In my family, we give each other candy and cards on Valentine's Day. But we also try to celebrate the holiday by doing nice things for people we care about. Last year we gave homemade jelly-candy as gifts. I wanted to give my heart-shaped cookie cutter some love this year, so I decided to make roll-out sugar cookies with my three kids. I set the ambitious goal of making two different kinds: jam-filled Linzer style, and frosted with multicolored royal icing, which is great for decorating since it dries hard.
The kids were excited to try the icing, especially after we watched a how-to video on making super-cool designs and I deemed it easy enough. I admit that I was expecting the process to be a smooth one. But I'm known to be a bit overconfident about my baking abilities, especially when I try out a technique for the first time.
Well, there were some surprises. The cookie-dough rolling, cutting and baking was great fun, and the Linzer-cookie construction was a breeze. The royal icing, however, was trickier than expected. We made it too thin — we didn't use enough powdered sugar to start — and our first attempts ended with icing running over the sides of the cookies and onto the table.
Our original wavy-striped, polka-dot and tiny-heart designs failed. The kids were whiny since I'd convinced them it was going to be easy and fun. My photographer husband, who's usually a cool customer, kept telling us to get out of the way so he could get a good shot.
It was not the love-filled Valentine's activity I'd envisioned.
But, after I took a deep breath and surveyed the scene, I had to laugh. It was a beautiful mess, with pink and white icing and wonky polka-dot hearts scattered all over the table. When I laughed, everyone else did, too.
We all grabbed another cookie and started fresh. The final results weren't as technically perfect as I'd hoped for, but, in the end, the project was a success. All five of us had fun working on it together — a rare event these days. When we were done, 8-year-old Cal said, "You know, I think they're awesome just like they are!" I had to agree, and I think our friends will, too.
Adapted from my trusty Betty Crocker Cookbook
To make the Linzer cookies, lay half of the sugar cookies (cooked and cooled) on a baking sheet and spread with a thin layer of raspberry jam, leaving space at the edges. On the remaining cookies, make cutouts with a knife or small cookie cutter and dust well with confectioner's sugar. Place each sugar-dusted cookie face up on top of a jam-covered cookie. Done!
This can get messy, so I recommend spreading sheets of parchment paper onto a large surface to catch drips and make cleanup easy.
Craftsbury Common, VT
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