It's not that I'm outright avoiding Valentine's day this year, it's just that I don't have any reason to be celebrating, so I'm mainly treating it as another day.
The exceptions are these biscuits - originally, I had intended to make them red velvet but I seriously struggled to colour the dough, ending with a bit of a marbled effect running through them. I also meant to make the filling a cream cheese French buttercream, but at the last minute realised that I hadn't bought any Philadelphia so had to leave it plain - it still tastes amazing though.
Somehow, I only own two types of cookie cutter: heart and dinosaur. Heart shapes seem more appropriate, especially given the proximity to Valentine's day, so I decided to use those. I had also intended to share these with my lab colleagues (I'm currently working on my MChem project, which involves 9 weeks in a postgraduate lab), and while giving out heart-shaped biscuits to my supervisor might be a bit cringe worthy, giving out dinosaur biscuits might take a bit more explaining. I'm still finding my feet with my colleagues and I'm not really sure what kind of impression dinosaur biscuits would make!
To be honest, Valentine's day is being totally overshadowed by Shrove Tuesday (aka Pancake Day). I love pancakes and am always super excited to have an excuse to make and eat pancakes all day. I'm thinking I might try and recreate an incredible one that I had in Amsterdam over the summer, which was topped with cashews, spinach and brie. I will obviously also eat pancakes for breakfast, and my friend suggested a pancake party for the evening, which I am totally on board with. I literally cannot wait!
You can vary these biscuits as you please; you can exchange the cocoa for more flour to make plain biscuits, flavour them with cinnamon, vanilla or anything else that takes your fancy. Similarly, the icing can be flavoured with the addition of spices, vanilla extract or cocoa powder, or you could even colour it. I need to read up on colouring dough, I think... you may be seeing more colourful biscuits coming your way as I experiment and perfect the technique!
For the biscuits:
- 300g Plain Flour
- 50g Cocoa Powder
- 125g Butter
- 175g Caster Sugar
- 1 Egg
- 4 Tbsp Milk
- Red Gel Food Colouring
For the French buttercream:
- 150g Butter
- 4 Egg Yolks
- 20g Caster Sugar
- Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl and add the vanilla sugar and butter. Use the tips of your fingers to rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the egg and milk. The mixture should come together to form a dough, but if it is still dry add a little more milk.
- Knead the food colouring into the dough. It should form a marble effect (if you're lucky you might be able to get it to fully colour the dough!)
- Wrap the dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- Take the dough out of the fridge, remove clingfilm and roll out over a floured surface.
- Use a cookie cutter (I used a heart shaped one) to cut the dough into shapes. After the first few rounds of cutting there should be some dough left around the edges, which you can roll into another ball before rolling out again and repeating the process.
- Place the dough pieces on a baking tray lined with baking parchment, then put them in the fridge for another 20 minutes to help them hold their shape when baking.
- Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan.
- Bake the biscuits in the oven for 12-15 minutes, until they just start to brown. They will still be soft when they come out of the oven and will harden as they cool. Cool on a wire rack.
- To make the French buttercream, put the yolks and caster sugar in a bowl over a pan of hot water - make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.
- Place the pan over the heat and gently whisk the mixture until the sugar has dissolved (I usually let it get to a steaming point and then give it another couple of minutes before taking the mixture off the heat), then transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and whisk until it has doubled in size and has cooled to room temperature.
- Make sure the butter is room temperature and has been chopped into small, manageable chunks, then add it a piece at a time to the yolk mixture, whisking constantly. You may not need all of it - when the mixture has become stiff and holds its shape, you don't need to add any more.
- Sandwich the biscuits together with a teaspoonful of the buttercream.