Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's all hearts and roses.

Sugar cookies with rosewater icing. © Ryan Schierling
Grandma has been a rose gardener as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I recall walking through her well-tended garden in the summer and carefully bending my nose into the flowers of each and every variety. I remember noting how some smelled faintly sweet, or rich with the essence of strawberries, while others had a more sophisticated perfume.

My grandmother loves roses. My grandmother's birthday also just happens to be very close to Valentine's Day. A few years ago, after tasting a revelatory rosewater ice cream at a local Persian restaurant, I couldn't help but think it would be fun to make her a sweet treat with rosewater. Sugar cookies seemed like just the thing. I could give her roses and she could eat them too!

I love these cookies. They are soft, delicious, and the aroma that envelopes your senses as you eat them is just amazing. If chocolate is just not the answer this Valentine's Day, these are the perfect way to give hearts and roses to the ones you love.

They may be modestly classic recipes for cookies and icing simply adapted for the occasion, but these cookies are most definitely personal. They have become my cherished Valentine's Day tradition – roses for Grandma – hearts and flowers for the people I love.

Makin' lurve. © Ryan Schierling
Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable or palm shortening
2 cups white sugar (superfine sugar, if possible)
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

In your mixing bowl, or electric mixer, cream together butter, shortening and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

Measure the dry ingredients and sift into a separate bowl (I just measure them into metal mesh strainer positioned over the bowl and shake it through), adding the powdered sugar, baking powder, and salt to a portion of the flour. Mix gently with whisk to distribute.

Gradually add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in your mixing bowl, incorporating thoroughly.

Separate batter into 3 portions, spread a layer up to 1 inch thick on each of three sheets of wax paper and wrap ends over to cover. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill dough for at least one hour or overnight.  (Or even for a few days – if you just want to make a few at a time.)

Preheat oven to 400º F. Roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thick on smooth surface dusted with a mixture of equal parts flour and powdered sugar. Now you get to use your happiest cookie cutters – the ones that show the love. Place cookies at least 1 inch apart on parchment paper lined cookie sheets.

Bake for approximately 6 minutes, or until just barely visibly golden around the edges. Remove from cookie sheets to cool completely.

Rose Water Icing 

(Triple this to cover sugar cookie recipe above.*)

1 cup confectioners' sugar, measured then sifted
2 teaspoons milk
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons rose water 
2 teaspoons light corn syrup (I know... HFCS. Forgive me this once.)
food coloring (one drop red for triple batch of icing for “pink” - see Note)

In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar, milk and rosewater until smooth. Beat in corn syrup until icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add a little more corn syrup.

Note: For a single batch, I like to pour some milk into a tiny bowl and add the food coloring to the milk. Then, I measure the colored milk out from the tiny bowl. This helps dilute the color when you're wanting a pale icing color.

I prefer to paint the icing on with a butter knife, but if you make a thin enough icing, you may consider dipping the cookies in the icing. Tops will smooth over almost immediately and should be dry within an hour or two (test carefully).

* I don't always bake the whole batch of cookies at the same time, and sometimes I do other things with some of the cookies. I just double or triple this recipe when needed.

"Hearts & Roses" to you!


  1. Wow! These are gorgeous. We have bake sales at my storytelling shows now, and I am totally making these for our April show (I missed making them for our Feb show. Boo.) You've inspired me to try and make a lavender icing too! Yummmmmm.

  2. Thank you. Love the lavender! Just a few florets in a vanilla icing – the fragrance is amazing. I haven't tried it, but if it suites your fancy, you might consider experimenting with a subtle hint of something like lemon or almond in your icing base.

    Also, if you're not doing a theme shape, a round cookie cutter with a scalloped edge makes a very pretty cookie.


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