Monday, February 13, 2012

Cream Cheese Nutella Heart Cookies

february is kind of a horrible month, isn't it? it's still cold and dark and everything still looks dead and barren. truthfully, february is when i am ready for spring, sunshine, and longer days. all i really want to do is escape to a tropical destination and return in early april.

i think valentine's day was created to make us feel better about february. people knew that restlessness would be an issue so "they" (whoever they are) threw the universe a bone and invented a holiday to make us feel warm and fuzzy inside.

"put a holiday dedicated to love in february, it needs some help" they say. 
"people will look at each other with googly eyes and eat themselves into a 
chocolate coma and they won't wake up until spring. 
all those in favor say aye, all those opposed . . ."

and thus, valentine's day was put into effect to reduce unrest and increase morale. truthfully, the only other thing february has going for it is that's it's the shortest month.

okay enough about cold, dreary february - let's overindulge in sugar, shall we?

i simply make large sugar cookie hearts and frosted them with cream cheese icing and nutella. a simple half a strawberry makes for a perfect heart in the center. (i will say, you could always use pre-made sugar cookie dough or sugar cookie bag mix to make this super easy. of course i am not condoning such things, i'm just saying . . . )

i recommend feeding these to your valentine. then, let's count down the days until spring. 38 days and counting . . .

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Cream Cheese Nutella Heart Cookies
makes 8 large hearts

3/4 C sugar
2 sticks salted butter, cold, cubed
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
2 C unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 C whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder

preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

cream together butter and sugar in a stand mixer. (it will not be the light and fluffy creamed butter and sugar you are used to with cookies because you are using cold butter, but make sure the butter and sugar are combined.) add egg and extracts.

in a separate bowl, whisk together flours and baking powder. add flour mixture to butter mixture a little bit at a time, scraping down bowl as needed. once all of flour is added, make sure all flour has been incorporated.

roll dough out on floured surface about 1/4" thick. cut out using cookie cutters and place on parchment lined baking sheets. refrigerate sheet pans for 5-10 minutes before baking.

bake for 10 minutes. remove from oven and let cool completely on wire racks.

when cookies are completely cool, pipe with nutella and cream cheese icing. place a halved strawberry in the center. enjoy!

Cream Cheese Icing

8 oz cream cheese, cold
5 tbs unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp vanilla extract

cream together butter and cream cheese 4-5 minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy. slowly add in powdered sugar on low speed. whip on medium speed for 3 minutes. add vanilla extract and blend thoroughly.

store unused icing in airtight container in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

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