Greetings from sunny Los Angeles! I’m here for a few days on a work trip, shooting a fun little video with a couple of my sponsors. I can’t wait to share the project with you guys — it’ll be super fun, and you’ll get to see the homeowning/gardening side of me that I don’t often share on this blog! I’m also very excited to see all my LA-based friends and plan on dragging them to all the restaurants with the kind of food I can’t get up in Portland. That means trendy Filipino food at Ma’am Sir, crispy bread at Kismet, Taiwanese fried chicken in Alana’s fancy new neighborhood, and maybe even Shake Shack if my pants still fit by the end of the day? We’ll see, we’ll see.
Excited as I am about my mini LA food trip, it does mean that Erlend and I are spending Valentine’s Day apart. To make sure we could celebrate the occasion at least a little, I made him and his coworkers a batch of these strawberry malt sugar cookies before I left. I’m especially proud of these sugar cookies because they’re perfectly cute without having to deal with any piping bags or elaborate royal icing. In fact, they’re not even frosted!
To make these cookies, I used a technique I like to call “INCEPTION COOKIE”. I divide a batch of sugar cookie dough into two and dye one a different color. I then use cookie cutters to cut out a big shape, and then use a smaller cookie cutter to cut out a slightly smaller shape within the bigger cookies. I then use the same smaller cookie cutter to stamp out the smaller shape from the dyed dough and nestle it into the bigger shape’s cut out, essentially placing a cookie within a cookie (do you get the name “Inception Cookie” now?!). When baked, the two different colored doughs meld together to create a seamless cookie! It’s so much easier than futzing around with royal icing, I promise.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I spiked the cookie dough with red food coloring and Nesquik Strawberry Milk Powder. The milk powder is malted, and gives the cookies a nice (but very subtle) strawberry malt flavor. To amp up the flavor, I recommend buying strawberry extract online (I like the Watkins variety) — in a pinch though, you can always use vanilla extract. The cookies will be perfectly tasty and buttery no matter what you do!
Some baker’s notes:
- Nesquik Strawberry Milk Powder is available in most major US supermarkets in the aisle with the powdered milks, coffees, and teas. If you don’t want to purchase an entire tin of the stuff, I totally get it — you can just omit from the recipe completely since it uses such a small amount. The resulting cookie will be just as tasty and will be more similar to the traditional sugar cookies we all know and love. Similarly, you can substitute the milk powder with regular milk powder, or chocolate too!
- To make my shapes, I used a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter and a 1 1/2-inch vintage heart cookie cutter wide. I found mine at a thrift shop, but you can find various heart cookie cutter sizes on Amazon. Also, don’t feel limited to the shapes I used! The Cookie Inception technique can work on all sorts of shapes and sizes, just as long as one of the cookie cutters is bigger than the other.
Strawberry Malt Sugar Cookies
- 3 1/3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons Nesquik Strawberry Milk Powder (see baker's notes for sources)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup 8 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 cup 7 ounces granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon strawberry extract (see baker's notes for sources)
- 2 to 3 drops red food coloring
- In a medium bowl, whisk 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons Nesquik Strawberry Milk Powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 1 cup cubed unsalted butter and 1 cup granulated sugar. Beat on medium speed until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume, about 3 to 5 minutes, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl occasionally. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add 1 large egg and 1 teaspoon strawberry extract, mixing until just combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients. Increase the mixer to medium-low and beat until the dough clumps around the paddle and/or sides of the bowl, about 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Tip dough into the center of a sheet of parchment paper around the size of a sheet pan and use a bench scraper to divide off 1/3 of the dough. Place the dough back in the stand mixer and add 2 to 3 drops of red food coloring; beat on low until pale pink.
- Return to the reserved dough on the parchment paper. Place a second sheet of parchment paper over the dough, creating a parchment paper sandwich with the dough in the middle. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough between the parchment paper sheets, working from left to right. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat — turning the dough every so often will help prevent the dough from cracking as you roll it. If the parchment paper starts to wrinkle and leave creases in the cookie dough, pull the sheet loose and smooth it before rolling the dough more. Continue until you have a sheet of dough between ⅛ and ¼-inch thick. Freeze for at least 5 minutes.
- As the dough freezes, repeat the step above but with the dyed dough. Freeze for at least 5 minutes.
- While the dough freezes, center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 (F). Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Remove the undyed dough from the freezer and use cookie cutters to stamp out larger shapes from the dough. Use a smaller cookie cutter to stamp smaller shapes in the larger shapes, saving the cutouts for rerolling later.
- Remove the dyed dough from the freezer and the smaller cookie cutter to stamp out smaller shapes. Nestle the smaller shapes into the larger cookies.
- Place the the cookies on the prepared sheet pan, leaving at least 1½ inches between each cookie. Bake each sheet pan for 10 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown around the edges. Cool the cookies on their sheet pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, or until the edges and bottoms of the cookies have set and feel firm to the touch. The cookies can be kept at room temperature, in an airtight container or Ziploc bag, for up to 3 days.