Valentine’s Hearts

by Caroline

In years past, I have made heart-shaped chocolate sandwich cookies, I have made heart-shaped brownie ice cream sandwiches, and even homemade Ring Dings (or Ding Dongs, depending on whether your family bought Hostess or Drake’s Cakes). Last year, apparently not so much in the mood for sweets, I made a bright pink beet pasta for Valentine’s Day. This year, with a kid at home — not quite sick but not quite well– taking a midwinter personal day off from school, I wanted to make a Valentine’s treat that involved him. I had a vague recollection of a stained glass cookie, and Ben’s the one who found the recipe in his Spatulatta cookbook. And because we already had a supply of pomegranate-tangerine lollipops (long story) available for crushing, we didn’t even need to go to the store!

12 T (one and a half sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
clear red hard candies, like Life Savers, crushed

First, enlist a willing young helper to crush the candies. Stick them in a big ziploc bag and use a rolling pin or a can of beans for pounding:

He is *definitely* going to school on Friday

They're rather pretty when smashed, aren't they?

Next, beat together the butter and sugar until pale, add the eggs one at a time, and then mix in the vanilla. Now add the flour, baking powder and salt, and mix until well blended. Form two discs of dough, wrap well and refrigerate for about an hour.

Toward the end of the hour, preheat the oven to 375. Line two cookie sheets with parchment.

Sprinkle a work surface with a bit of flour and, working with one disc of dough at a time, roll out to 1/8″ thick. Cut out large hearts and put them on a cookie sheet, then cut out small hearts from the middle of each large heart. If you are lucky, you’ll have another willing helper to do this part for you:

Fill the heart-shaped hole with crushed candies:

Sprinkle the small hearts with colored sugars, or simply bake them with the large hearts and frost them (or not) after they have baked and cooled.
Bake the cookies 7-9 minutes, until lightly browned.

Let the cookies cool completely on the cookie sheet before removing them to a rack, or else when you lift the cookies, your candy hearts will remain behind!

sweets for my sweets

Iced Ginger Cookies

by Caroline

I spent an hour today going through my stuffed binders of torn-out magazine recipes, assembling a menu for our annual New Year’s Day party. This cookie recipe is one I found in Sunset magazine four years ago and yet had never tried. Now it’s going to be a regular part of our holiday baking, because the cookies are easy, delicious, and pretty.


* 1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling cookies
* 3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
* 1 egg
* 3 tablespoons molasses
* 2 cups flour, sifted
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
* 1 cup powdered sugar
* 1 teaspoon lemon juice


1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream 1 cup granulated sugar with butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg and molasses.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and spices. Add to butter mixture and blend well.

3. Fill a shallow bowl with granulated sugar. Break off walnut-size pieces of dough and roll into balls; roll balls in sugar. Arrange on greased cookie sheets and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to cooling racks.

4. Meanwhile, make glaze: Combine powdered sugar with 1 tbsp. water and stir until smooth, then stir in lemon juice. Drizzle glaze over cookies.

Cranberry Thumbprint Cookies

by Caroline

Using up the Thanksgiving leftovers is never a problem in our house. Maybe it’s because we’re typically only cooking for five, not fifteen or twenty as some of our friends. Or maybe it’s because we only cook things we really love — there are no obligatory platters of mashed turnips, just because Aunt Sally insists on them. So no matter the reason, our post-Thanksgiving ritual is not finding ways to get through that last bit of stuffing but, more typically, exclaiming with happiness about our Friday lunch plates of stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and caramelized pearl onions, and wondering why we don’t make these dishes more often.

An added wrinkle this year was the fact that Ben had spotted this recipe in a recent issue of Sunset magazine and became consumed with the idea of using our leftover cranberry sauce in cookies. We didn’t have any leftover cranberry sauce (partly because he eats it by the cup), but for him, I made an extra batch. The cookies are well worth it: a wonderful not-too-sweet shortbread, with a great tang from the cranberries. If you avoid nuts, just leave them out and the cookies will still taste great. I think these’ll become a regular part of our holiday cookie repertoire.

Sunset Magazine’s Cranberry Thumbprint Cookies

* About 2/3 cup cranberry sauce, drained
* 1 cup unsalted butter
* 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 2 1/2 cups flour
* 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
* Pinch of salt
* 3/4 cup pecan pieces


1. Heat oven to 350°. Whirl sauce in a food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds; set aside.

2. Beat butter and sugar together in the bowl of a standing mixer until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract. Add flour, spices, and salt, then mix on low speed until blended, scraping inside of bowl as needed. Stir in pecans.

3. Form dough into 1 1/2-in balls and set 1 in. apart on a greased baking sheet. Use your thumb to press a well into center of each cookie. Spoon about 3/4 tsp. cranberry sauce into each well.

4. Bake cookies until light golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely on baking sheet.