When I think of Valentine’s Day, I think of Kleenex boxes. In elementary school I would wait patiently during the weeks preceding February 14th, ready to snatch up an empty Kleenex box the minute the last tissue was used. Then I would keep it safely hidden in my room, away from parents on garbage-patrol, until a few days before Valentine’s Day. At that point I would bring the Kleenex box into my school classroom, ready to cover it with red and white paper, douse it in glitter, and plaster lacy hearts and shiny stickers all over it. When Valentine’s Day finally arrived our class would sit in anticipation at our little tables, trying to focus on our work as we were tapped on the shoulder one-by-one to go to the back of the classroom and deposit valentines into each classmate’s box. After recess we would re-enter the room, which would be miraculously transformed into a party by our parent volunteers. Punch, heart-shaped cookies, and conversation hearts were often served, but the best part was dumping out those prized Kleenex boxes and shifting through valentines. At the end of the day we would stuff our cards back into our boxes and return home, hyped up on sugar and giddy from the excitement of sharing valentines.
The holidays tend to die down a little each year as I get older, but there are still some things I like to do each year. A few years ago I found a recipe for these Cherry Chocolate Kiss Cookies and knew I had to try them immediately. Cherries, chocolate, cookies, and kisses? Valentine’s Day is written all over them! These are now one of my favorite cookies, and I’ve made them every February since. Although each time I make them I’m reminded of why I loathe using an electric mixer with powdered sugar (which is unsurpassed in its ability to make my kitchen look like a white dust devil has just swept through it), I’m reminded that it’s totally worth it when I bite into the freshly-baked product. Light, melt-in-your-mouth cherry shortbread combined with smooth milk chocolate is an incredible combo, if I do say so myself. One (or two, or ten) of these cookies is guaranteed to please your special someone on Valentine’s Day….or you could save them for yourself 🙂
Yield: 3-4 dozen cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp maraschino cherry juice
1/2 tsp almond extract
a few drops red food coloring (optional)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, chopped
36 Hershey’s kisses, unwrapped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter, powdered sugar, cherry juice, almond extract and food coloring until smooth. Gradually stir in the flour and salt until the mixture is well-combined. (Dough will be stiff.) Stir in the chopped cherries.
Form the dough into balls and place on ungreased or parchment-paper-lined cookie sheets, about 2″ apart. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove cookies from oven, press a chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie, and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until edges are set and slightly golden-brown. Cool on sheets for 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack, being careful not to squish the soft chocolate. Cool the cookies completely before serving so that the chocolate kisses can re-harden.
(Recipe from Cooks.com)