My Grandmother celebrated her 80th birthday a few weeks ago and at her dinner party, we made little heart-shaped cookies for the guests to bring home. Altogether, it was a time-consuming process; over the course of two days, we made the dough, chilled it, rolled the heart shapes out, chilled the cookies some more, baked the cookies, cooled them on wire racks, made the royal icing, iced the cookies, sprinkled the cookies with hundreds & thousands, and finally, packaged them into little plastic gift bags. The cookies looked – and tasted – better than we could ever have imagined (there is just something about the matte finish of royal icing!) and to see our grandma’s face light up was just really sweet.
Serves: 36 cookies
3 cups (390 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) white caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large (60 grams) egg whites
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
3 cups (330 grams) icing sugar, sifted
1. In a bowl whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda.
2. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric or hand mixer until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).
3. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until combined.
4. Add the flour mixture and beat until a smooth dough is formed. Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in glad-wrap. Refrigerate for about one hour or until firm enough to roll.
5. Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
6. Remove one half of the chilled dough from the refrigerator and on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1 cm in thickness. Using a lightly floured heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out heart shapes. Transfer these cookies to the baking tray, and place the baking tray into the refrigerator for around 1 hour to chill (or however long is needed until cookies are very firm).
7. Bake cookies for about 10-12 minutes or until the edges just start to brown.
8. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Frost with royal icing (see instructions below). Frosted cookies will keep for several days in an airtight container.
For the Royal Icing:
1. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the egg whites with the lemon juice.
2. Add the sifted sugar and beat on low speed until smooth. If necessary, to get the right consistency, add more sugar or water.
3. Add food coloring, if desired. The icing needs to be used immediately or put in an airtight container as it hardens when exposed to air.