Ready to unleash your artistic side this Valentine’s Day? Even if you’re just remotely creative, you can impress your family and friends with these to-die-for heart-shaped brownie cutout cookies.
The usual decorated sugar cookie is so dull when you can go all out with a scrumptious brownie cookie that beautifully contrasts the bright white, red and pink of homemade royal icing. Let the baking and decorating begin!
The brownie cookies boast big chocolate flavor with a welcome hint of espresso and almond flavor. You’ll need to plan ahead: The cookie dough needs to chill for at least an hour before you can roll it out and cut it into hearts. On that note, you can make cookie dough and keep it refrigerated, well-wrapped, for up to five days before baking.
Though royal icing magically transforms plain cookies into edible works of art, it is quite easy to make. Royal icing is just a mixture of meringue powder, confectioners’ sugar, water, flavoring and color. You can find meringue powder in the cake-decorating section of many supermarkets and craft stores. We flavored our royal icing with almond extract, but you can substitute vanilla or peppermint for a tasty change. (Beware that the red and pink food colors can stain clothing.)
Once your cookies are baked and cooled, let your Valentine’s Day decorating talent shine. Outline your heart-shaped cookies with royal icing, then fill in the outline with more royal icing. You can stop here for a simplistic look. If you want to do something more creative, allow the base layer to dry, then add raised details such as zigzags, curls, miniature hearts, words or any other love-inspired designs you desire.
Finished cookies require several hours to dry completely before you can serve them. Once you bring them to the table, though, all the accolades you get for your professional-looking Valentine’s Day cookies will make the time and effort you spent on them well worth it.
Baker’s note: The type of cocoa powder you choose will affect the look and taste of your brownie cookies. Cocoa powder comes in two varieties: natural and Dutch process. Natural cocoa powder has a lighter color and a sharp, slightly astringent chocolate flavor. It is used most often in recipes that contain baking soda, because it is naturally acidic.
Dutch-process cocoa powder, also called “alkalized” or “European-style,” is washed in a potassium carbonate solution that neutralizes the acidity of the cocoa. The result is a distinctly dark color and smoother chocolate flavor. Dutch-process cocoa is used in recipes that contain baking powder. Natural and Dutch-process cocoa work equally well in this brownie cookie recipe.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
Ingredients for Royal Icing:
4 tablespoons meringue powder
1 pound (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup of water, minus 1 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Red and Pink food coloring
Directions for cookies:
Preheat oven to 350 F. degrees.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder, and espresso powder. Set aside.
In the bowl of an stand mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add almond extract and beat to combine. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture, mixing until smooth. Scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all dough is combined.
Turn batter onto a clean work surface. Divide dough in half, press out into a square disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for at least an hour, or preferably overnight.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out chilled dough to 1/8-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters and transfer shapes to prepared baking sheets, brushing off any extra flour from the tops. Reroll scraps as needed until all dough has been used.
Bake for 8-10 minutes. Rotating baking sheets halfway through. The edges of the cookies will be a firm and the centers slightly puffed.
Allow to cool on baking sheet for several minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Once cooled, decorate with royal icing.
Directions for Royal Icing:
In the bowl of a stand mixer on low, mix together meringue powder, confectioners’ sugar, water, and extract.
Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for 3 minutes. It will still look a little runny, and but should hold a line drawn through it with a knife for 5 to 10 seconds.
Divide icing into two bowls and add red food coloring and pink food coloring in the second bowl, mixing until color is completely incorporated.
Fill two piping bags fitted with a small round tip (Wilton #3).
Working with one cookie at a time, pipe the outline on your cookie, holding the tip about a 1/2-inch above the cookie and allow the icing to fall onto the cookie around the edges of your shape. Once it is outlined, with the tip, pipe icing up against the outline. Then begin to fill the cookie with icing, using a zigzag pattern (or design you wish to make.) Once the cookie is filled, shake it back and forth a couple times to smooth out the icing.
Allow to dry for several hours before piping on any raised details, allowing the final design to dry overnight.