As far as I am concerned, any holiday is a reason to bake! Next to Christmas, Valentine’s Day is my favorite baking holiday, probably because of all the opportunity to make heart shaped sweets! I wanted to create a different type of heart-shaped Valentine cookie this year, something different than the usual sugar cookie, so I created these Neapolitan Hearts. I won’t lie; these cookies are somewhat labor intensive, but I’d like to think they are a labor of love. The recipe is quite simple, just take your time with the assembly. I’ve included photographs of the process below to help you along the way.
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
• ½ cup sugar
• 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 2 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
• 2 ½ tablespoons Dutch Process cocoa powder
• Pink food coloring
• 1 large egg
• 1 tablespoon water
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until well combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Add vanilla extract and salt. With the mixer speed on low, gradually add the flour, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. It will be loose and crumbly in texture. Knead the dough with your hands until it comes together, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide the dough into equal thirds. I like to use a food scale to do this so that it takes the guesswork out of it.
Lay a piece of plastic wrap over a cutting board. Place one third of the dough on top of the plastic. Sprinkle cocoa powder over the dough.
Knead until the cocoa powder has been fully incorporated into the dough.
Gather into a ball and set aside.
Place a new, clean piece of plastic wrap over the cutting board and place another third of dough on top. Put a few drops of food coloring onto the dough. Knead until the coloring is fully incorporated into the dough. Add more coloring if needed to get the shade of pink that you want. Gather into a ball and set aside. You will now have pink, brown and white dough.
Place the remaining ball of dough (the white one) between two sheets of plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a square shape, about 3/8-inch thick.
Using a ruler and a sharp knife, slice each square into ¾-inch wide strips. Carefully slide the plastic wrap and dough off of the board and onto a cookie sheet. Set aside. Repeat with chocolate dough and pink dough, stacking them onto the cookie sheet as well. Place cookie sheet in refrigerator for approximately 20 minutes until dough has chilled slightly.
Whisk together the egg and water. Cover a large work surface with plastic wrap. Carefully lift a strip of chocolate dough up off the cookie sheet and onto the plastic wrap. Brush side of the strip with egg wash.
Place one pink strip next to the chocolate strip and gently press together. Brush side of pink strip with egg wash. Place one vanilla strip next to the pink strip. Repeat, forming a larger and larger sheet of striped dough, using the egg wash as a “glue” to hold the strips together. Lay a piece of plastic wrap on top of the striped dough. Using the rolling pin, gently roll the pin across the top of the dough, both horizontally and vertically. Don’t press too hard; you just want to even out the levels of the strips and ensure that they are adhering to each other. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat.
Using a 2 ½-inch heart shaped cookie cutter, cut out cookies from the striped sheet of dough.
Gently transfer the hearts to the cookie sheet.
Bake until done, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer to cooling rack.
Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.
A note: you’ll end up having scrap dough left over after cutting out the hearts. I use it up in one of two ways: Use successively smaller heart cookie cutters so that you end up with a variety of cookie sizes, or reroll the dough and cut out new cookies. The stripes will be gone, but you will end up with cookies that have a fun swirly color pattern.