almond-spice candy-glass heart cookies
Until recently, my track record with boys on Valentine’s Day was pret-ty bad. In elementary school, the boy who stared at me worshipfully across our desk cluster also cheated off all of my spelling tests. In high school, I managed to be single every time the day rolled around. In college, my otherwise wonderful boyfriend, who had been raised Modern Orthodox Jewish, missed the boat repeatedly (to be fair, he had no exposure to the holiday whatsoever as a child). In my early twenties, I gave my number to a seemingly promising prospect one Valentines’ Day, only to have him kick me out of his house 2 dates later because I wouldn’t sleep with him upon sight of the salmon and creamed spinach he had cooked me. Another boyfriend gave me – wait for it – a single rose and an extra-large bag of Pop Rocks one year, and the next year, when we were on-again-off-again, he left me an extravagant bouquet of flowers. When I went over to his house that evening, thinking we would talk about getting back together, he was pulling into his driveway with another girl in the passenger seat of his car. He asked if we could postpone the ‘getting-back-together talk’ to the next day and then took the other girl into his house.
This is all true.
So last year, when I had maybe the first really great Valentine’s Day ever with a boy, I was pretty surprised. And this one’s off to a wonderful, if low-key start, with the same surprising sir. This morning I received some lovely flowers and an even lovelier card, and although all we have planned is Sherlock Holmes 2 at the drive-in, I think it’s going to be a pretty great night.
In the past, Valentine’s Day has usually been fun because of the women in my life. My mom and grandmothers always send me charming valentines (thanks for the crafty one this year, Mom!), and since none of my girlfriends or I have ever wanted to feel enraged/sorrowful when we’ve been single on Valentine’s Day, we’ve gone out to dance around raging wasted, stayed in to gossip through a movie, or baked delicious treats for one another. In fact, the first time I ever made a(n even less impressive) version of these cookies was with 2 girlfriends and some beers in a ramshackle dorm kitchen on a toaster-sized cookie sheet circa 2003.
Women have been the loves in my life who have loved me through my hearbreaks. That’s why only half of these cookies are for a boy and the other half are for my darling lady-roommate. Pair them with a handmade valentine and your sweetie (whether GF, BF, or BFF) will surely melt… like hard candy into your heart-shaped soul-hole. (Sorry, I just had to.)
The answer to both of the burning (pun intended) questions 1) Can you fit two hard candies in each cookie? and 2) Can you bake these on a cookie sheet without parchment paper? is a resounding NO. I had to tinker and finesse different things as I went along, since the dough’s a little hard to work with (but have patience – it’s so delicious in the end!), so I was constantly reworking the experimental recipe to get it sort-of right. Not a bad lesson for a Valentine’s Day, though – after all, isn’t that what love is all about?
• 1 stick softened, unsalted butter
• heaping ¼ c white sugar
• 2 tsp almond extract
• ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (seriously, it’s the best! Any combination you like of cinnamon, nutmeg, and other such spices will do, though.)
• ½ tsp baking powder
• ¼ tsp salt
• 1 c flour (I know my audience, so I’m using ½ c of almond flour and ½ c of regular flour), plus more for rolling
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add almond extract, baking powder, spices, salt, and flour. Chill for at least 30 minutes and gently roll out one quarter of the dough at a time on a well-floured surface, cutting dough into large hearts and then cutting smaller hearts out of the centers.
Using a spatula, place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and drop one hard candy or two different-colored halves into each center. Bake at 400° for 7-9 minutes, or until just brown at the edges. Cool completely and remove carefully from paper before decorating.
• ½ c confectioner’s sugar
• 1 tsp almond extract
• 2 tsp milk, juice or water
Whisk the confectioner’s sugar, almond extract, and other liquid. Brush over cooled cookies and decorate as desired with red-hots, sprinkles, nut pieces, coconut, or more powdered sugar. Yields about 12 large cookies. Prepare to be wooed.
• Use shortening instead of butter to make this vegan
• Cut out the 2 tsp of liquid in the glaze to make a thicker white icing.
• Try with your favorite sugar cookie or gingerbread recipe!