A valentine from the past

When I was a kid, my mum would always buy a special Valentine’s Day cookie for my sister and me from Swiss Pastries bakery. It was always the same – two heart shaped sugar cookies covered in red icing and sandwiched together with raspberry jam – and I loved it. You can see the cookie in this picture.

I am not much of a Valentine’s person, but as you know, I am a bit of a baker. So this year I decided to try and recreate those cookies. For those of you prejudiced against the humble sugar cookie (and I know you’re out there, because I count myself among your ranks), the ones I made have a hint of almond, which makes all the difference and elevates them beyond boring.

In my humble opinion, my cookies turned out as well as the originals of my childhood, if a little more rough-and-ready. Mum, the one in the photo above is for you!

Almond Sugar Cookie Sandwiches
Makes 3-5 dozen cookies (or 1 1/2- 2 1/2 dozen sandwiches) depending on size of cookie cutter.

2 1/2 cups all purpose or plain flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (or more to taste)
Raspberry jam

Beat butter and sugar in a stand mixer (about 3-4 minutes) or in a bowl with an electric mixer (about 5-6 minutes). Beat in egg and almond extract. Reduce speed to low and add flour and salt until just combined.

Form dough into four flat disks and chill until firm, at least 1 hour. (The dough can be prepared several days in advance and kept in the fridge.)

Preheat oven to 350F/176C. On a well-floured surface, roll out one disk of dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out as many shapes as possible and bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 8-10 minutes. (Watch closely so you can whisk them out of the oven before the edges become too brown!)

Rechill dough scraps until firm enough to roll out again, and repeat until all the dough has been used up. Once the cookies have been decorated and the icing has set, spread a thickish layer of raspberry jam on the back of a decorated cookie and sandwich together with a second undecorated one, lining up any points and edges.

Decorating icing
Makes enough to decorate half the cookies, for the tops of the sandwiches. This icing takes several hours to dry completely, but it dries beautifully shiny and hard.

1 cup icing sugar
2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons liquid glucose or light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Food colouring

Sift the icing sugar into a medium bowl and mix together with the milk. The mixture will still be quite powdery. Beat in glucose and almond extract until glossy and all bits of icing sugar have dissolved. If the icing is too thick add a bit more milk. Add food colouring to achieve desired colour.