There’s a great big part of me that can’t believe we’ve already hurled ourselves through the first month of school, with all of its morning bells, fill-in-the-sport practices x-times a week, dog-eared music books and homework logs. And the lunches. Endless boxes full of snatches of things like half an apple (sliced), a handful of crackers and a few dried cranberries (never to be mixed) with toasted sandwiches and a little something sweet. Sweet because I’m the mom in this scenario and life just cannot continue hurling away without some sugar, as thoughtfully presented as possible. These days, that usually means Teddy Grahams (chocolate).
And all of this shall be done in and around normal life and evening meetings for the grown-ups. To discuss school budgets and harvest parties and fun runs and school rules and when the next meeting shall take place….
In times like these, cookie time gets nixed. My plans for back-to-school cookies, including shiny red apples and clapboard school houses with old fashioned brass bells, never made it past my list of things to do that’s always running through my head every night before bed.
Instead, I scrambled for a frozen set of heart cookies, made a couple months before. Extras from a summer wedding. Remember summer? All blankets on tall grass, and worries about the weight of the sunscreen bottle, summer?
Anyhoo, back to my butter hearts. For these, I relied on my all time favorite vanilla-butter sugar cookie recipe that I have enhanced a bit after finding the original recipe at Bake at 350. If you know me at all, you know this recipe changed my life, even more than packing lunches 165 days a year.
To make these hearts something special, I whipped up a quick chocolate glaze that is from a Mrs. Field’s cookie book. It’s a great little recipe – much like a classic ganache – but the chocolate sets a little harder yet it still yields perfectly when you bite into the cookie. I like the shine and once set, I like how you can arrange the cookies on a plate without worrying about the cookies sticking together or GASP!, marring the piped designs.
I’ve used this chocolate glaze for years to dip and add swirls to almond cookies that I make at Christmastime. This time, when I wanted a quick sweet treat to bring to a school meeting, it took me less than 20 minutes to make the icing and decorate the cookies. Plus, you can freeze the extras for another harried week. But that won’t happen for a while now that September’s behind us, right? Right?
Vanilla-Butter Sugar Cookies
Makes approx. 24 cookies
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup sugar
2 sticks (salted) butter, cold
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla paste (optional – use vanilla extract if you don’t have vanilla paste)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the sugar and butter on medium speed, approx. 3 minutes.
3. Add the egg, extracts and vanilla paste, and mix. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom. The dough will be crumbly, so knead it together with your hands as you scoop it out of the bowl for rolling.
4. Roll onto a floured surface and cut into shapes. To avoid sticking, it’s okay to add extra flour while you roll out and cut the dough.
5. Place the cookies on parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes, until the bottoms are just beginning to get a golden edge. When done, gently pull the parchment paper (with cookies) to a wire cooling rack. Frost as desired.
Mrs. Fields Chocolate Glaze
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1. Scald cream in a small saucepan, then remove from heat. Stir in chocolate chips and corn syrup; cover and let stand for 15 minutes.
2. With a small wire whisk or wooden spoon, gently mix glaze until smooth, being careful not to create bubbles in the chocolate.
3. Drizzle or pipe patterns on cool cookies with the warm chocolate glaze, or dip half of each cookie into the glaze. Refrigerate the cookies on wax paper until the glaze has set, about 10 minutes.