Valentine’s Day is not a big deal where I’m from; most people I know just ignore it. But I still like to make at least one cookie set for the occasion. Though I have to admit, I keep it for myself rather than give it to my husband . I mean, honestly, how many guys do you know who are crazy about hearts, flowers, Cupids, roses, and the whole lot? But, if your better half is into such things, here is a little idea for what to make him/her that is a lot more personal than buying a bouquet and a box of chocolates in a store. A flowery chocolate box cookie puzzle!
- Cookie dough of your choice
- Nonstick baking mat
- Triangle ruler (aka triangle with a right angle, or set square)
- Paring knife
- Microplane or file
- Edible marker
- 1 (2 3/4 in/7 cm) heart cutter
- Pale blue flooding-consistency royal icing in piping bag with #3 tip (or equivalent)
- Scribe tool
- Soft #2 brush
- Pale pink, grey, and brown flooding-consistency royal icings in piping bags with #2 tips (or equivalents)
- About 7 (1/10 in/2.5 mm) red sugar hearts
- About 13 (5/100 in/1.3 mm) silver sugar pearls
- Silver luster dust
- Clear extract
- White soft peak-consistency royal icing in piping bag with #3 tip (or equivalent)
- About 26 (5/100 in/1.3 mm) white sugar hearts
Let's get started!
Begin by rolling out your chilled cookie dough on a nonstick baking mat. Use a triangle ruler and paring knife to cut a 5 1/2-inch (14-centimeter) square. (The triangle ruler will make it easier to end up with a perfect square, though a regular ruler can be used to mark off the square too.) Remove the excess dough, and chill the square for approximately 15 minutes before proceeding. Now cut about six puzzle piece-shapes into the dough. To avoid misshaping the dough, take care not to drag the knife too much. Your knife blade should also be clean at all times, as any bits of dough on it can lead to rough cuts.
Before you separate the pieces, chill the dough some more, and preheat the oven. To have the least spread, the pieces should be as cold as possible before you bake them. If you have room enough in your freezer, which I don’t, freeze the pieces before baking. Also, be sure to leave enough room between the cookies so that they don't fuse together during baking.
Bake the cookies according to your recipe, and allow them to cool completely. Check if they still fit neatly together. If not, file the edges where necessary using a Microplane or other filing tool.
To help the cookies stay in place while you work on the following steps, place all the cookies on the nonstick baking mat again.
Using an edible marker, start by drawing the outline of a bow and ribbon in the upper left corner. Then use the heart cutter to trace the boundary of what will be a heart-shaped window in the chocolate box. Place it slightly off-center to the lower right. Use the triangle ruler to mark a grid inside the heart, with squares approximately 3/4 inch (2 centimeters) on each side. The grid will become the tray for the chocolates. I used a black marker to show better in my photos, but normally I would have chosen a lighter color to prevent the lines from showing in the end. Take care that the puzzle pieces are close together during this process so that the final design is as seamless as possible.
After finishing the outlining of the design, use pale blue flooding-consistency royal icing and a #3 tip (or equivalent) to flood all parts outside the bow and heart (i.e., the top of the chocolate box lid). Use a scribe tool to help move the icing into tight corners and spots. In order to pipe right to the cookie edges without overflowing them, you will need icing of approximately 20-second consistency (meaning that, when the icing is dropped off a spoon into a bigger bowl of the icing, its "tracks" will disappear in about 20 seconds.) If you are unsure about the right consistency, it is always an option to outline the respective parts, and then flood after the outlines have dried. Allow the blue icing to crust before you proceed to the next step.
Now, it’s time for the chocolate tray, or the squares. The centers of the squares, aka the cavities to hold the chocolates, should be flatter than the rest of the design, as they would normally be lower than the rim on a real chocolate tray. That being said, flooding these areas would make them too high. Instead, use a soft #2 brush to apply a thin layer of pale pink flooding-consistency royal icing over the grid (left photo, below). Then fill a piping bag fitted with a #2 tip (or equivalent) with the remaining pink icing, and flood the lines of the grid. Work on each puzzle piece separately, but move them close together again, and regularly check to make sure the lines match up from piece to piece. Use a scribe tool to shape the icing when necessary.
Next, using light grey flooding-consistency royal icing and a #2 tip (or equivalent), flood the bow and ribbon. To keep the individual parts of the bow separate and distinct, let the icing crust before moving on to adjacent areas of the bow. As before, constantly check to be sure the design is still continuous by placing all puzzle pieces close together.
Next up - the chocolates! Using brown flooding-consistency royal icing and a #2 tip (or equivalent), alternately pipe little hearts and circles into the centers of the tray. Again, use a scribe tool to shape the icing as needed. This step is a bit tricky, and so I kept the cookies close together the entire time I piped the chocolates that spanned puzzle pieces. Even so, some seams still turned out a little crooked . . . but we don’t live in a perfect world, do we? While the icing is still wet, carefully place small red sugar hearts on top of the round chocolates, and silver sugar pearls on top of the heart-shaped ones.
For the final steps, the cookies need to be entirely dry, so it's best to let them rest overnight.
Mix a little silver luster dust with clear extract to make an edible silver paint. Clean the #2 brush used earlier, and use it to apply the silver paint to the bow and ribbon. Using white soft peak-consistency icing and a #3 tip (or equivalent), pipe a bead border around the heart.
Last, use white sugar hearts and more silver pearls to make a flower design on the blue box top. Using leftover white icing, "glue" the hearts, pointed ends together, to the blue icing to form flowers; then stick a silver sugar pearl in the center of each flower with another dab of icing. You will need five hearts (each about 5/100 inch or 1.3 millimeters) for a full flower, and three for a half-flower.
Before giving the chocolate box to your significant other, shuffle the pieces to make the puzzle a bit more challenging. 😉
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!
Leoni Eckart, aka Laegwen, started her baking career way before her own memory sets in, decorating Christmas cookies with her mother (at least that's what she's been told!), and has never entirely stopped puttering around in the kitchen since. Her first decorated cookies as an adult were her own wedding favors, and then, over Christmas 2014, her cookie fever went into overdrive! As of present, it shows no signs of cooling off. You can find Leoni on Facebook here, or you can reach her by email at email@example.com.
Photo credit: Leoni Eckart
Note: Get Inspired with Laegwen is a bimonthly series of cookie decorating tutorials that follow Leoni Eckart's personal experiments with gumpaste, royal icing, and other cookie decorating materials and methods. This article expresses the views of the author, and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. To read all of Leoni's past Get Inspired tutorials, click here. And to catch all of our Cookie Connection tutorials, click here.