As Valentine's Day has been and gone, I can own up to what I gave my hubby without having to whisper or speak in code.
In fact, it was completely impossible to make these gorgeous Shortbread lovelies (which are a James Martin recipe that I found on BBC Good Food's website) without his knowing - as my spending a good couple of hours in the kitchen is a bit hard to miss.
However, what I did was to make a whole bucket load of the biscuits (which was just as well, as it happens) and pick the best 12 or so to go in a little baggie, just for him.
The theme was along the lines of tea & biscuits, so I also bought him a new tea mug which doesn't sound all that romantic or exciting until you realise that my hubby cannot survive without his tea - and preferably, biscuits. I'm not altogether sure where the expensive dark chocolate that I also got for him came in to the equation, but he likes it - and Valentine's Day is meant to involve chocolate.
These biscuits were a long time in the creation, as it took me for ever to find a cookie cutter in the shape of a heart - and luckily found some in the supermarket once they'd got their full collection of Valentine's Day goods in. The next thing to find was the baggie and it is truly amazing that as soon as I started looking for a bag with hearts on, they'd all disappeared. Hey ho - I got one with sweeties on instead.
The biscuits themselves were quite a long time in the creation too, as I hadn't banked on what appeared to be a recipe for 14-16 biscuits making in the range of 25-30! They had to go in to the oven, on two baking trays, in three instalments - which meant I had quite a production line going, in the end. So, if you're considering making these and don't want that many, I'd suggest that it might be an idea to halve the quantities!
Still, they did their job - and if you're interested in a light but rich, crispy and jammy, melt in your mouth Shortbread biscuit, then these are for you!
I would recommend that your cookie cutter (which doesn't HAVE to be a heart shape, by the way!) is quite a large one. Otherwise, when you come to pressing the bottle top in to them to make the indentation required for the jam, if the biscuit is too small you stand the chance of it fracturing - and nobody wants broken hearts!
Another change to the original recipe is that I would heat the jam slightly in a saucepan to encourage its fluidity, prior to placing onto the biscuit. I found that my jam had a disconcerting habit of just sitting there in a jammy lump - which wasn't the idea at all.
I found that by far the easier way of cutting out the biscuits was to cut some dough from the ball and roll that out - probably around six or so's biscuits-worth. Doing this prevented the dough from becoming over-handled through successive re-rollings and ensured the biscuits all stayed light. It also means you have far less of a great lump to handle!
I have entered these little lovelies in the Very Good Recipes "Be My Valentine" competition, so we'll see how we get on!
Now then, is it tea time?
CHERRY SHORTBREAD HEARTS (makes hundreds. Oh alright then, between 15-20)
100g icing sugar
200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
50g ground almonds
250g pack cold butter, cut into cubes
50g glace cherries, finely chopped
half a tsp of almond extract
cherry jam, sieved.
1. Pre-heat oven to 180degC/350degF/Gas 4 and prepare two baking trays with parchment or greaseproof paper.
2. Into a large bowl, sift the icing sugar, flour and cornflour.
3. Stir in the ground almonds, then rub in the butter until smooth. You can use a food processor for this bit.
4. Stir in the chopped glace cherries and almond extract, bringing together to form a dough.
5. Roll out on a lightly floured surface, then cut out biscuits gently using your cookie cutter.
6. Carefully place each biscuit onto a baking tray, leaving enough room between each so that they don't touch.
7. Place into the oven and bake for 10 minutes until lightly golden.
8. Remove from the oven and, before the biscuits can cool, press a bottle top lightly into the centre of each, making the depression for the jam to go into.
9. Spoon a little of the jam into each depression and replace into the oven for another 5-10 minutes, until the jam has settled and the biscuits are a rich golden colour.
10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool further.
11. Get the kettle on!