More sweet treats for your sweets this Valentine’s Day.
This year has been a veritable Valentine extravaganza at our house and we’re still weeks away from the actual day. We’ve got cards underway and have tested loads of treat options. Unlike years past, I didn’t want to be unprepared and uninspired as we got closer to Valentine’s Day. Emma and Katie are both very interested in celebrating whatever holiday is coming and so, it means we are baking, eating and sharing a lot of treats.
These shortbread cookies are a staple in our house during the holidays, and it took quite an effort to settle upon this recipe. My friend D and I made an attempt at baking shortbread years ago. After 6 failed batches in one day (yes, you read that correctly, six!), we threw in the towel and I vowed never to try baking shortbread again. Thankfully, my memory failed me and the following Christmas, I tried again and settled on this easy, yet rich and flavourful version.
This year, we’ve even added them into our Valentine’s repertoire. I’m convinced that it is because they are so good, but it’s probably also because we didn’t really have our normal Christmas fix of them due to the 95-hour Christmas Candlelight Vigil. The girls fall over themselves for these delicious morsels. It’s really a toss up here on what we’ll be enjoying for our Valentine dessert: these shortbread hearts, these Chocolate Cinnamon Hearts or these Double Chocolate Brownie Cakes. Maybe we’ll have a little of each.
Chocolate-dipped Classic Shortbread Hearts
adapted ever-so-slightly from Ina Garten’s Shortbread Cookies
(72 1 1/2″ hearts, or 32-36 bars)
- 1 1/2 cups salted butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 5-10 squares of milk chocolate (optional, for dipping)
In the large bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until just combined. Mix in the vanilla, and lower the speed of the mixer. Add the flour, a cup or so at a time and mix until the dough begins to come together.
Divide the dough into 3 pieces and form each piece into a flattened rectangle. Wrap each tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
When the dough is chilled and rested, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the over to 350F.
Remove the first batch of dough from the refrigerator and let it warm for 5 minutes or so. Gently, roll it out to 1/2″ thickness between two pieces of parchment paper. Do this too forcefully and you might find the edges cracking. Remove the top sheet of parchment and use a 1 1/2″ heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the cookies. Place the cut cookies on to the prepared baking sheet about 1/2″ apart and continue to roll and cut the dough until it is all gone.
Bake the cookies for 18-22 minutes, swapping the baking sheets halfway through the total time, until the edges are just barely golden. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes and then remove them to cool completely on baking racks.
To dress the hearts in chocolate: When the cookies are completely cooled, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper again.
Melt a few pieces of dark chocolate uncovered in a microwave-safe bowl or cup at 50% power for 45 seconds. Stir. If it’s not completely smooth, heat it again at 50% power for up to 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. Take care to not overheat the chocolate (stay below 88F) or else it will no longer be tempered and when it cools, you will end up with streaks through it.
When the chocolate is smooth, dip the cookies, one by one, halfway into the chocolate. Lift out and let the excess drip off. Place the cookie right side up on the parchment paper and continue with the remaining cookies until they are all dipped. Let the chocolate set, about 5 minutes.
Tips and Suggestions:
- These shortbread cookies are awesome on their own without chocolate or with some additions including:
- finely chopped dried cherries and drizzled or dipped in dark chocolate
- chopped dried apricots and drizzled or dipped in white chocolate
- mini chocolate chips
- Often, I’ll make multiple batches of this dough and rather than bake right away, have them ready and waiting for when we need them. If the dough has been in the refrigerator for more than 30 minutes, give it a little time to warm up to slightly cooler than room temperature. Also, when rolling out the dough, don’t put too much pressure on to the rolling pin to flatten out the dough. You’ll find the edges will crack dramatically and you’ll just end up re-rolling and then trying to cut the cookies.
- No heart-shaped cookie cutters for you? Making these into bars is super simple. Just roll out the dough to your desired thickness and using a long sharp knife, cut a grid pattern on to the dough. Take each cookie and place it on to the baking sheets and bake, keeping an eye on the timing.
Gorgeous! You know I love a good shortbread cookie. I have a bag of chocolate-dusted almonds that are begging to be used. I think I need to grind them into shortbread cookies now. YUM!
It’s been so long since I’ve had ground almonds in shortbread. What a wonderful idea. You should get on that now so I can enjoy them vicariously through you!
I’ll see what I can do!