Category Archives: Valentine’s Day

Red Velvet Cheesecake Thumbprints

Red Velvet Cheesecake ThumbprintsIt’s a tradition of mine to make a red velvet treat for Oscar Night, which happens to be this Sunday. It’s sort of my “thing.” Red Velvet Cheesecake ThumbprintsYes, I know the Oscars are silly, but I, too, am silly. Also, I love a theme, especially when it means I get to watch 15 or 20 movies, cheer/curse/cry at my TV and eat red velvet baked goods. There was once a whole meal I made only for this occasion, but over the years it’s been reduced down to a “red velvet something.” This is what restraint looks like for me.

As far as the red velvet something goes, it could be the classic cake or cookies or a cookie cake—it’s just got to have that perfect mix of chocolate and vanilla flavors, preferably have a cream cheese element, and be an astonishing shade of crimson. Or, as I like to explain it, it has to be red like the red carpet.Red Velvet Cheesecake ThumbprintsThis year’s treat? Red Velvet Cheesecake Thumbprints. They’re exactly what they sound like—red velvet cookies with little wells of cheesecake baked into their centers—and they are also as delicious as you’d expect. Chocolate, vanilla and tangy cheesecake are a match made in heaven. And also my kitchen. And soon, yours.Red Velvet Cheesecake ThumbprintsThe base for these cookies is a slight variation on my Red Velvet Cut-Out Cookie dough; as with my sugar cookie-based thumbprints, the “variation” is a reduction of baking powder. The dough is mixed ahead of time and chilled before being scooped, formed into balls, and rolled in sugar for both texture and sparkle.

I mean, I guess you could skip the roll in sugar if you want, but you’d be missing out on a crisp sugar crust/sugar cookie/squidgy cheesecake textural experience *and* sparkle. Sparkle is very important on Oscar Night.Red Velvet Cheesecake ThumbprintsNext come the thumbprints or, if you want to keep things transparent, spoon-prints. Each sugar-crusted dough ball is indented with the back of a rounded 1/2 teaspoon measure. You could, of course, do this with your thumb, but a spoon is a more accurate (and less messy) tool for the job.Red Velvet Cheesecake ThumbprintsThe cookies are baked at a fairly low temperature (300F for ten minutes) before the thumbprints are deepened and widened with the back of a 1 teaspoon measure. Oh, and filled with cheesecake ♥️Red Velvet Cheesecake ThumbprintsAfter ten more minutes in the oven, the cookies will be set and the cheesecake will be a little puffy. Let them cool to room temperature—the centers will deflate a bit—before chilling for at least 45 minutes. You want those little wells of cheesecake to be nice and cold when you’re snacking on them mid-Oscar broadcast.Red Velvet Cheesecake ThumbprintsIf you don’t have traditions and superstitions (and an entire friendship) based around an awards show, you can make these Red Velvet Cheesecake Thumbprints for Valentine’s Day. They’re the right color *and* they’re full of cheesecake. Nothing says love like cheesecake.Red Velvet Cheesecake Thumbprints

Red Velvet Cheesecake Thumbprints
makes 3.5 dozen cookies

Cookie Dough:
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 ounces (1/2 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon red gel food coloring

Cheesecake Filling:
4 ounces (1/2 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Rolling:
1/4 cup granulated sugar

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Cream in granulated sugar, followed by the egg, egg yolk, vinegar, vanilla extract, and gel food coloring. Add dry ingredients in 3 installments, combining completely after each. Divide dough into quarters and wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 3 hours, or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 300F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Make the cheesecake filling. In a small mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in sugar, followed by egg yolk and vanilla. Transfer to a piping bag (or ziptop sandwich bag). Set aside.

Place rolling sugar in a small bowl.

Scoop cookie dough by the tablespoon and roll into balls. Roll each ball in sugar and place at least 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Use the back of a rounded 1/2 teaspoon to slowly press a well into each dough ball. They may crack a bit—just carefully press/pinch big cracks back together with your fingers.

Bake cookies 10 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven, then carefully press the back of a rounded 1 teaspoon measuring spoon into the centers again. Pipe cheesecake filling into each well. Carefully tap the pan on the counter a couple of times to release large air bubbles. Bake cookies another 10 minutes, until cheesecake is set and a bit puffed.

Let cookies cool on the pans for 10 minutes before carefully removing to a rack to cool completely. Cheesecake will deflate a bit. Repeat rolling and baking process with all remaining dough, letting the cookie sheets come back to room temperature between batches.

Refrigerate cookies for at least 45 minutes, until chilled, before serving. Leftovers may be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.Red Velvet Cheesecake ThumbprintsRed Velvet Cheesecake ThumbprintsRed Velvet Cheesecake Thumbprints

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Buttercreams

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry ButtercreamsI am irrationally irritated by the fact that strawberries are so popular in Valentine’s Day treats. The amount of time I spend stewing over this sort of thing is more than a little ridiculous, but can you blame me? Strawberries aren’t in season right now—most of the punnets in the produce section have the flavor and texture of a styrofoam cup, but they are red and pretty, so there’s no doubt that this February crop will sell like hotcakes* for years to come.

*This is a thing my mother says. I have never said this before today. I barely understand the metaphor. Lord help me.Chocolate-Covered Strawberry ButtercreamsPersonally, I like to bypass the off-season fruit this time of year and reach for freeze-dried strawberries instead. I buy ‘em at Trader Joe’s, whirl them into powder and fold it into all sorts of things. They deliver big fresh strawberry flavor anytime of year and I love the natural pink color they provide, especially in buttercream frosting.Chocolate-Covered Strawberry ButtercreamsFluffy buttercream with a fresh strawberry punch? Sign. me. up ❤Chocolate-Covered Strawberry ButtercreamsFrosting is, of course, most traditionally used as a flourish on cakes and cookies and bars, but today, I’m putting it in the spotlight with these Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Buttercreams!Chocolate-Covered Strawberry ButtercreamsChocolate-Covered Strawberry ButtercreamsThese bite-sized bonbons have sweet, creamy strawberry buttercream centers, a crackly coat of dark chocolate coating, and a smattering of sprinkles—I don’t know about you, but that combination of things is definitely the way to my heart.Chocolate-Covered Strawberry ButtercreamsAdd to that that these no-bake beauties are are simple to make and keep for days on end (as long as your heavy cream stays good), and you’ve got a Valentine’s Day treat that’ll have people lining up to get your number.Chocolate-Covered Strawberry ButtercreamsI mean, they may only want it so that they can get more homemade candy, but is that such a bad thing?Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Buttercreams

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Buttercreams
makes about 5 dozen candies

1 1.2-ounce package freeze dried strawberries
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons heavy cream
16 ounces dark chocolate (not chocolate chips)
sprinkles (optional)

Place freeze dried strawberries in a food processor and process until they are powder, about 30 seconds.

In a medium-large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, beat in confectioner’s sugar, strawberry powder, and salt. Mixture may be alarmingly crumbly—this is normal. Add vanilla and heavy cream. Beat until thick and very fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Press a sheet of plastic wrap to the surface of the frosting. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to a day.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Remove chilled frosting from the refrigerator and discard the plastic wrap. Scoop frosting by the teaspoon, roll into balls, and place on prepared pan. Coating your palms in confectioner’s sugar will help the rolling process. Chill rolled frosting uncovered for one hour.

Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to chop chocolate. Place in a microwave-safe bowl. Melt chocolate in 30 second increments, stirring between, until smooth. Alternatively, melt chocolate in a double boiler. Let cool five minutes.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Remove buttercream balls from the refrigerator.

To dip, drop one ball of buttercream into the melted chocolate. Use a fork to coat buttercream in chocolate. Drain briefly by scraping the tines of the fork on the edge of the bowl. Use the fork to gently lay the buttercream on the prepared pan. Immediately top with sprinkles, if using. Continue until all buttercreams have been coated and topped. Chocolate may be re-warmed in 15 second increments as needed.

Chill buttercreams for at least fifteen minutes before serving. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry ButtercreamsChocolate-Covered Strawberry Buttercreams

Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies

Chocolate Cut-Out CookiesI’m not sure exactly how I’ve allowed 3+ years to go by without giving you my recipe for Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies, but I’m happy to be rectifying that travesty today.Chocolate Cut-Out CookiesI mean, how dare I deprive you of this dead-easy recipe for these deeply chocolaty, shockingly tender blank-slate cookies for 362 posts! How. Dare. I.Chocolate Cut-Out CookiesYou may think I’m being dramatic—they’re cookies, not rocket science—but these are really delicious. Like more chocolaty than any plain, no-frills cookie really ought to be.Chocolate Cut-Out CookiesChocolate Cut-Out CookiesSo rich and buttery and utterly decadent that you’d be more than happy to eat them by their lonesome…Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies…but then you’d be missing out on the cheeriness that comes with a layer of my go-to Quick-Dry Royal Icing.Chocolate Cut-Out CookiesOr perhaps you, like me, prefer your cookies and icing with a little light-hearted snark. I’m not one of those people that hates Valentine’s Day—far from it—but I do prefer a more tongue-in-cheek approach over the traditional syrupy-sweet message.Chocolate Cut-Out CookiesPerhaps I’ve had my heart broken one too many times. Or maybe I just know exactly what I want: a man who will tolerate me for all my weirdness and vast amount of baking equipment.Chocolate Cut-Out CookiesYes. That and a pile of cookies.Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies

Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies
makes about 2 dozen 3-inch cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Quick-Dry Royal Icing, for decorating (recipe below)

Special Equipment:
rolling pin
graduated cookie cutters

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in granulated and light brown sugars, followed by the egg and vanilla extract. Add dry ingredients in 3 installments, combining completely after each. Dough may seem a bit crumbly, but will hold together well when pinched. Divide dough into quarters and wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 3 hours, or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.

Lightly flour a surface and a rolling pin. Take one quarter of chilled dough at a time, roll it to 1/4-inch thickness, and cut with cookie cutters. Place cut cookies at least 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake cookies 10-12 minutes, until soft but no longer raw-looking. Let cookies cool on the pans for 10 minutes before carefully removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat rolling, cutting, and baking with any remaining dough.

Decorate cookies with Quick-Dry Royal Icing and allow to dry.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a week.

Quick-Dry Royal Icing
recipe barely adapted from SugarDeaux

3 tablespoons meringue powder
5 ounces warm water
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract (optional)
2 pounds confectioner’s sugar, divided
1 tablespoon corn syrup
water

Special Equipment:
small bowls
gel food coloring
piping bags (or plastic sandwich bags)
small round piping tips and couplers
squeeze bottles
toothpicks
sprinkles

In a large mixing bowl, combine meringue powder and warm water. Beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until doubled in size, about 1 minute. Mix in cream of tartar, vanilla, and almond extract. With the mixer running on low, add 1 pound of confectioner’s sugar. Mix in corn syrup. Add the remaining pound of confectioner’s sugar. Scrape down the bowl before beating on medium-low for an additional 30 seconds.

Divide icing among small bowls. Press plastic wrap to the surface of all exposed icing.

Make outline icing. Working with one bowl of icing at a time, add water 1/2 teaspoon at a time until icing dribbled into the bowl forms a ribbon that fades within a few seconds. Stir in gel food coloring until the desired color is reached. Place 1/4 cup of icing into a piping bag with a tip. Alternatively, load icing into a plastic sandwich bag and snip a very tiny corner. Outline all cookies. Set aside to dry while you prepare fill icing.

Add water by the 1/2 teaspoon until the ribbon of icing fades into the bowls within 2 seconds. Load icing into squeeze bottles. Working with one cookie at a time, fill icing into outlined sections. Use toothpicks to coax fill icing evenly to the outlines.

Decorate with more icing or sprinkles, as desired. Let cookies dry uncovered at room temperature for 4-6 hours. For 3D decorations, use outline icing to decorate dried cookies and allow to sit uncovered for another 3-4 hours.

Iced cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.Chocolate Cut-Out CookiesChocolate Cut-Out Cookies

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadAs with everything else in life, patience is a huge part of being a food blogger. For instance, I first made a version of these cookies for an order last April and knew immediately that I wanted to put them on the blog…but who eats shortbread in April?

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadI’m sure someone does, but most everybody I know reserves it for Christmas, so I waited. And then December came and went, and nary a shortbread made an appearance on this blog. I suppose I could have held out for the end of the year, but instead I’m making shortbread for Valentine’s Day and you should too.

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadI mean, all shortbread is good—it’s basically a vehicle for eating copious amounts of butter and sugar in polite company. But this isn’t just any shortbread.

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadThis version is made with brown butter. It’s one of my very favorite ingredients (see here, here, and here), producing baked goods with a nutty aroma and incomparable depth of flavor.

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadBrown butter is good in basically everything, but it really shines in these simple six-ingredient cookies. See those dark specks? Those are browned milk solids—tiny bits of flavor alllllll over the place, y’all!

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadAnd then, as if things could possibly get better, the baked shortbread are dipped in melted dark chocolate.

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadTender, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth brown butter shortbread dipped. in. chocolate.

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadOh my word.

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadYou could certainly leave the chocolate half plain, but I am not the sort of baker who leaves things plain. I used my fanciest chocolate sprinkles here (they’re called hagelslag—try ‘em on buttered toast). Coarse salt works too, if you didn’t run out over Christmas and then totally forget to replenish your stash for two months. I wouldn’t know anything about that though. Nope.Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter ShortbreadThere’s something luxurious about the name of this recipe, and they certainly look fancy, but I assure you that these Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread are as easy as they are delicious. I made them five times this week (and in multiple shapes!), so I know.

Another thing I know? If someone presented me with a batch of these, I’d definitely feel loved.Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread
makes about 36 2-inch cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
4 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Chocolate Dip:
8 ounces pure dark chocolate, chopped
chocolate sprinkles (hagelslag) or coarse salt, for garnish (optional)

Brown the butter. Place butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat. Let butter melt. Butter will bubble and crackle as the water content evaporates. Swirl the pan frequently for 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on the color. When the solids are turning brown and the butter is nutty and fragrant, remove the pot from the heat and immediately pour the brown butter into a small bowl. Let it cool a bit before refrigerating until solid (a few hours or overnight). When you are ready to bake, soften the solid brown butter to room temperature

Place softened brown butter in a medium-large mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to beat it until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Add dark brown and confectioners sugars and mix until fluffy. Mix in vanilla and salt. With the mixer on low, beat in flour. Dough will be crumbly looking, but should hold together very well when pinched. Divide dough in two parts.

Working with one half at a time, sandwich dough between two pieces of parchment paper and roll until 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to the freezer (on a baking sheet, if desired) for 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough. It is okay to stack the sheets of dough in the freezer.

While the dough is freezing, place racks in the center positions. Preheat the oven to 300F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Remove one sheet of dough from the freezer. Peel on of the pieces of parchment off. Use a lightly floured 2-inch cookie cutter to cut cookies. Place them close together on prepared pans. Repeat with remaining dough. Scraps can be re-rolled, frozen, and cut.

Bake cookies for 21-23 minutes, or until no longer shiny. Let cool on the pans for 7 minutes. Use a thin spatula (not your fingers!) to remove cookies to cooling racks to cool completely.

Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave (30 second increments, stirring in between). Dip each cookie halfway and place on prepared pans. Scatter sprinkles or coarse salt over the top. Repeat with remaining cookies. Chocolate will set after a couple of hours at room temperature, or a few minutes in the freezer.

Shortbread will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.

Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread

Strawberry Sugar Cookie Squares

Strawberry Sugar Cookie SquaresDoes anyone else think it’s weird that strawberries are considered Valentine’s Day-appropriate? I mean, I get that they’re an aphrodisiac and that their red color goes with the whole lovey-dovey puffy heart aesthetic of the holiday, but strawberries aren’t in season in February.

Strawberry Sugar Cookie SquaresBefore I go any further: yes, I know that we live in a time where fresh strawberries are available year-round. I saw huge displays of them at Trader Joe’s yesterday. Available or not though, the fact remains that a mid-winter strawberry will never be as good as one you have in June. Period. End of story.

Strawberry Sugar Cookie SquaresAll that said, today I’m bringing you some Strawberry Sugar Cookie Squares. They may not be seasonal, but they are pink, fabulous, easy, and totally perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Strawberry Sugar Cookie SquaresStrawberry Sugar Cookie SquaresStrawberry Sugar Cookie SquaresThe strawberry flavor in these sweet squares comes from freeze dried strawberries. Their concentrated flavor, lack of moisture, year-round availability, and consistent quality make them perfect for all sorts of baked goods, especially cookies and bars. Here they’re pulverized in a food processor until they’re nothing but powder and then whipped into sugar cookie dough and a batch of fluffy buttercream.

Strawberry Sugar Cookie SquaresStrawberry Sugar Cookie SquaresStrawberry Sugar Cookie SquaresStrawberry Sugar Cookie SquaresStrawberry Sugar Cookie SquaresStrawberry Sugar Cookie SquaresThese squares must be baked to be believed—if you’re into strawberry desserts, this recipe is absolutely for you. The strawberry flavor is decidedly real, unlike anything you’ll find in a boxed mix.

Strawberry Sugar Cookie SquaresOh, did I mention that there’s no food coloring in these bars? That happy pink color is all from the pulverized strawberries 🙂

Well, I suppose there is food coloring in the sprinkles, but they’re just so cute! Feel free to leave them off though if sprinkles aren’t your thing.Strawberry Sugar Cookie Squares

(They are definitely my thing. They are basically my favorite thing.)

Strawberry Sugar Cookie SquaresMake these Strawberry Sugar Cookie Squares for someone you love ❤Strawberry Sugar Cookie Squares

Strawberry Sugar Cookie Squares
makes one 9-inch pan, about 9-16 bars

Cookie Layer:
1 1.2-ounce package freeze dried strawberries
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Frosting:
1 1.2-ounce package freeze dried strawberries
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
5-6 tablespoons heavy cream
sprinkles, for decorating (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square pan with foil and grease lightly. Set aside.

Make the cookie layer. Place freeze dried strawberries in a food processor and process until they are powder, about 30 seconds. Set aside.

In a medium-large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in sugar, followed by egg, yolk, and vanilla. Add strawberry powder, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt, and mix until combined. Dough will be thick.

Press dough into prepared pan with a silicone spatula or lightly-oiled hands. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until no longer wet-looking. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Let cookie layer cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Make the frosting. Place freeze dried strawberries in a food processor and process until they are powder, about 30 seconds.

In a medium-large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, beat in confectioner’s sugar, strawberry powder, and salt. Mixture may be alarmingly crumbly—this is normal. Add vanilla and 5 tablespoons of heavy cream. Beat until very fluffy, about 2 minutes. If desired, mix in another tablespoon of heavy cream until the proper consistency is reached.

Remove foil from the cookie layer and place on a cutting board. Spread a thick layer of frosting over the cookie later. Top with sprinkles, if desired. Let sit at room temperature for minutes, or until frosting crusts a bit.

Use a large, sharp chef’s knife, slice into squares. Wipe knife clean between cuts.

Serve squares. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days or in the refrigerator for up to five.

Strawberry Sugar Cookie Squares