As a kid, Valentine's Day was always an opportunity to express my creative side. I was never a fan of the store-bought, generic Valentine's Day cards. They never had the styles I wanted, and matching the pre-written messages to my classmates never seemed to work the way I imagined.
So, I made my own. I'd spread the table with doilies, red and pink paper, and more stickers and glitter than you could image. For hours, I'd create one valentine after another. A good chunk of my time was spent recreating the same style of valentine again and again, but occasionally I'd add extra doilies or stickers and create one for a teacher or best friend.
I may not spend hours creating my own Valentine's Day cards anymore, but I bake instead. These cookies are my Valentine's Day treat for my dearest friends and myself. They're more complex than your typical sugar cookie since they're filled with dark brown sugar and studded with poppy seeds. The specks of salt and sugar dusting the top of each cookie add an element of surprise to each bite.
In true Valentine's Day style, I stuffed mine with vanilla cream filling and raspberry jam, but they would be equally delicious stuffed with a bittersweet chocolate.
Brown Sugar Sandwich Cookies filled with Raspberry Jam and Vanilla Cream
cookies adapted from 101cookbooks; vanilla cream filling recipe from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2-5 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon Fleur de Sal
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1 1/3 cups confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, beat or whisk the butter until it is fluffy and creamy. Add the sugar and continue mixing, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the flour mixture by hand, being careful not to overwork the dough.
If the mixture feels dry, add the milk 1-2 tablespoons at a time (I needed to add 5 tablespoons for my dough to be workable). Turn the dough out onto a floured countertop and need it once or twice until it comes together. Cut the dough into quarters, and wrap each quarter in plastic wrap. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Remove one dough round from the fridge at a time. Roll the dough out as thin as you can on a lightly floured surface, about 1/8-inch thin. Cut out rounds or hearts using a cookie cutter. Arrange the cookies 1-inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Combine the fleur de sal and the turbinado sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and sugar over each cookie. Bake for 6 to 7 minutes, until the edges of the cookie are golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and transfer them immediately to a wire rack to cool.
Allow the cookies to cool completely, and then fill the cookies with one of the following fillings: melted chocolate, jam or vanilla filling. I used quite a bit of vanilla filling to fill each cookie, or I covered the cookie with jam before topping it. I found a variety of flavors was a treat on each plate, and the red and white was perfect for Valentine's Day.
In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients for the filling. Using a mixer, beat the ingredients for 3 to 4 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Use immediately to fill the cookies or refrigerate for up to 1 week.