I love the idea of a big cookie, a really big cookie, one that can be put in the center of the table within easy reach of everyone and picked at and broken and cracked and nibbled while the conversation keeps going. And I love this giant cookie because of its deep chocolate flavor and its fabulous texture: part flaky shortbread and part crisp snap. I originally created it for Valentine’s Day, cutting the dough into two large hearts and using the scraps to cut smaller cookies, and it’s great for this celebration not just because it’s sharable, but because it’s so easy to decorate with anything from a dusting of sugar to XOXOs made from candy or a fancy filigree picked out in royal icing. It’s the proverbial blank canvas. I’ve decorated so many of these, but my favorites are the simplest designs: covering the entire cookie with cocoa icing and then piping XOXOXO across the middle in white icing; and going very old-school and putting the fanciest cake stencil I can find (you can use a doily) over the cookie, covering it with confectioners’ sugar and then lifting off the stencil; or just icing the edges of the heart and trimming it with colorful sprinkles.
Of course, any cookie that’s this delicious, this easy to work with and so reliable shouldn’t be a once-a-year treat. Turn to this recipe whenever you want to make decorated cut-out cookies – I do.
Photo by Davide Luciano from Dorie’s Cookies.
Valentine’s Day Share-A-Heart
Makes 2 large hearts and a variable number of smaller cookies
For the cookies:
1 1/2 cups (204 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups (150 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup (21 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces; 128 grams) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 18 pieces
1 cold large egg yolk
1 tablespoon ice water
Sanding sugar (optional)
For the icing (optional):
1 cup (120 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons water
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Sanding sugar, sprinkles or small candies, for decorating
To make the cookies: Put the flour, sugar, cocoa and salt in a food processor and pulse to blend. Scatter over the chunks of butter and pulse until they are cut in and the mixture looks grainy. It’s okay to go a little further and to pulse until the mixture starts to moisten. Lightly beat the yolk and water together in a small bowl and add, a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When incorporated, process in 10-second long pulses until the dough forms clumps and curds. Pinch the dough and it should hold together – if it doesn’t, pulse a few more times.
Turn the dough out onto the counter, divide it in half and shape each piece into a disk. Working with one piece of dough at a time, put the disk between sheets of parchment paper and roll the dough into a circle, turning it over frequently and peeling away the paper often, so that it doesn’t roll into the dough and create creases. Try to get a circle that’s about 9 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick (a little thicker is fine). Slide each of the rounds, still between the papers, onto a baking sheet (you can stack them) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or freeze for at least 1 hour. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months; you can work on it directly from the freezer.)
When you’re ready to bake, position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Again, working with one sheet of dough at a time, peel away the top and bottom pieces of paper and then replace them (if you don’t peel them first, the dough may buckle during baking). Using a pencil, draw a large heart on the top papers of each circle and use a sharp knife to cut the dough around the heart. Lift off the top paper, cut off the excess dough (save the scraps) and slide each heart, still on the bottom piece of paper, onto a baking sheet. (While the hearts are baking, gather the scraps together, reroll them, chill and then use heart-shaped cutters to make additional cookies; bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until baked through as below.) If you don’t plan to decorate the cookies, you can sprinkle them with sanding sugar now, if you’d like.
Bake the hearts for 19 to 22 minutes, rotating the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back after 10 minutes, until they’re dull, a little crinkled, set around the edges and almost firm at their centers. Transfer the baking sheets to racks and let the cookies rest for 5 minutes before carefully sliding them, paper and all, onto the racks; cool to room temperature.
To make the icing (optional): Mix the confectioners’ sugar with 1 tablespoon of water. If it’s too thick to run off the tip of a spoon and form a ribbon, add more water drop by drop. If you want chocolate icing, scrape some of the white icing into a small bowl and stir in as much cocoa as you need to get the color you like.
Use an offset icing spatula or a table knife to cover the cookies with icing and then decorate any way you want. If you’re using sanding sugar, sprinkles or small candies, sprinkle them over the icing while it’s still wet. Allow the icing to set at room temperature.
Storing: Without icing, the cookies can be kept in a covered container at room temperature for about 4 days; with icing they’re best served the day they’re made. The dough can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months as can the cookies, if they haven’t been decorated.