I love chocolate. This is an unoriginal opinion, but it is nevertheless so, so true. So when I stumble upon cookies that aren’t chocolate–in the graduate students’ lounge of my department, at a friend’s house for dinner–I can’t say I feel mad, but I am certainly disappointed. A non-chocolate cookie is better than no cookie at all, but a great chocolate chip cookie always triumphs over all other options.
Except, once a year, on Valentine’s Day, ever since I was a little kiddo, I have preferred these raspberry-nut sandwich cookies. For one, they are beautiful: the raspberry jam shining through from the bottom layer, offset by the white powdered sugar on the top.
Far more importantly, they are so very good. I find the cookie part of most sandwich cookies to be pretty bland; the cookie as a whole, then, leans to heavy on the novelty of the sandwich rather than the quality of the cookie. Not so with these beautiful babies. The heavy dose of pecans gives the cookie a crumbly texture as well as a toasted flavor that is balanced by the sweetness of the jam and powdered sugar. They are so special that I don’t miss chocolate at all–which, for me, is saying a lot.
The process is, well, a bit of a process. You have to roll out the dough, cut out the hearts, bake, cool, spread jam on half of the cookies and dust powdered sugar on the other half, and assemble. But I can’t imagine anyone–friend, daughter, mother, lover–who wouldn’t love to receive a plate of these on Valentine’s Day.
Raspberry-nut valentine cookies (makes 12-14 cookies)
From my mom’s 1985 edition of Sunset’s Cookies: Step-by-Step Techniques
1 cup (1/2 lb.) butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups pecans, ground
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar (you may not need all of this–this is only for dusting the cookies)
1/2 cup raspberry jam (again, as needed)
In a stand mixer or in a large bowl with electric hand mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar until creamy; beat in vanilla. Gradually add pecans and flour, blending thoroughly. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until easy to handle (1 to 2 hours) or for up to 3 days.
On a floured work surface, roll out dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch. (It is better to have them slightly too thick than slightly too thin—too thin can result in the cookies browning too quickly and generally falling apart.) Cut out with a 2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter and transfer to ungreased baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart. Cut out a hole in center of half of the cookies, using a tiny round cutter (or smaller heart-shaped cutter) about 1/2 inch in diameter (you can use the cap from a vanilla or other extract bottle). Bake in a 375F oven for about 12 minutes or until lightly browned–watch carefully at the end because when these brown, they brown fast. Transfer to racks and let cool completely.
Sift powdered sugar over tops of cookies with holes; then spread bottom sides of remaining cookies with jam. Place a sugar-topped cookies on each jam-topped cookie to form a sandwich. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.