Thursday, December 19, 2013

Santa Heart Cookies

Who says that hearts are just for Valentine’s Day? When turned upside down, a heart can also be a Santa face. While I’m sure there is no shortage of Santa cookie cutters this time of year, hearts are always in season—you may even have a heart in your collection already. This is a cute and creative way to transform plain old sugar cookies into sweet, smiling versions of the jolly old elf we all know and love.

With a point fit for a hat and billowing curves for a round full beard, the shape of a heart is a built-in Santa just waiting to come out. A little royal icing finesse makes that possible and brings these cookies to life. Royal icing, thick and snowy white, has always been known to make a big appearance during the holidays. It gives personality to gingerbread men and ladies, and is the glue that holds their houses together. It’s also the stuff that makes cut out cookies look so gorgeous.

Once an outline of a desired shape is piped onto cookies with royal icing—in this case, a hat and beard—thinning, then filling or “flooding” the icing within the lines is an easy technique that yields professional-looking results. To make the icing pourable, add a few drops of water at a time to the confectioners’ sugar/egg white mixture until it is the consistency of thick sauce. To flood, simply spoon the thinned icing into the outlined areas, then fill out the spaces with the tip of a toothpick.

This is a typical sugar cookie recipe made with butter and cream cheese, but these Santas will look and taste just as great as gingerbread cookies. Merry Christmas!

Santa Heart Cookies
Yield: 32 Cookies
-  2 sticks softened butter
-  ¾ cups sugar
-  3 ounces softened cream cheese
-  1 egg
-  1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
-  3 cups flour
Icing (2 cups)
-  2 egg whites
-  ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
-   2 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
-   Red and black food coloring, or red food coloring and black cookie icing  (such as Wilton)
-  Christmas sprinkles (red pearls for nose, snowflakes/white flowers for hat pompom, trees for holly, etc.)
1) In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, cream cheese, egg, and vanilla extract on medium speed until well mixed. When the mixture is light and fluffy, add the flour one cup at a time; mix on low speed until the flour is fully incorporated and the dough is smooth. Divide the dough in half, wrap, and refrigerate 1-2 hours to firm.
2) Preheat oven to 350° F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out thin and even. Cut out heart shapes with a lightly floured heart-shaped cookie cutter. Continue to roll out excess dough and cut shapes. Lay hearts on ungreased baking sheets and bake for 7-10 minutes until golden around the edges. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets, then cool completely on a wire rack.
3) Mix all of the icing ingredients together on medium-high speed for about 10 minutes until stiff peaks. Remove about a quarter of the batch and tint with red food coloring. If not using store-bought black cookie icing, reserve a little extra on the side and tint with black food coloring.
4) Turn the hearts upside down. Using piping bags fitted with a fine round tip or Ziplock bags with small holes cut in the corners, pipe the outline for Santa’s beard along the bottom with the white icing. Outline a triangle shape at the top for the hat with the red icing. In small bowls, thin the white and red icings with water, a few drops at a time, until a thick sauce consistency (make sure to reserve some extra un-thinned white icing.) Spoon each color into its designated outline, filling in the spaces with the tip of a toothpick. Pipe on the mustache with the remaining thick white icing, and the eyes with the black icing. Decorate each cookie with sprinkles while the icing is still wet.

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