Every so often, I try to do responsible things like Plan Ahead to reap the rewards that should come with it like A Calm and Unfrazzled Week and I fail almost 100% of the time in the service of Something More Fun I Just Thought Of. Crispy salad? Castle breakfast? Sorry, guys, you’ve been jettisoned for some really adorable cookies I impulsively made last week. I am nothing if not predictable.
We start with a great sablé cookie dough. I love sablés because they’re buttery and light, but have a gentle snap and aren’t too sweet. I use the same cookie as a base for the recent Checkerboard Cookies. There it’s reengineered to be half chocolate, half vanilla. Here, we divided it into 1/3 and 2/3 portions. The smaller part, the 1/3, is tinted — you could use one color or marble two together — rolled out thickly between two sheets of parchment paper, and cut into as many small hearts as you can get. The cutouts are stacked to form a heart-shaped log and frozen so they hold their shape. Once solid, we smoosh the remaining untinted dough around the inner log of hearts to form an outer log that’s round, or round enough. Freeze it again until the cookie doughs are merged and solid, and once sliced thin and rolled in sugar, the cookies that emerge look absolutely mechanical in their precision, even if you are as haphazard about it as I am.
A few more notes:
- Origin: I did not invent this technique and am not sure who might have. I’ve seen it around Pinterest and YouTube for over a decade, although usually with cakes, not cookies.
- Shapes: You can embed any shape in a cookie you like with it. Green clovers! Purple diamonds! Christmas trees, red/white/blue stars, or spring flowers. I hope to add more photos to this post in future seasons as I switch up the theme.
- Colors: I’m using a few gel food colors, adding a drop of one or another to get the shades I wanted. I suspect someone will ask me whether one could use powdered freeze-dried fruit to tint and flavor the cookies and I’d say yes. I haven’t tested it here, but when I’ve done it in other cookies and cakes, I find the color and flavor a little muted, but it does work visually. Strawberries or raspberries make a nice pink; blueberries will make a shade of purple.
- Yield: The amount below makes a small amount of cookies (just over two dozen) and you’ll absolutely want to double it because you’ll want to share them with everyone because this cookie is a rare thing, a unicorn: even more delicious than it looks.
I’ve created a shopping page on Smitten Kitchen with links to some of my favorite kitchen items, the ones I’m asked about the most. For each item, I’ve attempted to provide a range of shopping links so we’re not just focusing on one giant retailer. The last link for each item is for “More stores” and if you follow it, it will take you to a page with two lists: the first is kitchen supply and cookware stores that ship domestically, and the second is independent bookstores that ship domestically. Right now, I’ve just compiled the 12 things I use the most, but I’ll be adding more as I notice requests for links to the items. This page has been a long time in the making because we wanted to get it exactly right and I hope you find it helpful! [Smitten Kitchen Shop]
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- 2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup (40 grams) powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) fine sea or table salt
- 1 cup (8 ounces or 225 grams) unsalted butter, diced (cold is fine, at room temp if using a handmixer)
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) vanilla extract
- 1 large egg, separated
- Food coloring, to tint
- Colored sugar, to finish
Make dough in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer: Combine butter, sugars, and salt in a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer and beat until creamy. If you began with cold butter in a stand mixer, this will take a couple minutes and require you to scrape down the bowl a few times. Once mixture is thoroughly combined, add egg yolk (save the egg white for later) and vanilla and beat until combined. Add flour and beat until it disappears into a smooth dough.
Both methods: Divide dough into 2/3 and 1/3 portions. [The total dough weighs about 615 grams; 2/3 will weight 410 grams; 1/3 will weigh 205 grams.] Cover the larger potion loosely with plastic so it doesn’t dry out and leave it at room temperature. Tint the smaller portion a color of your choice, or divide it again [100 grams each] and tint it two different colors. To marble two colors back together, place large pinches of dough in a rough checkerboard pattern on a piece of parchment paper. Use the parchment to fold this dough mess in half once and pat it back flat. Repeat in a second direction, folding and patting flat, for further marbling. Err on the side of under-marbling, as the colors will be further chopped and mixed in the next step.
Form hearts: Roll tinted dough between two pieces of parchment paper. You can go fairly thick here [1/4 to 1/2-inch], as long as you can still comfortably cut shapes out. Slide parchment onto a board or plate, so it’s solid underneath, and transfer the board and dough to the freezer until the dough is firm, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Remove top sheet of parchment and place it gently back on the slab of cold dough. Flip dough onto this loosened paper and peel back and remove what is now the top sheet. Save the top parchment; we will use it. Cut tinted slab into as many 1-inch hearts as you can. Stack them on top of each other, pressing them gently so they adhere. Once you’ve cut as many as you can, place this heart-shaped column on the spare piece of parchment, and slide it back into the freezer until solid, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the heart column from the freezer and use the parchment to give it a few extra presses, making sure the hearts are adhered to each other.
Form final cookie log: Use the remaining untinted cookie dough to wrap the heart column. I found it easiest to make several coils the length of the heart column and press and smooth them onto it. Once the heart column is fully wrapped in untinted dough, roll it in parchment to smooth the sides and pressed tightly against the center column. Freeze this log until solid, 30 minutes.
Slice and bake the cookies: Heat oven to 350°F (175°C). Lightly beat the reserved egg white until loose. Unwrap the chilled log of cookie dough and brush it with egg white. Pour color sugar or sugars of your choice on a small rimmed plate for dipping. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently cut the log into just shy of 1/4-inch slices. Roll the edges of each cookie slice in the colored sugar(s) and arrange on the baking sheet, 1 inch apart.
Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, until golden brown underneath. Let cool on baking sheet for 1 minute, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.
Do ahead: Baked, cooled cookies keep for 3 weeks in a tin at room temperature. The log of dough will keep, well-wrapped, in the freezer for 1 to 2 months. I’d wrap it in parchment then 1 to 2 layers of plastic.