Monday, February 8, 2010

Token of Love

Baking for friends and loved ones is a labor of love. After all, it’s so much easier to pick up something from the bakery. Chances are, though, it won’t taste as good. (Unless, of course, you live in Paris or somewhere near a world-class pastry shop.) Baking takes time, effort and money—butter, eggs and nuts are not free. That's why baking something for your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day is so appropriate. And baking something heart shaped really says “I love you.” Take these little heart cookies. Made from a Linzer-like almond butter dough, they are tender, much like the heart. The dough is very delicate and a little tricky to roll out, so roll it between two sheets of waxed paper, as directed. After baking, the top half is brushed with a thin sugar glaze, and the cookie is filled with a tart raspberry jam. These cookies take some time and effort to make (they are fussy), but they will be noticed, and will surely have the intended effect. Happy Valentine's Day!
Glazed Almond Raspberry Hearts

Makes about 32 sandwich cookies

Almond Dough:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour (or finely ground blanched and toasted almonds)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Glaze and Filling:
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablelspoon plus 1 teaspoon whole milk
3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam

Make the dough:
1. In a medium bowl, combine the flours and salt and whisk well to combine.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment or beaters, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually beat in the sugar, increase the speed to medium-high and beat well combined and light, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Gradually add the dry ingredients at low speed, mixing just until combined.
3. Scrape the dough out onto a work surface and divide it in three. Place one of the dough pieces on a large piece of waxed paper and flatten it into a disc. Place another piece of waxed paper over it and, using a rolling pin, roll it out to 9-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Repeat with the remaining two pieces of dough. Stack the dough circles, still between layers of waxed paper, and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours (or up to 3 days).

Cut and bake the cookies:
5. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.
6. Remove one of the dough circles from the refrigerator. Peel off the top piece of waxed paper. Replace it loosely and flip over the dough. Peel off the other piece of waxed paper. Using a 2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as possible from the dough. Using a ½-inch heart-shaped aspic cutter, cut out a small heart shape from the center of each cookie. Transfer the cookies to one of the baking sheets, spacing them 1/2 inch apart. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, until they are just beginning to turn pale golden. (If the heart-shaped hole in the center of some of the cookies is not sharp, or has closed, you can recut it now, while the cookies are warm.) Let them cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough circles, cutting out center holes in only half of the cookies in one of the remaining circles (to make a total of half with holes and half without). Gather up the dough scraps, shape them into a disc, and re-roll between sheets of waxed paper to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Chill for at least 30 minutes before cutting out more cookies.

Garnish and fill the cookies:
7. In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and milk until smooth. Using a pastry brush, brush the thin layer of the glaze over the tops of the cookies with holes. Set the cookies aside until the glaze is set, about 10 minutes.
8. Spoon a scant teaspoon of the raspberry jam on the baked bottom side of each of the whole cookies. Top each with a glazed cookie, pressing down lightly so that the jam seeps through the hole slightly.