As well as being a bit chilly out, there is no avoiding the fact that love is in the air this week. To celebrate St Valentine's Day, why not try making these pretty Mini Heart Cookies by Peggy Porschen - they make a sweet gift to give out to your beau, parents, friends or family and they taste lovely too. 'What makes this particular version so pretty is wrapping the three different shades of pink together in a bag,' says Peggy. 'This idea works for any colour scheme. Instead of using them as favours, you can serve them individually as petits fours, arranged on a cake stand or at the side of a coffee cup.'
Mini Heart Sugar Cookies - makes about 25 medium-size or 12 large cookies
Baking temperature: 180°C, gas 4; baking time: 6–10 minutes, depending on size
200g unsalted soft butter
200g caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
400g plain flour, plus more for dusting
You will need cookie cutters in appropriate shapes
For vanilla cookies, add seeds from 1 vanilla pod
For lemon cookies, add finely grated zest of 1 lemon
For orange cookies, add finely grated zest of 1 orange
For chocolate cookies, replace 50g of the plain flour with 50g cocoa powder
1 In the electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and chosen flavouring until well mixed and just becoming creamy in texture. Don’t overwork, or the cookies will spread during baking.
2 Beat in the egg until well combined. Add the flour and mix on low speed until a dough forms. Gather it into a ball, wrap it in cling film and chill it for at least 1 hour.
3 Place the dough on a floured surface and knead it briefly. Using marzipan spacers, roll it out to an even thickness.
4 Use cookie cutters to cut out the desired shapes and, using a palette knife, lay these on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Chill again for about 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 180°C, gas 4.
5 Bake for 6–10 minutes. depending on size, until golden brown at the edges. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Wrapped in foil or cling film, they will keep well in a cool dry place for up to a month.
Tip: Always bake equally sized cookies together to make sure they cook in the same time. If you mix different sizes, the smaller ones are already cooked when the larger ones are still raw in the middle.
Stiff-peak consistency is best for sticking together cake tiers or sticking decorations on to icing
Soft-peak consistency is best for piping lines, dots and borders
Runny consistency is best for filling in the centre of spaces
makes about 1kg
about 25g Meri-White (dried egg white powder) or whites of 4 medium eggs
1 kg icing sugar, sifted
squeeze of lemon juice
electric mixer with paddle attachment
wooden spoon or rubber spatula
sealable plastic container
1 If using the Meri-White, mix with water and use as per the packet instructions. Ideally, let this rest overnight in the fridge before use.
2 Place the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, add three-quarters of the Meri-White mix or the lightly beaten egg whites and the lemon juice. Start mixing on low speed.
3 Once well combined, check the consistency. If the sides of the bowl still look dry and crumbly, add some more Meri-White or egg white until the icing looks almost smooth but not wet.
4 Keep mixing on low speed for about 4-5 minutes, until it has reached stiff-peak consistency.
5 Spoon into a sealable plastic container, cover with a clean damp J-cloth and the lid. Store at room temperature for up to 7 days; if using fresh egg, store in the refrigerator. The egg white can separate from the sugar after a couple of days, which will turn the icing into a dry, dense mixture. In such a case, remix at low speed until smooth and at stiff-peak consistency again. Make sure that no dried icing bits sticking to the sides of your storage container get into the mixing bowl.
Royal icing consistencies
I refer to the three useful consistencies of royal icing (above), which are important in achieving the right results. Simply thin down your basic royal icing recipe with water, a little bit at a time, using a palette knife, until you have reached the right consistency. Always make sure you keep your icing covered with cling film or a damp cloth when not using it, to stop it from drying out.
For 24 cookies
about 300g royal icing
pink food colour
24 cookies in small heart shapes (about 3.5cm/11⁄2 inch), made using 1⁄2
recipe quantity of sugar cookie dough
small palette knife
paper piping bags
pair of scissors
cling film or damp cloth
8 cellophane bags (optional)
about 4m pink satin ribbon (optional)
1 Start with the lightest shade of pink. In a bowl, mix one-third of the royal icing with a tiny drop of pink food colour to give a pastel-pink shade. Add a little water until the icing is soft-peak consistency. Put some of the icing into a piping bag. Keep the bowl covered.
2 Snip a small tip off the piping bag and pipe the outline of the heart in a steady smooth line. Outline 8 f the hearts with the pastel-pink icing.
3 Should you have any icing left over in the bag, squeeze it back into the bowl with the remaining pastel-pink icing and dilute it with a few drops of water to a runny consistency. Fill a fresh piping bag with this.
4 Again snip off the tip and fill the centre of the hearts with the runny icing, being careful not to overflow the sides.
5 Repeat steps 1 to 4, using 2 darker shades of pink icing, so you have 8 cookies in each shade.
6 If you like, you can pack 1 of each shade of cookie in a cellophane bag and tie this up decoratively with ribbon.
PEGGY'S FAVOURITE CAKES & COOKIES by PEGGY PORSCHEN, published by Quadrille
Photo © GEORGIA GLYNN SMITH
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