Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Heart Attack! Red Velvet Cream Cheese Frosting and Green Tea Red Bean Paste Valentine Sandwich Cookies

Two is better than one. That's what I would be saying if I hadn't just spent five hours making cookies on Valentine's Day morning. (You could say it was a ...


Two is better than one. That’s what I would be saying if I hadn’t just spent five hours making cookies on Valentine’s Day morning. (You could say it was a labor of love.) When I asked readers to choose their favorite heart-shaped cookie proposal from six options for me to make today, I never expected such a dramatic split. There seemed to be warring sides: traditional all the way (red velvet cream cheese frosting), and Asian-inspired (green tea red bean paste, toasted sesame ginger). Early numbers had me convinced that green tea red bean was going to prevail. But red velvet turned a strong comeback in the end, and with one more vote than the green tea, it looks to be the winner. But, I had already gotten matcha and soaked red beans by the time the last votes poured in just for the occasion. So here it is, or here they both are: my Valentine’s Day cookie double date.

Really, I was surprised by the enthusiasm for cookie #5, the green tea red bean paste one. This was clearly a weird take on “Asian ice cream flavors,” as Jeannie put it. Green tea is popular enough in the mainstream as a dessert flavor, I figure, but red bean? Hong dou? Granted, this sticky-sweet filling is as ubiquitous among Chinese desserts as chocolate is in Western. However, Chinese cuisine is somewhat famous for its crappy desserts. (When I was in Taiwan for a semester in college, I overheard a fellow American gripe, “I’m sick of beans masquerading as sweets!”)

The red velvet vote was less of a shocker. They’re red, they’re classic. They’ve even got a dash of cocoa in them — they’re perfect for Valentine’s Day. Recently, I had gotten some experience making a red velvet and cream cheese frosting cake for someone’s birthday, so it seemed a cinch to translate this into stuffed cookie form. I was also pleased to hear so many readers’ feedback on romantic meal ideas. Always handy. I may not be putting any into practice tonight (it’s a girls’ night out), but there’s a little something up my sleeve coming up in regards.

intense green tea powder, matcha

sweet red bean paste fills these green tea cookies

To make both variations, I began with the same basic cookie dough, something in between shortbread and sugar cookies. I used a little less sugar than in sugar cookies, since both the fillings would be so sweet. For the green tea cookies, the simple trick was just adding a dash of matcha for that beautifully floral green tea flavor. This stuff smells great once it’s popped open, and especially while the cookies were baking. I can’ t wait to use it in ice cream next. The red velvet cookies received a hefty dose of blood-red food coloring along with a sprinkle of dark cocoa powder.

The red bean paste filling is likewise simple to make; it involves cooking down red beans to a gooey, pulpy mush, mashing them up a little bit, and sweetening them with sugar (brown sugar in this case). It’s time-consuming, but once you have the paste all ready to go it can be tightly packed in an airtight container and kept for days, or frozen. I have to say, it’s not the easiest consistency for smashing into between two delicate, crisp cookie layers. It’s much denser than frosting; the cookies broke when I tried to press them together unless I was very careful. Next time I might try to invent some cross between buttercream frosting and red bean paste, as a sort of red bean-flavored frosting. Next time.

red velvet cut-outs

almost-green tea cookies await baking

Which cookie did I like best? While I was kind of routing for the one that barely anyone picked, the sour cream and butterscotch-drizzled heart cookies, as well as #4, which came in healthy third place as the sesame and fresh ginger version, I thought that the red velvet-inspired cookies really took the cake. Not only did they come out much prettier than the green tea ones (which were only marginally green after baking — best to use green food coloring, again next time… ), but I couldn’t resist tasting one, and have to say the crisp red cookie and creamy white frosting combo is pretty irresistible, any day of the year.

So now that the (powdered sugar) dust has settled (on my floor), and the cookies are stacked primly on their tray, I want to wish everyone a happy Valentine’s Day, whatever you do. Not to get too cheesy, but as it’s a day that people tend to either love or hate, like red beans, or feel swayed to open their wallets, dress up, get all romantic without reason, or get all miserable for lack of romance, I just hope it’s spent doing something you love. Whether that’s a love for baking, for someone else, or for throwing anti-Valentine’s Day bashes. Life’s too short for moping, my fellow lonely hearts. And that, in essence, is why I’m not cleaning the kitchen ’til tomorrow.

Green Tea Heart Cookie Sandwiches with Red Bean Paste Filling
(makes about 12-14 sandwich cookies)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon matcha (Japanese green tea powder)
1-2 drops green food coloring (optional)
1 cup red beans, soaked overnight
1/2 cup light brown sugar

To make the bean paste, cover beans with two to three inches of water in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours or until beans are very tender and mushy. Drain and transfer to a food processor (or use a hand blender) to blend to a smooth, or slightly chunky, paste. Return to the pot and add the sugar. Add a little more water and cook on low, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved.

Cut the butter into cubes and combine with the egg yolk. Cream with the sugar, matcha and optional food coloring and gradually stir in the flour. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and roll into an even, flat sheet. Using a cookie cutter, cut about 24-28 hearts. Place at least 1/2 inch apart on a cookie tray and bake at 325 degrees for about 8 minutes, or until just lightly browned in patches. Remove carefully with a spatula and let cool.

Once cookies are cool and crisp, carefully line the back of one cookie with a small pat of the bean paste. Very gently press another cookie to its back (if not they will break, all too easily). Repeat with the rest of the cookies.

Red Velvet Heart Cookie Sandwiches with Cream Cheese Frosting
(makes about 12-14 sandwich cookies)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
12-15 drops red food coloring
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/4 cup butter (for the frosting)
1/4 cup cream cheese
about 2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Cut the butter into cubes and combine with the egg yolk. Cream with the sugar, cocoa powder and red food coloring and gradually stir in the flour. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and roll into an even, flat sheet. Using a cookie cutter, cut about 24-28 hearts. Place at least 1/2 inch apart on a cookie tray and bake at 325 degrees for about 8 minutes, or until just lightly browned in patches. Remove carefully with a spatula and let cool.

To make the frosting, make sure your butter and cream cheese is completely softened. Whisk together in a large bowl and gradually add in the confectioner’s sugar while whisking until soft peaks form.

Once cookies are cool and crisp, smear a dollop of the frosting on the back of one cookie and press the back of another cookie to it. Repeat with the rest of the cookies.

9 Responses to “Heart Attack! Red Velvet Cream Cheese Frosting and Green Tea Red Bean Paste Valentine Sandwich Cookies”

  1. Ashley says:

    These look phenomenal!

  2. Paula Maack says:

    These look delicious!!

    Cheers,

    ~ Paula

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