This Valentine's Day, swap chalky conversation heart candies for colorful (and delicious!) vanilla sandwich cookies stamped with custom messages.Liz Gray
Mix up the sugar cookie dough and add gel paste food coloring. The following recipe will yield approximately 4 dozen total sandwich cookies with a mix of 1-inch, 1 1/2-inch and 2-inch sizes.
Alton Brown's Sugar Cookies
Recipe courtesy Food Network
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg and milk and beat to combine. Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl.
Tip: No time to make your own? Substitute a 30-ounce roll of room-temperature prepared cookie dough.
Divide the room-temperature dough into four sections. Add a different gel paste hue to each section: 5 drops per section of dough will create the vibrant hues seen here; 3 drops per section will create lighter, pastel hues. Knead in each color until fully combined, washing hands thoroughly after each addition. Wrap each dough round in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sprinkle rolling surface with powdered sugar. Remove one round from the refrigerator. Rub the rolling pin with a thin coating of powdered sugar, then roll the dough to 1/4-inch thick, moving frequently to make sure it isn't sticking.
Cut out even numbers of the 1-inch, 1-1/2 inch and 2-inch hearts. Place on baking sheet. Reroll cookie dough and repeat until dough is gone. Bake until just barely golden around the edges; about 7 minutes for 1-inch cookies, 9 minutes for 1-1/2 inch cookies and 11 minutes for 2-inch cookies. Cool on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining colored dough rounds.
Pair up the matching cookies, choosing the most attractive pieces to be the top layer of each sandwich.
While the cookies cool, make the cream filling.
Vanilla Cream Filling
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon vanilla extract
Water, as needed
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Reduce speed and gradually add sugars. Add vanilla and beat until just combined.
Tip: The filling should be spreadable but not runny. If it's too thick, add water a teaspoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.
Using a customizable stamp kit and the included tweezers, select the message you want to stamp on your cookie. Use conversation hearts for inspiration, or create your own custom sayings. Using a food-safe black decorating pen (available at baking supply stores), color the letters on the stamp. Press down gently to trasfer the message to the top of each cookie. Reapply ink to stamp additional cookies, changing message as desired.
Tip: Test the stamp on a piece of paper before trying a cookie to make sure the letters are properly spaced.
Using an offset spatula, spread a thin layer of vanilla cream filling onto the bottom cookie. Press the top and bottom cookies together gently to create the finished sandwich. Repeat until cookies are gone.
Store the finished cookies in an airtight container for up to one week. To give as an individually-wrapped Valentine's Day gift, package cookies in glassine bags tied with striped baker's twine and sealed with a heart-shaped sticker.