Made with Love: How to Create Beautiful Heart Cookies for Valentine's Day
Instead of buying a box of chocolates or conversation hearts, we're celebrating Valentine's Day by baking cookies. (Christmas isn't the only holiday deserving of beautiful cookies.) Using our trusty recipe for sugar cookie dough, we used patchwork, painted, and striped techniques to design lovely details right onto the cookie without using frosting or sprinkles. We cut out our cookies in heart shapes for Valentine's Day, but you could play around with any cookie cutter shape for any holiday or occasion. Maybe star shapes for the Oscars, shamrocks for St. Patricks' Day, trees for Christmas, or flowers for a spring or summer gathering—anything you can think of.
To achieve this fancy cookie look, divide the dough into two or three portions and add food coloring to portions as desired. Roll out each portion as directed. Use small cookie cutters—think 1 to 1½-inch—to cut out shapes from each color and replace with cutout shapes of another color. For example, if you leave a portion of your dough uncolored and color another portion red, put red cutouts in the uncolored dough and uncolored cutouts in the red dough. Cut out with larger cookie cutters—2 to 3-inch cutters work great—and bake as directed.
Test Kitchen Tip: Mix 1 teaspoon vodka with ½ teaspoon luster dust, then brush onto cooled cookies. If you haven't worked with luster dust before, using alcohol with luster dust works better than water because most luster dusts aren't water-soluble. It also evaporates faster than water so your cookies set up more quickly. It's not necessary to use vodka, though; any clear alcohol or clear alcohol-based extracts such as lemon or vanilla will work.
If you've never used cookies as an art canvas before, now is your chance! Roll out your cookie dough to create your painting surface. Combine a few drops of red or pink food coloring with 1 tablespoon water and 1 egg white. Repeat for as many colors as you want to paint. Using a small pastry brush or clean paintbrush dedicated to cooking purposes, brush dough with swipes of color however you please. Cut them out and bake as directed. Finish cooled cookies with a brush of luster dust mixture, if you like.
It looks super fancy, but making cookies with stripes is pretty simple. Divide your prepared dough into four equal portions. Using food coloring, tint portions various shades of pink and/or red, leaving one portion of dough plain. Working in batches, roll out dough portions and cut into strips of varying widths. If desired, brush with egg white and sprinkle with colored sugar(s), pressing lightly to adhere. Arrange strips next to each other and push together; lightly roll over with rolling pin to seal. Cut out and bake as directed. If desired, finish cooled cookies with a brush of luster dust mixture.
Save your scraps! If you have leftover dough from any of the techniques, try smashing them together, rolling them out, then cutting into hearts again to have a fun marbled effect.