Valentine Cookies and a Bright Red Scale!

Valentine cookies | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Did you know that Saint Valentine’s Day dates back to Pope Gelasius in 500AD, not the Hallmark Cards of 1910? The original holiday was a religious one, with nothing to do with romance, flowers, chocolate or red royal icing. The modern Valentine’s Day must have been recreated by a pastry chef.  It is an excuse to make sweet, pretty, heart-shaped treats. There really isn’t another time of the year when heart-shaped desserts are permissible. It’s a shame really, but Valentine’s Day owns the shape, so we must take advantage of the opportunity.

These cookies are not only pretty, but most importantly they are delicious. They are made of a lemon shortbread and decorated with a lemon icing. Often these stylized cookies give way to aesthetics and forget that the flavor still rules supreme. These are both tasty and gorgeous!

As my Valentine’s gift to you I am giving away a Bright Red Baker’s Scale! Just leave me a comment about your favorite Valentine’s Day dessert and I will pick a random winner next week.* Contest Closed!

As you know I am trying to thin out my baking pantry of all the loot various companies send me to test out and review. This scale is one of them. I think it is lovely and it works well, but I have several scales and honestly I prefer digital. This scale by Eat Smart can weigh up to 11-pounds, has a nice big hopper (bowl) and is stylish in a retro way. The down side is that is requires a kitchen that can handle its formidable size. This company also makes a tiny Digital Scale that I really like. If you don’t bake with a scale yet, it is something you should consider. It is the only way to get really consistent results and allows you to bake recipes from the pros like Michelle Gayer.

Valentine cookies | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Lemon Shortbread Cookies – inspired by Sarabeth Levine’s Buttery Shortbread in Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours:

Makes about 2 dozen cookies (depending on the size of your cutters)

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature – I used a European-style butter, which has lower amounts of water and whey. This makes the cookies taste better and have a fantastic crisp texture, but isn’t absolutely necessary.

1/2 cup superfine sugar – this also makes the texture of the cookie, see below to make your own.

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Rind of 1 lemon – see below for directions

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour – measured by stirring flour and then using scoop and sweep method.

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt – I used kosher salt and just added another pinch

Lemon Royal Icing:

1 1/2 tablespoons Meringue Powder

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 pound confectioner’s sugar

1 1/2 ounces lemon juice

Food Coloring Gel

more lemon juice – to thin out the icing when decorating

To make the cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Lemon rind in a grinder | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Remove the rind, with some of the pith and chop it up into small pieces. Grind it up in a coffee or Spice-and-Nut Grinder.

Ground lemon rind | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Until it is in very fine pieces. It should almost be powdery. If there are large chunks the cookies will not hold together when rolled out.

Granulated sugar ground in a food processor | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

In a food processor grind some regular granulated sugar for about 1 minute and then measure out 1/2 cup of the superfine sugar for your recipe. The rest of the sugar can be saved for anther recipe.

Beat the butter in a stand mixer with the Beater Blade Paddle Attachment on medium-high, until it is smooth. Gradually add the sugar, then vanilla and lemon, mixing until light in color and texture, about 3 minutes. In thirds, add the flour and salt. Mix until the dough comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl.

Lemon shortbread cookie dough | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface.

Kneading lemon shortbread cookie dough | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Knead very lightly until it is a smooth ball.

Heart shaped cookie cutters | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Use your favorite cookie cutters.

Cutting cookie dough with heart shaped cookie cutters | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Dust the dough with flour and roll to about  a scant 1/4-inch thick rectangle. The dough does not need to chill first.

Cutting cookie dough with heart shaped cookie cutters | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

You can re-roll the scraps once, beyond that it starts to get tough.

Baked heart shaped lemon shortbread cookies Cutting cookie dough with heart shaped cookie cutters | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Position the cookies on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly golden. If you are baking both sheets at once you will want to switch from top to bottom and back to front. Cool on a rack.

Whipping royal icing in a mixer Cutting cookie dough with heart shaped cookie cutters | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Meanwhile make the royal icing:

Combine all the meringue powder, cream of tartar, confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice in a stand mixer. It will be quite thick.

To decorate the cookies follow these instructions.

Valentine cookies | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

To enter the Bright Red Scale Giveaway just leave me a comment about your favorite Valentine dessert. *Only open to US citizens, since this thing is a bit heavy to ship. Contest Closed!

For the chocolate lovers, here is a Valentine’s cake for you!

159 thoughts to “Valentine Cookies and a Bright Red Scale!”

  1. Okie Dokie….where do I sign up. Well, I love hearts and who doesn’t love a shiny red scale to “love up” their kitchen. I’ll happily take it off your hands and free up that space. The “love scales” can live with me :”)
    Thank you for sharing a fun recipe too. I’m giving it a whirl tomorrow since I will soon be buried in way too many inches of snow. ugh
    AmyRuth

  2. Your sugar cookies are beautiful! My favorite Valentines Day dessert would have to be made with lots of chocolate. I’m thinking a chocolate cake with ganache frosting.

  3. On Valentine’s Day I feel like it has to be chocolate! I love the eatsmart company. I ordered a bathroom scale from them last week and they included a nifty personal tape measure. I’m sure I would love this scale! The red would go perfect with my retro kitchen.

  4. It’s a little sad that I want that scale more for it’s beauty than it’s usefulness. But I still want it!

    My favorite sweet for Valentine’s Day is store bought rather than homemade – m&ms. Every year my dad would buy us each one pound of m&ms – and have them laid out on the kitchen table when we came down in the morning. It was the only holiday that he bought for – my mom handled everything else.

  5. I think the perfect Valentine’s Day dessert would be a mini yellow Smith Island cake (it’s a layer cake which is baked with each thin layer in its own pan- I usually do 9-12 layers) with a traditional thick, gooey chocolate glaze. But instead of the typical candy bits in the layers I would sub strawberries, and maybe add some strawberry glaze as a top layer. The problem with a Smith Island cake is that they are massive, but I can’t imagine anything better than one the right size for two people… it’s just the most dense, lush, moist, chocolatey deliciousness. And it looks pretty.

  6. Those cookies look delicious! I have yet to find a recipe for sugar cookies that come out nice, these look like a good one to try!
    As for my favorite Valentine’s dessert, I have to agree with all of the chocolate talk.
    I think this year I’ll make some wacky cake and top with some tasty strawberry or cherry jam.

  7. If I let my kids look at the photos in this post, I will definitely have to make these cookies very soon! 😉 My fave dessert for Valentine’s day has to be some kind of chocolate cake: molten, layered with frosting or a gorgeous bundt cake sprinkled with icing sugar, but it has to be chocolate!

  8. That scale is super cute! And those cookies? They sound amazing. I love to make heart shaped food, but your right, they only really seem to fit during Valentine’s Day. 🙂

  9. Those cookies do look wonderful. This may be my new favorite since I’m not really a chocolate kind of a gal. Give me something buttery and crispy any day. And, these cookies bring back fond memories of decorating cookies for any and every holiday when my daughter was little. Now, she eschews sweets for more healthy options (not fun for mom!). Would love, love, love the scale. It would match my 1953 General Electric Stratoliner oven!

  10. My favorite dessert for Valentine’s is a strawberry tart. I LOVE IT. But for my kids cookies are the best. By the way I love the scale.

  11. Beautiful cookies, thank you for sharing them with us. I love the touch of lemon that is added to them!

    My favorite Valentine dessert is molten lava cake. Yum!

  12. Your cookies are an inspiration! Dessert on Valentine’s day…hmmm, will have to start a new tradition and make decorated heart cookies.

  13. hi! I love your giveaway. I already have a scale, but this one is pretier 🙂 well, too bad i’m from europe…
    for valentine, I expect a ring hidden in a box of chocolate. :))
    cheers,
    codruta, from timisoara, romania

  14. my favorite valentine’s treat will always be CHOCOLATE! This year I’m thinking chocolate cakepops – just haven’t decided what shape yet!

  15. Shortbread cookies and lemon icing? What a great combination! And your cookies look perfect.
    My favorite Valentine dessert would be a dark chocolate truffle – after a nice meal, that is all I can do, and it packs a great chocolate punch:)

  16. I love making my nearly flourless brownies and serving them with a drizzle of raspberry coulis. But, a big bowl of chopped strawberries with a little sugar over pound cake sounds pretty amazing, on this snowy day. Or, some lemon curd with the strawberries. Don’t get me started!

  17. What a gorgeous kitchen addition! My favorite Valentine’s dessert is sour cream toffee fudge cake with a chocolate ganache & toffee sprinkles.

  18. We love, love, love your devil’s food cake…and I was planning on making it for my Grandma’s birthday (the day after Valentine’s), but now I might foresee some delish lemon cookies too!!!

  19. We like making the kid-friendly fudge that uses marshmallow fluff. My kids wait eagerly all year for it, always metioning it whenever we pass the jars of fluff at the grocery store — about 876 times per year, or so it seems.

  20. My favorite. . . that’s such a mood issue for me. . . . last year I introduced my kids to chocolate fondue and they loved it!

    These look wonderful, I’m thinking they might be yummy using orange peel and then dipped half in dark chocolate. . . that might be my project with the kids this year! Thanks for the idea!

  21. oh gosh. I have never actually celebrated Valentine’s day! 🙁 But I think I would have to go for something with caramel/dulce de leche since for me that is the sexiest food! So let’s say heart-shaped alfajores. 😀

  22. My favorite Valentine’s Day dessert is Panna Cotta. Actually, it is my favorite dessert anytime but Valentine’s Day is the only time I can put it in my red, heart shaped ramekins.

  23. Mmm, chocolate pavlova. My mouth starts watering just thinking about it. Will cross my fingers for a win…seems like a baker’s scale is one of the few things I haven’t already bought for my kitchen. A big thanks for giving Michelle Gayer a shout out as well. Love, love, love the Salty Tart. A visit to Midtown Global Market just isn’t complete without a chocolate Surly cupcake for dessert!

  24. My favorite one is a flourless chocolate cake made with almonds and covered with ganache. Very rich, dense and lush. Coverd with sliced strawberries it is perfect for Valentines Day. Love the scale!

  25. Gorgeous! I’m still using a cheapie, plastic Weight Watcher scale from the 70s…can you imagine? Oh, I have a digital but just prefer a standard scale.
    Favorite V-day treat? Truffles!!

  26. My favorite dessert to make is the William Sonoma homemade icecream cake. It’s so versatile, but my kids LOVE doughnuts and I’m going to try the Artisan doughnuts real soon–just printed it

  27. Love molten chocolate cakes. However, the sexiest Valentine’s Day dessert we ever had was yummy things like berries, cookies, pretzels, fingers, etc, dipped into really, really good melted dark chocolate. Yum!

  28. love the retro look. My husband loves anything lemon and his fave cookie is shortbread so this is a winner for us and no doubt our granddaughters too!

  29. My favorite V-Day dessert would have to be Snoconuts from Morley’s. I have yet to try and make them, but I’ve seen a few recipes. They are basically fancy Mounds bars. But I always get them for myself for V-day, so that no matter what, I won’t be disappointed! 🙂

  30. Oh gosh hard to pick just one…..well it will have to be the one I remember from my Valentine Parties at school ~ way back when! There was a little bakery that would make a sugar cookie that was dipped with a red icing. Took me for every to get a recipe that was like it but I did not give up and wal la after much testing I got it …I got it! YEA! Wow it would be so cute to put the little red heart cookies in the little red scale wouldn’t …. :0) perfect! Happy Valentines Everyone!!

  31. My favorite Valentine dessert would be molten chocolate souffle. Thank you for the opportunity to win this kitchen scale!

  32. I love the cookies. The lemon made my mouth water. My favorite valentine’s day dessert are Conversation Hearts. Maybe not traditional dessert but I ate them after supper tonight so it counts!

  33. Oh I disagree. I think you could have these wonderful cookies anytime of the year. The first day of school, even just to say I love you. My favorite Valentine’s dessert???? Well, its always been a big rice krispy treat heart,( on a stick) covered with white chocolate and Valentine sprinkles. Wrap them in a pink cellophane bag, tie a big ribbon and everyone wants one. They are not only yummy, but beautiful. Make them once and your kids will want them every year, and in between too. Its all about the “us” this time of year. Beautiful cookies Zoe. I definitely will try them. In fact they are going to be footballs at the Super Bowl party. Love the scale, would look great next to my red Kitchenaide.

  34. Kinda silly, but my mom used to make heart shaped Jello Jigglers. Not really a dessert…but I think of them every Valentine’s Day.

  35. Chocolate cake or cupcakes with pink frosting….just something about that combination says Valentine’s Day like nothing else! Thanks for entering me in the giveaway — the red scale would be absolutely perfect in my kitchen!!

  36. My favorite Valentine’s treat is sugar cookies from Louisa’s Bakery in Montgomery, AL. They are the most divine cookies! I will have to try the recipe you’ve shared and see if they are similar to Louisa’s!

  37. I am all for a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day, but it is also a great excuse to make anything chocolate and on the elegant side…flourless chocolate cake!

  38. My favorite valentine dessert was made by my mother when I was young – an angel food cake with frosting made with orange juice and grated orange rind. It was simply delicious. I would love the scale, have been wanting to get one.

    Thanks for all your wonderful recipes!!

  39. My favorite valentines dessert would have to be chocolate raspberry cheesecake! Thanks for the cookie recipe, looks wonderful!

  40. I bake a heart cookie that is more like a butter cookie and has almond extract with an almond glaze. It is my favorite but it might be my second favorite after trying your recipe!
    Thanks for a great blog!

  41. Favorite V-Day dessert is a big box of chocolates that is mine, all mine, and from which I can nibble off each one until I find my favorite flavors.

  42. Last year I made a Chocolate Irish Creme Chesecake with a mocha whipped cream. It was so smooth and rich. Definitely my favorite Valentine’s Day dessert. There is something about the sweetmess and richness of coffee and chocolate that just goes great with love 🙂

  43. I am hosting a Valentine’s dinner for my parents this year. I planned to make heart shaped sugar cookies and decorate them. I hope mine turn out as gorgeous as the ones pictured. I also plan to serve them with olive oil gelato.

  44. My favorite Valentine;’s Day dessert is anything with scrumptious strawberries!!!…and those cookies you just made too…;-)

  45. This is such a great site. My favorite valentine day dessert is mini 3 inch heart shaped chocolate decadence with creme anglaise and raspberry puree. My husband could do without the raspberry but I think it’s perfection!!

  46. I sure love your site, but I especially love that everything I have made from it always turns out well. These cookies look awesome, cannot wait to try them. The flavor combo sounds so good, and they are really cute.
    I would love to win the scale, it is so cool. My favorite dessert for Valentines Day is a dark chocolate heart shaped cake filled with a chocolate truffle filling, topped with ganache, and piped with fudge. Love it!

  47. I like the idea of making chocolate lava cake batter ahead and then pop them in the oven 15 minutes before I want to serve them. Then I have a warm chocolate dessert with no stress. Making them in heart shaped ramekins would be perfect for Valentines.

    We aren’t eating desserts for a year, so I will have to save that idea for next year. Maybe I will do something with fresh berries.

  48. awesome cookies, terrific giveaway! my favorite valentine’s day treat would have to be a raspberry-tinged bete noir. so creamy and smooth and with just a hint of fruitiness. yum. 🙂

  49. I am just thinking here, with these lemon cookies. It could make a great ice cream sandwich. Humm maybe cherry, or raspberry. Even rolling the ice-cream in some of those cute Valentine sprinkles again. One of my fav. Next to the krispy treats above, is a chocolatey cookie with the best strawberry ice-cream you can find, ice cream sandwich. It’s the best.

  50. Lemon Shortbread Cookies look wonderful and sound delicious — and will be good for all holidays! I am excited about the idea of the finely ground lemon rind and can’t wait to get to baking (Husband will be so happy.) — just need to get to the store for the meringue powder. I am also so happy to have found your site — I will be visiting often. To date, my favorite Valentine’s Day dessert has been a Montmorency Cherry Cheese Cake. P.S. If I am so lucky, I have the perfect spot for the great red scale!

  51. Those cookies are gorgeous! I’d have to say my favorite Valentine’s dessert involves chocolate . . . surprise. It would probably be a pair of warm, molten-chocolate pudding cakes . . . I’m drooling.

  52. One year for my girlfriend I did a scavenger hunt though Minneapolis leaving little notes and sweets at meaningful locations. It all ended with a candle lit desert by our favorite frozen lake! Got to love February in Minnesota!

  53. My FAVORITE Valentine dessert is Hot Fudge Pudding Cake.
    Yum! Garnished with some whipped cream and a few raspberries.

  54. Chocolate mousse cake with raspberry filling! The local French bakery makes a delicious mini heart-shaped cake for two.

  55. I love your beautiful cookies – very festive! OK -my favorite Valentine’s dessert would have to be Creme Brulee – silky smooth, very yumski!

  56. At our house its always the sweet treat of a chocolate birthday cake. My hubby will be celebrating his birthday for the 60th time on this special holiday!

  57. This has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day, but I just wanted to stop by to say that after owning it for a year, I’ve finally had the chance to dive into “Healthy Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day” and I can’t get enough of it! In the past week my little family has eaten our way through 4 loaves of whole wheat bread (once made with white WW flour and honey, once with dark brown sugar, white WW and oat flour) and made the most delicious pizza (crust from the Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread recipe). Thank you so much for creating such a fantastic book!

  58. Oooh, I love that red scale!!! I’m a new reader who has fallen absolutely in love with your blog!

    Choosing a favorite any-time dessert is hard enough, but for valentines day?! Yikes! If I have to choose one it would probably be a tres leche cake with fresh berries!

  59. I’m definitely trying this recipe! I have a friend who is allergic to eggs and I’m always on the lookout for good baking recipes that I can share with her.

    I’m a pretty simple girl at heart. My favorite dessert is chocolate. Valentines day or any other day.

  60. Those cookies are so beautiful, delicate and fancy! I love lemony cookies too.
    But, for me, Valentines Day = Chocolate Day, and the darker and richer the better. This Valentines Day I plan on baking deep dark chocolate molten lava cakes for my loved ones (and me!)

  61. Hard to pick just one, but I would have to say a nice chocolate fondue…white or dark for me…there is something about sharing warm chocolate with your valentine that is so much fun!

  62. An iced sugar cookie that melts in my mouth is my absolute favorite valentine treat – an almond cookie is a close 2nd.

  63. Ohhh a scale! In red too, my fav. color!!
    I would have to say that my favorite Valentine’s dessert would be Tiramisu:D (Of course, I’d eat it any other time too:) or a rich slice of cheesecake. . . . mmmmm, my mouth is watering at the thought:)

  64. There’s a place in Portland, Oregon that my husband and I went to when we were first dating called Rimsky-Korsakoffee House or just “Rimsky’s”. It is an eclectic coffee house with rotating tables, a mermaid in the bathroom and, most importantly, a divine raspberry chocolate mousse. A wonderful Valentine’s treat!

  65. Well as I’m gluten sensitive by fav would have to be flourless chocolate cake. Although sugar cookies are great to give away. I would love to win the scale, I often have to change out regular flour for my gluten frees and weighing is the best way, my present scale is old and ugly, so this bright red one would be greatly appreciated.

  66. Ok. This might qualify as a dessert, at least at our house. It is called Sweetheart Jell-O Salad.

    Make 2 (3 oz.) boxes of any red Jell-O, but only use half the water called for. Add a 16 oz. can of applesauce, and mix in a l6 oz. can of jellied cranberry sauce. Add thawed frozen strawberries (you can save some of the juice from the strawberries as they thaw and use it instead of some of the water in the Jell-O.) Chill until firm. It’s good!

  67. Valentine Day calls for chocolate for me. Dark chocolate with a bit of sea salt. The cookies look great. I love lemon shortbread too.

  68. I can’t imagine a better Valentine’s dessert than chocolate mousse. I love a mousse that’s bittersweet, moist, and airy. It can be in glasses, individual dishes or a large bowl.

  69. For as long as I can remember, Valentine’s Day cookies have been my favorite. My mom use to make large heart cookies, frost them and then ice my classmates names on them. Of course, that was when it was ok to bring something homemade to school to share.

  70. Strawberries marinated in Grand Mariner dipped in dark chocolate with a glass of good champagne..simple but very flavorful

  71. Strawberries injected with Grand Mariner dipped in dark chocolate over a thin milk chocolate shortbread cookie with a glass of good champagne..simple but very flavorful

  72. I have long made heart shaped brownies to give on VD. But if someone were trying to woo me, I’d want cheesecake or rum cake or anything that has a smooth creamy texture!

  73. Your heart cookies are beautiful! I love holiday baking. Especially now that I have a preschooler….I have suddenly become the Mom that wants to bring the coolest treats to the school party….even though I know that the kids don’t care..I could bring in something that looks like a mud pie on a stick and they would love it as long as it was sweet! 🙂 I am learning so much about baking, and I love it! My Valentine’s Day dessert would have to be sugar cookies like yours! (I am not a chocolate lover….just the occasional nibble….unless it is a Snickers bar, then all bets are off). I love all things lemon, so I will definitely be trying these cookies! Thanks for sharing!!

  74. My favorite deserts is orange rolls. My mom used to make these for Christmas morning and she died without showing me her secrets so I have been experimenting to come up with the right taste and texture. Second to that would have to be butter cookies!

  75. I will be making chocolate lava cakes for Valentine’s Day. That scale looks gorgeous. I have not used a scale to bake with, but I think I will look into it. Thanks for the recipe!!

  76. You make everything look so delicious. I will definitely try these cookies.

    I love anything that has chocolate and berries in it.

  77. I’m hoping these cookies will be my new favorite valentines day treat !!! They look beautiful!! My favorite thing to bake is a triple Black Forest with coconut and heart shaped out of cherries on top! I tried to post a pic but couldn’t !

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