I know what you’re thinking.
Are those cookies really that color? Naturally?
To which my response would be YOU BET YOUR ASS THEY ARE.
If you were here, you’d look at me with wide, confounded eyes that demand an explanation. To which I would go on and on and on about that one time I accidentally bought natural, powdered food coloring in Paris and then found it – four years later – at the bottom of my cookie cutter drawer (yep, that exists). And then decided I was going to change the face of Valentine sugar cookies, forever.
Obviously using red beet powder as a natural food coloring isn’t anything new, but what you can’t see is that these cookies are made with coconut oil, which means they’re not nearly as terrible for you as those ones that are made with vegan butter (oldie but a goodie). They’re also made with powdered cane sugar, which means they’re equally as terrible for you (as far as sugar goes) as other sugar cookies, but I’ve nearly eliminated the possibility of you turning out a batch of rock-hard sugar cookies. And those sprinkles on top? Oh, they’re just crushed, freeze-dried raspberries. And yes, they get stuck in your teeth.
Although these cookies probably say otherwise, I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day. And since my Oma taught me to keep my mouth shut when I’ve got nothing nice to say (typical old lady advice), I’m going to keep my cynical thoughts to myself and let those of you who do enjoy your boxes of heart shaped chocolates and dozen red roses, enjoy them without some vitriolic, negative Nancy adding her two cents about the greed-driven hijacking of what was once a pretty badass holiday.
But because I think it’s important (for those of you who celebrate) to have options on Valentine’s Day, I’ve gathered more than a few recipes that will come in handy in the event you wanna make your better half something homemade, that isn’t a batch of hippy-dippy sugar cookies. I’ve got traditional almond linzer cookies with cherry preserves, (+ a not-so-traditional raw version of the almond linzer cookies with cherry preserves) (ok, those are a little hippy-dippy), the easiest two-ingredient chocolate mousse, double chocolate brownies studded with fresh raspberries, and salted chocolate truffles that you could totally wrap up in a homemade heart-shaped candy box and basically win at Valentine’s Day.
Notes: The instructions need to be followed exactly. If you add the vanilla before the almond milk or don’t completely melt the coconut oil, your cookies are not going to turn out. I literally tested these cookies at least 15 times, and every step and way each ingredient is added impacts the final product. For the icing, the brown rice syrup (you could substitute corn syrup) is necessary so that the icing hardens like royal icing made with eggs. I made the icing with 1/8, 1/4, and 1/2 teaspoon red beet powder and preferred the deep magenta color of 1/2 teaspoon. 1/4 teaspoon looks like this and 1/8 will be pale pink. The quality of your beet powder will also impact the color, so keep that in mind. If you can’t get your hands on any, you can substitute your favorite colored juice for the water measurement; I recommend beet, blueberry, or cherry juice. However, the color won’t be nearly as vibrant as if you used the powder. Each icing recipe makes enough for six piped cookies, so if you want to go the all white or all magenta route, double the recipe.
COCONUT OIL SUGAR COOKIES WITH NATURALLY COLORED ICING
6 tablespoons refined coconut oil, melted (but not hot)
3/4 cup powdered cane sugar
3 tablespoons almond milk, warm
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/3 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon red beet powder
1 1/2 teaspoons water, warm and divided
1/2 cup powdered cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon brown rice syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons water, warm
1/2 cup powdered cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon brown rice syrup
Freeze dried raspberries, crushed
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper; set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the coconut oil and powdered sugar on medium speed for 30-45 seconds, just until smooth. Add the almond milk, one tablespoon at a time, and mix until each tablespoon is incorporated (scraping down the sides as needed). Add the vanilla extract and mix until combined. Add the baking soda, sea salt, and 1 cup of the flour. Beat on medium speed for 10-15 seconds, until about half of the flour is incorporated, then add the remaining 1/3 cup and beat just until all the flour disappears. Press the dough with your fingertips, it should feel soft but retain its shape when moulded. If it feels too dough-y, add an additional tablespoon of flour and mix until combined. If it feels too dry, add an additional tablespoon of almond milk and beat until combined.
Since the texture of the dough changes when it sits for too long, we’re going to roll it out immideately. Line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle (liberally) with flour. Roll the dough out until it’s 1/4″ thick. Using a 3″ heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut the dough 12 times and carefully transfer the pieces to the prepared baking sheet. You can re-roll the dough scraps, but the texture will not be the same (and they may even be too crumbly to roll). Transfer baking sheet to freezer and chill for 10 minutes (this helps the cookies to retain their shape while baking), then bake at 350˚F for 9-10 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for five minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cookies are cooling, prepare the icing. For this method, we’re going to use a piping bag fitted with a 2 point tip (to line the cookies) and then we’ll be using a squirt bottle (to flood them). If you don’t have/can’t find piping bags, snag an extra squirt bottle for the lining process. Or just drizzle the icing over the cookies.
Prepare the magenta icing by mixing together the beet powder and 1 teaspoon of the warm water. Add the powdered sugar and the remaining water, and mix until the sugar is combined (it should thicken considerably). Add the brown rice syrup and whisk just until combined. For the white icing, whisk together the water and powdered sugar, then whisk in the brown rice syrup.
Piping: Transfer about 1/3 of each icing mixture to a piping bag fitted with a 2 point tip and then outline each cookie. Allow the icing to harden for about 10 minutes. Squeeze any icing remaining in the bag back into the bowl and whisk to remove any pieces that may have hardened. Dilute with warm water in 1/4 teaspoon increments. When you lift the spoon to drizzle the icing in the bowl, it should disappear and sink into the other icing within three seconds. You shouldn’t need to add more than 1/2 teaspoon of water to reach this consistency. Transfer the flood icing to a squirt bottle and flood each cookie. Each recipe makes enough icing for 6-7 cookies, so don’t be too liberal with your flooding. If necessary, use the back of a spoon to spread the icing all over the cookie, careful not to bump the piped edges. Wait until you’ve flooded each cookie, then finish with raspberry or coconut sprinkles.
Cookies will keep in an air tight container, at room temperature, for up to five days. I recommend not icing the cookies, if using the magenta colored icing, until 12-24 hours before you plan on serving them.
Yield: 12 3″ heart-shaped cookies