07 February 2013

Red Hot Candy Cookies

Valentine's Day is all about the sweets.  Sweet gents, sweet ladies, sweet children, sweet pups, sweet tarts.  And plenty of sweet desserts.  But my hubs, in addition to being super sweet, is also pretty hot.  So to contrast the abundance of sugar-spun romance topped with frosting and hearts, I bring to you today a fantastic little cookie with a cinnamon kick.  Slightly sweet, slightly hot.  Perfect.

Before we go any further, let me be honest.  I'm not a big fan of Valentine's Day.  (I prefer Love Actually, but that's a whole different conversation!)  I will take stars over hearts, green over pink, and small gestures over grand overtures.  But just because I'm not overly enthusiastic does not mean that I let the day pass by unnoticed.  I celebrate my making small, heart-shaped, red-speckled cookies.  Then, the Valentine quota being met for the year, I move on to green stars (hmmm....St. Patrick's Day idea.....)

So let's get down to baking business.  As of late, I have been on a super-huge buttermilk cookie kick.  These cookies are kind of like a cross between a snickerdoodle and a sugar cookie.  They have a light, spicy and sweet flavor, puff up delightfully, have a chewy consistency and a great crispy exterior.  And the hubs loves these bad boys.  Whether dipped in cinnamon sugar, topped with salted caramel frosting or just plain...if I bake them, he will come.

So to have a spicy little V-day, I decided to try adding the delicious little cinnamon imperials.  Who says they're only for placing on top of Christmas tree-shaped cookies?!  I have a jar on my desk at work, and love their spicy sweet flavor, hard exterior and chewy interior.  What a fabulous little flavor nugget.  The little speckles of red in the cookie dough is pretty delightful to look at, and even more delightful to eat.

The first time I made these, I topped them with cream cheese frosting (yum).  Second time around, I did a little candy drizzle to intensify the cinnamon a bit more, and loved it.  These cookies are best fresh, when the drizzle is still hard and crunchy on top.  But they are still delicious when stored in an air-tight container for a few days, though slightly sticky.  Just an excuse to lick your loved ones finger, right?  Bring on the bleeding hearts!

Red Hot Candy Cookies (makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies)

  • 1/2 c shortening
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c buttermilk (recipe below)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 c cinnamon imperials 
Red Hot Drizzle

  • 2 c cinnamon imperials (you'll need 2 9-oz bags if you want to do the drizzle)
  • 2 c water

In a stand mixer or large bowl, beat together the shortening, sugar and egg until well blended.  Stir in the buttermilk and vanilla.  Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon, then beat on low until smooth.  Stir in 1 cup of the cinnamon imperials until evenly distributed.  Form the dough into a flat disk about an inch or two thick and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper. Generously flour a baking mat or cutting board.  Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and plastic wrap.  Place the dough on the floured surface and sprinkle top with more flour.  Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to the thickness of the candies.  Cut out the cookies into your desired shape, re-rolling the dough as necessary.  

Place the cookies on a baking sheet about an inch apart so they have room to expand.  Bake for 6-10 minutes, depending on cookie size, until they are puffed up and just starting to become golden around the edges.  Remove the pan from the oven and let the cookies cool for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the cinnamon drizzle, combine 2 cups of both imperials and water in a small saucepan.  Place over medium-high heat and bring to a slow boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Stir the candies occasionally so they don't stick until all are completely melted.  Continue to simmer while the cookies cool completely, about 20 minutes, until syrup is thickened and about a third of the original volume.

Remove the pan from heat and set aside to cool for one minute.  Stir mixture together to help it cool evenly.  When it becomes thick and viscous, drizzle over the top of the cooled cookies.  For easy clean up, place parchment paper under your wire racks.

Easy Buttermilk Recipe

  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • milk
For 1 cup of buttermilk, place 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in a measuring cup, then fill with milk until you reach the 1 cup line.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  

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