Bobbette & Belle’s Decorative Sugar Cookies: Valentine’s Cookies from the Heart (puns!!!)

I know everyone thinks that their mom is great, but mine really is.

For example, she made my lunch for school every day until the day I graduated Grade 12. From time to time, she would surprise me with a decorated cookie in my lunch box (store bought – my mom is an exquisite cook, but a reluctant baker).

After high school, I moved across the country – and for special occasions, my mom would ship me holiday-themed decorated sugar cookies in the mail. She’d often include one for whatever roommate I had at the time, too. And sometimes, I even managed to save the extra one for the roommate and not eat it myself!

A few weeks before Valentine’s Day, I received a parcel in the mail with a couple of these beauties:

sugar-cookies-12

Frankly, it made my day – and it inspired me to try my hand at baking my own special cookies for a few of my beloved Galetines.

I have long admired people who pipe and flood beautiful cookies, but I have never really given it a try myself. One of my goals for 2018 (besides measuring my ingredients by weight, not by volume) is to work at making my baking more “pretty”. [Note – yes, I wrote this blog post LAST YEAR for Valentine’s Day…]┬áMy baked goods usually taste wonderful (which is the top priority, I would argue), but they are sometimes lackluster from an aesthetic point of view. Prettily piped cookies seemed them to be a good exercise for flexing my beautiful baking muscles.

sugar-cookies-1

I was surprised to find that my Dorie’s Cookies cookbook – a book devoted entirely to cookies – didn’t have a simple sugar cookie recipe. Too simple for Dorie, maybe. Luckily, my Bobbette & Belle cookbook has a recipe for Decorative Sugar Cookies. Theirs includes piped flowers, those little silver balls, and some edible gold paint. Mine would be simpler, but still pretty (I hoped).

All too often, sugar cookies are more about the decorations than the taste, but this is actually a wonderful, flavourful recipe. And it’s easy to whip together, too.

sugar-cookies-2

First, you cream butter and sugar together until it is nice and fluffy. You add an egg and some vanilla, then mix in some flour/baking powder/salt.

That’s it! Those are all the ingredients! Easy peasy.

sugar-cookies-3

The dough looks really crumbly, but if you pour it out onto some plastic wrap and smush it together, it comes together just fine.

sugar-cookies-4

It has to chill in the fridge (literally and figuratively) for at least an hour before you can play with it, but one it has had a chance to rest, it is pretty easy to work with.

sugar-cookies-9

I kept my shapes simple: two sizes of cookie cutter hearts.

sugar-cookies-7

 

sugar-cookies-10

The cookies were baked until just barely golden (well… some of them were more golden than others), and while they cooled, I started working on the icing.

Making the icing was easy. Getting it to the right flooding consistency was HARD!

I kept it relatively simple by sticking to just two colours: white and pink. I filled a piping bag with each, only to discover that it was way too thick for proper flooding.

No problem – it’s easier to thin out icing than it is to thicken it, so I just squeezed out the bags and added some water. That should do it…

Not. The icing was still too thick to achieve the flood consistency. Impatience prevailed (the probable cause of my inability to make pretty baked things), and I started piping anyways. I decided to go for a minimalist approach and just outline the cookies. They looked nice, but plain.

I had heaps of leftover icing, so I started playing around with a few, and guess what? They kind of flooded! Only because I’d already outlined all of them (and the outlines were setting), it was impossible to achieve the perfect flood.

sugar-cookies-11

Don’t mind old bite marks in the top right…

So I decided to just have fun with it – after all, that’s how you learn, right? I doodled on my cookies for at least an hour, then realized that my day was wasting away rather quickly and I still had a large to do list to accomplish. I ended up tossing quite a bit of icing, which was disappointing and wasteful.

sugar-cookies-5

Next time, I’ll devote more time to piping. I haven’t given up hope and the cookies are so simple to make that I’m sure I’ll get the chance to give it another go soon.

Luckily, my Valentines aren’t too critical – they loved the cookies, so all’s well ends well.

Thanks for the inspiration, Mom!

Dorie’s Cookies’ Vanilla-Brown Butter Madeleines: A Two-Bite Cupcake

There’s something about madeleines that seems so wonderfully precious to me. Maybe it’s because they share a name with the little French private school character. Maybe it’s because they require their own special pan for baking. Maybe it’s because they’re just so gosh darned dainty and cute that it’s a wonder they haven’t blossomed into macaron-territory popularity. (Mark my words: madeleines will be the on-trend dessert of 2019 or 2020).

vanilla-bean-madeleines-11

My own history with madeleines is somewhat hazy. Until Christmas morning, I didn’t own madeleine pans, so I never got the chance to try to bake my own. Until now, my exposure had been limited to some store bought ones I tried when I was around 10. I can’t remember especially liking them – but I also can’t remember not liking them.

vanilla-bean-madeleines-4

Nonetheless, I was eager to put my new pans to work and decided to test them out with the most simple and classic of madeleine flavours: vanilla-brown butter, from my Dorie’s Cookies cookbook.

Here’s the thing with madeleines: Dorie stresses that they should be consumed as shortly after being baked as possible. I was preparing these for an evening book club meeting, so I started to bake them just as the sun was going down. This means that the pictures get progressively worse – sorry for that. Is anyone else counting down eagerly until the days get long again?

Step one is to prepare the special madeleine pans by greasing them and flouring them. Check and check. Next, you whisk the dry goods together: all-purpose flour and baking powder. So far so good.

vanilla-bean-madeleines-5

Now, the butter. The butter gets melted and swirled on the stove top for a little while – after all, this recipe is called vanilla brown butter. When the butter is amber-esque and smells nutty and delicious, it gets pulled off the heat.

vanilla-bean-madeleines-6

Meanwhile, you mix white sugar with eggs, vanilla, salt, and honey – the wets.

vanilla-bean-madeleines-7

For those keeping track, we now have three bowls going on: the butter, the dry, and the wet. It is now time to unite them as one: you gently stir the wet with the dry, then fold the butter, bit by bit. Finally, you add a bonus ingredient. The bonus ingredient is a tablespoon of either Scotch, bourbon, dark rum, or milk (… one of these things is not like the other…). I had some bourbon left over from the sticky toffee pudding I made somewhat recently, so I threw it in there – and you know what? The boozy kick was pretty noticeable, considering it was only a tablespoon! I’d like to see how the taste differs if I use milk instead.

vanilla-bean-madeleines-8

The batter then gets poured into the mad-pan. The recipe says it yields 12 madeleines, but mine made 20 (bonus!!). They bake at a high-ish temperature (400 degrees) for a short-ish amount of time (12 minutes), then you have to tap them out of their shells right away.

vanilla-bean-madeleines-2

Aaaaand this is about where the sun had totally gone down and the pictures really suck.

(I’m not sure why it’s so urgent, but the recipe told me so. Maybe because they would keep baking and they’d dry out quickly? Who knows.)

vanilla-bean-madeleines-3

I decided to kick my madeleines up one final notch by dipping them ever so slightly in some melted dark chocolate. This was not part of the recipe directions, but it was the right call – otherwise the madeleines may have been just a bit too plain.

vanilla-bean-madeleines-10

The last step: a dusting of icing sugar (this step was called for by the recipe).

vanilla-bean-madeleines-9

I tried to get an inside shot so you can get a sense of the texture. Kind of springy, kind of bouncy – very tasty.

Now, I don’t know exactly what madeleines are supposed to taste like, but I’ll do my best to sum it up and someone can let me know if I made them correctly. They kind of taste like a mini two-bite cupcake – they’re light, and they have a nice springy texture. They’re not overly sweet, but they’re not terribly exciting either. Or maybe that’s just because I picked a boring flavour. The good news is that I’ve got some more exciting varieties to try both in this cookbook and another. Stay tuned – exciting madeleines coming your way soon.