February 13, 2009

Strawberry Jello Heart Cookies

These cookies are an oddity and not something I would normally make, but I asked my son Alex what kind of cookies he wanted and "strawberry" popped out of his mouth. I've never had luck making anything with baked strawberries but I do have a bad habit of buying Jello even though we only eat it 2-3 times a year. So I dug around and found that yes a box of strawberry Jello was hiding in my pantry. Armed with artificial strawberry flavor and red dye #40 (hey moderation is the key, right?) I hunted down a Jello cookie recipe I'd seen online. I felt I had to redeem myself somewhat so I added a real vanilla bean and made them heart-shaped for Valentine's Day.

I think any sliceable cookie recipe would be easy to make heart shaped. All I did was roll the dough up into a tube, refrigerate it for the required 2+ hours. Then when I was ready to bake I cut a notch on one side and shaved off a little on the other side to make the pointed bottom of the heart. I rolled the whole thing in colored sugar which helped to knock down the edges and enhance the heart shape. Despite the dubious ingredients, these were a tasty buttery cookie with a pleasant strawberry flavor and perfect for Valentine's Day!

Strawberry Jello Heart Cookies
Adapted from Cast Sugar's Cherry Almond Jello Cookies, her recipe came from Gelatin Spritz Cookies from All Recipes
Makes ~4 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups (12 oz) butter (Earth Balance margarine in our house)
1 (3 oz) package strawberry Jello
1 cup sugar
the scrapings from 1 vanilla bean
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
colored sugar, optional

-Cream the butter/margarine with the sugar, Jello powder and vanilla bean scrapings until light and fluffy.
-Stir together the flour and baking powder and set aside.
-Add the egg and vanilla extract to the creamed butter/EB and beat until combined.
-Add the flour mixture and beat until the dough is smooth and even. *If you have a cookie press they can be baked as spritz cookies at this point.
-Place a third of the dough on a large sheet of plastic wrap, shape into a log ~2 inches in diameter and wrap tightly in the plastic wrap. Repeat with the other two thirds of the dough. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, overnight is better to develop the vanilla flavor.
-Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
-Remove one log of dough from the fridge and cut out a small groove on one side, this will form the top indent of the heart. Turn the log over and trim a little on the sides to form a point.
-Roll the log in the colored sugar. You will need to pour some colored sugar into the groove to get it to stick in. Be gentle so you don't destroy the details of the heart.
-Slice 1/4 inch slices from the log and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Leave an inch between each cookie.
-Bake for 6-9 minutes, until they puff slightly and the bottoms are very light brown. Cool on the baking sheet for 1-2 minutes and then remove to cool completely on a wire rack.
-Repeat the process with the remaining dough. The dough will keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days and the vanilla flavor will improve with longer refrigeration.

My cat Abbie has a heart shaped spot on her nose, isn't she the cutest thing ever!!