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I make cookies at the slightest provocation – Christmas, Easter, assorted birthdays.  But of all the cookie seasons in the year, it’s Valentine’s Day I love the best.  It’s an excuse for my daughter and me to spend a day playing with icing – dotting, stippling, marbling and brushing gingerbread hearts into edible works of art.

The only problem is making up our minds to eat them.

Click here to read Valentine Hearts That Are Meant to Be Be Broken at NPR’s Kitchen Window.  Or, if you like, browse all my Kitchen Window stories for NPR.

The gingerbread cookie recipe from Cooks’ Illustrated‘s The New Best Recipe is featured in this story.  You can read more about this book – and over 250+ cookbooks worth giving this holiday! – on my cookbook-rating app, Cookbook Finder.  Available for both  iPhone/iPad and Android devices and updated regularly.


valentines cookies 1

Gingerbread hugs and fond wishes to all our friends and acquaintances, single or paired.  May we all be lucky in love this year!

valentines cookies 2This year’s batch of cookies is brought to you courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated’s The New Best Recipe (“Thin, Crisp Gingerbread Cookies”).  I also used a tried-and-true royal icing recipe from Julia Usher’s Cookie Swap. (Another terrific source for old-fashioned, charming decorated cookies is Nancy Baggett’s Simply Sensational Cookies.)

I decided to just go for top-coating and marbling this year – you use icing with the same consistency for both.  As always, the marbling effects work best when the icing’s fresh, and as always, drawing little hearts in the icing never works as well as expected.  Still, there are few things I like better than dragging a toothpick through stripes and spirals and dots of wet icing.  Feels like a trip, but it’s all good clean fun…

Also in the plan were piping (firmer icing) and beadwork (looser icing), but after waking up after last night’s décor marathon with a sugar headache and chills, I decided that dragées and luster dust would have to suffice.  Till next year anyway!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody!

As the mother of a 5-year-old daughter who loves cookies, baking, hearts, and decorating anything (not to mention being myself a former 5-year-old who loved cookies, baking, hearts, and decorating anything), I’ve been wanting to make these ever since I saw them in Julia Usher’s Cookie Swap, published in 2009.

But back then the daughter was 3, the son was 8, and the mother was on more deadlines than she knew what to do with.  Valentine’s Day 2010 passed with no marbled heart cookies, and so did Valentine’s Day 2011.  2012 looked as if it would go the same way–mom about to go to a conference, the usual pile of deadlines, and the cookie paraphernalia buried who-knows-where in the pantry.  Still, I ordered a set of Ateco heart cutters before I left, hoping they just might arrive on time.

And I stole out of the conference mid-session to go to that mecca of sugarcraft, NY Cake and Baking Supply, where I found the Chefmaster Liqua-Gel and silver dragées that could make these long-delayed hearts a glittering reality.

With only one alteration (subbing butter for shortening, ’cause Crisco gives me the heebie-jeebies), Zoe and I somehow managed to bake the gingerbread cookies, mix up the royal icings, and decorate two batches of cookies in time for Valentine’s Day–even turning out a few with spectacular marbling effects, thanks to some deft work with a toothpick.

Dinner was late, the table covered in frosting, I missed one self-imposed deadline, and woke up with a sinus headache from licking sugar off the toothpick, but was it worth it?  Just ask Zoe.

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