Valentine’s Day is important in my family. My grandparents’ relationship began because my grandfather, Stu, gave my grandmother, Rita, a valentine. (Though, as my Gram tells it, he had been pursuing her for some time without much success. He would chat with her father so often that my great-grandfather told her she should give Stuart a chance. She told my great-grandfather that, if he liked Stu so much, he should go out with him!) That gesture, one that may seem a little cliché now, was enough to convince Rita that she should finally give Stu a chance. They were married for just shy of 68 years and he gave her a valentine every year thereafter. As I have gotten older, they have come to represent Valentine’s Day for me.
On the first Valentine’s Day my husband and I were dating, he showed up with a container of these Sweetheart Cookies for me. People don’t often bake for me. Certainly no one had ever baked anything for me for Valentine’s Day. The cookies aren’t why I married him, but our shared love of baking is definitely something that brought us together. This year I made these cookies for him for Valentine’s Day (though he was nice enough to share them with me).
For the dough:
- 1 cup 2 sticks softened unsalted butter
- 6 ounces softened cream cheese
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup quick oats
- 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts chopped*
For the icing:
- 2 cups confectioner's sugar
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- 1-2 Tablespoons half & half or milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 drops of red food coloring optional
For the cookies:
- In a stand mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese together until just combined.
- Add sugar and blend until fluffy and light in color.
- Add vanilla and stir until just combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Add flour mixture to wet ingredients. Mix until just combined.
- Add in oats and pecans mixing until combined. The dough will be thick.
- Chill dough in refrigerator for at least two hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Remove chilled dough from refrigerator.
- Using a cookie dough scoop (1 tablespoon) scoop out the dough.
- To form hearts, break ball of dough in half. Shape each half into tear shape. Then squeeze together tips to form hearts (see photo).
- Place hearts (or balls of dough) onto cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. (These cookies will not spread much during baking.)
- Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand or a spatula to about 1/4 inch thick.
- Bake cookies for 12-15 minutes. The tops of the cookies will not brown, but the bottom edges will start to brown.
- Cool cookies on a rack.
For the icing:
- Prepare the icing by mixing confectioner's sugar, butter, vanilla, and 1 Tablespoon of half & half together with mixer (or hand mixer). Add additional half & half until icing reaches desired consistency.
- Spread icing over cooled cookies.
- Leave cookies on rack for icing to set.
*The original recipe calls for walnuts, but I prefer pecans.
Though it isn't necessary to toast the nuts, one could do this. If you want to make more than one color of icing, divide the icing into smaller containers before adding food coloring. One could also leave the icing white and top with sprinkles or colored sugars while the icing is still wet. My icing was a bit thin this year. My husband usually makes his icing thicker than mine was in the photos.