Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Treats

I feel like I've been doing a little too much baking recently (is there such a thing?) and do intend to tone it down (if not for the sake of buttoning my pants, then at least to salvage my social life)...but being Valentine's and all, I needed to do just a little bit more baking this weekend. As I've said before, I like to show my love for someone by filling them up with delicious foods, and cookies and brownies happen to be two delicious foods that go very well with Valentine's Day. So I made some sugar cookies and some red velvet cheesecake brownies.


For the cookies, I used Martha Stewart's recipe for Conversation Heart Cookies - I didn't add the messages, but I made the sugar cookies and used different pinks, purple and red frosting to decorate them.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.


Cream butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy.


With mixer running, add egg and vanilla.


Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture gradually, beating until just incorporated. After doing this my mixture was still very dry - definitely not dough consistency. I thought about adding more butter (which probably would have been the right thing to do) but opted for adding milk, and mixed/kneaded it in with my hands. I added a total of 3 tablespoons of milk to a double batch of cookies.


Divide dough in half (or if doubling the recipe, in fourths), flatten each section into a disk, and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least one hour.


Preheat oven to 325 degrees with racks in top third and lower third. Let 1 disk of dough stand at room temperature until just soft enough to roll, about 10 minutes. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to just under 1/4-inch thickness, adding more flour add needed to keep dough from sticking.


Cut out cookies with a 2-inch heart cutter and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet (Martha says to place them 2 inches apart but they can be closer). Freeze until very firm, about 15 minutes.


Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through and switching from top to bottom, until edges turn golden brown, about 14-16 minutes. I made some cookies with 2-inch hearts and some with smaller hearts, so adjust the baking time according to the size of the cookies.


To make the icing, I followed Martha's recipe for Royal Icing. I don't know what she does with her icing, but this made about 10 times too much - and I didn't even double the icing recipe! So if you make this, you can greatly reduce the amount you make.

Combine sifted confectioners sugar and meringue powder in a large bowl and whisk to combine. 


Gradually add water, mixing until the consistency reaches that of thick honey.


Separate icing into bowls and tint with desired colors of gel-paste food coloring.

(the upper left bowl looks blue in the picture but was really a violet color).


I started to ice the cookies by putting the icing in a bag and puncturing a whole in the corner. It turned out to be a slow process, so instead I just used a butter knife and iced the cookies.


So I have to say - I'm a big fan of Martha's and I think she's a very smart and creative woman. These cookies, however, are not her finest. The dough was dry, it involved many steps (making the dough, chilling the dough, rolling and cutting cookies, freezing the cut-outs, baking and switching levels halfway through) and the end result wasn't anything amazing (don't get me wrong - I still "taste-tested" many of the cookies). If you're looking for a great sugar cookie recipe, I wouldn't use this one. Instead I'd use this, which I used when I made Christmas cookies that turned out fantastic. And the best part? Its half the work to make the cookies and icing, and the recipe is from Cooking Light, so they're better for you!

If you do want to make Martha's version - you can find the cookie recipe here and the icing recipe here.

Now on to the Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies (which did not disappoint in the slightest!)...

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch metal baking pan, then put a long piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, letting the parchment extend up two sides of the pan and overhang slightly on both ends (this will make it a lot easier to lift the brownies out of the pan after baking).

In a small bowl, melt butter and chocolate together. I did this in the microwave and it took exactly 1 minute on high to melt.


Stir until combined and very smooth, then set aside to cool for a couple minutes.


In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, vanilla and red food coloring.


Add chocolate mixture and stir until smooth. 


Add flour and salt and stir until just combined and no streaks of dry ingredients remain.


Pour into the pan and spread into an even layer.


Beat cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth.  


Distribute the cheesecake mixture in 9 dollops over the batter in the pan (I had extra so it ended up making a layer on top). Swirl into the brownies with a butter knife.


Bake for 35-40 minutes, until brownies and cheesecake are set. Edges should be lightly browned and knife inserted into pan should come out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack before lifting out the parchment paper to remove brownies.


I found this recipe on Sweet Pea Kitchen's blog - here.

Ingredients
For the brownies - 
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp red food coloring
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
For the cheesecake -
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch metal baking pan, then put a long piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, letting the parchment extend up two sides of the pan and overhang slightly on both ends (this will make it a lot easier to lift the brownies out of the pan after baking).
  2. In a small bowl, melt butter and chocolate together. I did this in the microwave and it took exactly 1 minute on high to melt. Stir until combined and very smooth, then set aside to cool for a couple minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, vanilla and red food coloring. Add chocolate mixture and stir until smooth. Add flour and salt and stir until just combined and no streaks of dry ingredients remain.
  4. Pour into the pan and spread into an even layer.
  5. Beat cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth.  Distribute the cheesecake mixture in 9 dollops over the batter in the pan (I had extra so it ended up making a layer on top). Swirl into the brownies with a butter knife.
  6. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until brownies and cheesecake are set. Edges should be lightly browned and knife inserted into pan should come out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack before lifting out the parchment paper to remove brownies.

These brownies are amazing. Dark chocolate deliciousness with creamy topping - and the red is very festive! I cut these up into small squares and put them in cupcake liners and brought a plate over to see some friends last night - everyone loved these and most went back for seconds!

Happy Valentine's Day! 


 xoxo Emily

1 comment:

  1. look at all these treats! YUM! happy valentine's day!

    ReplyDelete