately add about a third of each of the following, beating well between each addition, and scraping sides of the bowl after each addition. It should be fluffy:

1 ¼ C Solid Shortening

7-9 C Powdered Sugar


Near the end, add and beat in the flavor extracts. I only use high quality extracts:

2 t Vanilla extract

2 t Almond extract


Beat until the frosting is fluffy. The more powdered sugar you add, the more difficult it will be to pipe the frosting through the tubes. Test it with the piping tip you want to use and add just a little more powdered sugar or a little more water depending on whether you need to thin or thicken the frosting.


Note: I do not freeze the frosted cookies. I only freeze the unfrosted cookies.


Frosting and decorating your cookies:

- When spreading the candy melts on the cookies, you may want to create some designs using a toothpick or some other tool, but you will need to work fast. Have fun and experiment with the designs. Then edge the cookies with the meringue-based buttercream frosting with your favorite piping tips.

- Sometimes I use Royal Icing to create designs. In that case you will need to allow the cookies to dry even longer, sometimes overnight, before you can pipe the buttercream frosting on top.

Packaging:

Find a pretty box and layer the cookies with parchment paper or paper doilies in between for an old-fashioned style. Tie with yarn or a ribbon and tie a signed card to it for a beautiful presentation.


Try different flavors with these cookies:

- For one event I flavored the cookies and the buttercream frosting with lavender, sprinkling the candy melts with dried lavender, for a young lady’s birthday.

- Lemon extract and lemon zest creates a refreshing cookie and frosting for spring and summer.

- Strawberry extract and pink coloring create a pretty serving when surrounded with fresh strawberries or even chocolate covered strawberries.

- A friend wanted mint flavoring, so I added a chocolate mint extract to the cookies and made a dark chocolate frosting for the tops, accented by Andes Mints.


These cookies are so much fun to make, bake, design and decorate. And, people love them everywhere I take them. They are a special treat to create and I love to “Bake your own Memories!”

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