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I’ve made Valentine’s Day cookies several times with similar results. All were tasty. My first version was tasty but the red icing well, was a weird pinkish orange hue. Creating deep reds is perplexing. Do you add a whole bottle of fakey “no taste” food colouring? Often this renders the tongues bright red of the people who ingested your cookies. Or do you add a dab and hope that it’ll do?  My second version was made with white chocolate but in the end the same washed out colours resulted.

I usually add a dab and complain to myself later about how I should have added more food colouring. But I’m torn. I don’t like having so much fakey red food colouring in my food in general. I’m sure too that most people if given a choice would rather not ingest that much food colouring too. So I thought oh well, I’ll live with the crappy muted red colours I was getting.

The other day, I thought I’d research and revisit this problem with red icing. I compiled a few tips for bakers who want better reds:
1. Do toss in a few tablespoons of Dark Cocoa powder to the icing. This will improve the depth and darkness of the icing.  Bonus: it adds great flavour!
2. Use “no taste” red food gel (I used Wilton brand) or red powdered food colouring
3. Allow the icing to sit overnight (covered) and the red will be deeper
4. If you have burgundy (which I don’t) I hear a bit of this will help too.
5. You can always add more, but you can’t take away! Add a little colouring at a time and thoroughly combine before repeating as necessary until you get the red you want
6. Don’t sweat it if it’s not bright red. You tried. Let it go. Just eat it.

VANILLA BEAN BUTTER COOKIES (GF)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup organic cane sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg white, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla bean, ground up)
2 ½ cups Gluten Free Flour Blend  (see gf blend recipe below) OR if you’re not GF, then sifted all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon coarse salt


1. Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in whole egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour and salt and mix until combined.

2. Halve dough; roll into a disk about 1/4 inch thick. Cut our heart shapes with a mini heart cutter.

3. Preheat oven to 375ºF.  Space cookies on baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake until edges are golden, 12 to 15  minutes.  This depends on the size of your mini cookies.  Just keep an eye on the first batch to make sure.  (cakebrain note: ensure the cookies are golden brown and they’ll taste much more flavour as well as a better crunch). Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Store in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

4.  Decorate by flooding the cooled cookies with red icing.  See recipe link HERE.  Let dry.  Pipe with a small round tip around the edges to create lace design with white icing.  I gently tap the tip to touch the cookie at short intervals as I trace around the border.

CAKEBRAIN’S FAVOURITE GF FLOUR BLEND RECIPE:
2 1/4 cups superfine Thai Rice Flour (Asian market)
1/4 cup potato starch
2/3 cup tapioca starch
3/4 cup sweet rice flour (Thai brands are best)
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons xanthum gum
  • In a large airtight container, combine the flours together well.  I use a large wire whisk to mix the flours thoroughly.  Be particularly vigilant about distributing the xanthum gum as it is a small quantity compared to the rest of the flours.
  • Use this GF Flour Blend in place of regular cake flour or all-purpose flour.  
  • You do not have to worry about sifting as it’s not lumpy
  • You do not have to worry about overbeating as there’s no gluten to develop.

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