Sunday, February 13, 2011

Grandma Sue's Valentine's Cookies

My grandmother used to send us each a big heart-shaped cookie for Valentine's day.  Each one was uniquely frosted with botanically-correct flowers [She once was an in-house artist for a university botany department] and the cookies were as tasty as they were pretty.  These lemony sugar cookies were my first experience with lemon zest, and for a long time I thought it was weird that Grandma Sue put lemon peels in her cookies, but they sure were tasty.

I deviated from the original recipe by swapping in whole grain flours [shocking, I know] and meyer lemons, plus butter for "oleo" [it has the same water content, and isn't hydrogenated]... but they still taste just right to me.  They're fantastic plain and I don't have Grandma's artistic abilities, but I do like to play with the royal icing.

[I'm sending these to my nieces, whose names all begin with A, as thanks to their mom for sending me maternity clothes.]

Recipe: Sue's Granddaughter's Lemony Valentine's Cookies
Grandma's recipe didn't have any instructions except for the oven temp... and there wasn't an icing written with it, so I had to improvise.  The dough may seem a little dry when you roll it out, but it'll work just fine.  If it cracks, just press it back together.

Lemon Sugar Cookie:
1 stick (4oz) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
zest of one Meyer lemon (or regular lemon)
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 oat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Royal Icing:
1 large egg white, room temp
1 1/2 - 2 cups powdered sugar*
pinch of salt
juice of 1 Meyer lemon (or regular lemon)

Cream together butter, sugar, and zest. Add vanilla and egg and beat on medium high to combine.  Whisk together dry ingredients, then add to the butter mixture.  Beat until just combined, divide into two discs, wrap in plastic, and chill for 10 minutes in the refrigerator. [Or roll into two logs, wrap in plastic and then foil, and freeze for slice-and-bake cookies when you want them.] Heat oven to 400F.

One at a time, roll out each disc on a lightly floured surface or parchment paper until it's  ~1/8" thick, Cut into desired shape.  Transfer to a parchment-lined cookie sheet. [If the cut-outs get too soft to transfer, and you rolled them out on parchment, pop the sheet into the freezer for a couple minutes.] Reserve scraps until both discs have been cut, then roll out scraps once or twice more. [the oat flour will keep it from getting too stiff.]

Bake 7-8 minutes for small cut-outs and 10-12 for large. Cookies should have crackled tops and just a hint of brown around the edges.  Cool completely before icing.

Using a whisk or whisk attachment, whip egg whites at high speed until soft peaks form.  Add sugar and salt and continue whisking on medium-low speed until thick and glossy.  Icing should fall off the whisk in ribbons, not streams.  Add lemon juice and whisk to combine.
Use a funnel to transfer half to a squeeze bottle, and whisk food coloring into the other half,  if desired,  before transferring to another bottle.  [I got a nice strawberry puree pink by adding red and a tiny bit of green.]
Outline the edges of the cookie, then fill in, using the tip of the bottle  to push the icing around, then accent with the alternate color.

JG helped me decorate

* The recipe originally stated 2 1/2 -3 cups powered sugar because I halved everything else in the recipe (I had lots left over) but neglected to adjust the sugar.

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