Monday, February 14, 2011

Hearts from the Heart

I had a hot date this weekend.

With a younger man.

He’s loving, and attentive.

He’s also my son.

Yep, for Valentine’s Day this year, I celebrated with my Little Man. We had planned to have Ty’s best buddy over for a sleepover, but there was a last minute change of plans when the “Braydens” (Ty’s buddy and his parents) woke up under the weather on Saturday.

In spite of the change, Ty and I had ourselves a sweet night out, starting with a matinee of Gnomeo and Juliet, and ending with a quiet supper at home, made up mostly of chocolate.

While it was a lovely evening, we did miss out on the “little boy” time we’d been looking forward to. See, Ty’s conniving momma (yep, that’d be me) had a sweet little Valentine’s projects all lined up and ready to go for the boys to do together on Sunday morning. Instead, Ty and I rolled up our sleeves and got chatty.

Yep, I said chatty.

We made conversation hearts. This is an idea that my sister gave me last year, but I didn’t get the supplies ready to make them in time for Valentine’s Day then, so I set my mind on 2011!

These little treats are so easy to make at home. The one thing to remember if you want to make these is that they require an extensive drying time of about 24 hours before you can write on them. I bought a package of food markers and we were ready to go! Don’t be intimidated by the long instructions, these are really as basic as making up a simple dough, coloring it, rolling it out and cutting it like sugar cookies. Try and find a heart shaped cookie cutter that is no bigger than an inch in diameter. I got mine at Hobby Lobby for about 30 cents, and the Gourmet Writer food markers by Americolor for about $8.

Conversation Hearts
• 1 packet (1/4 oz, or 2 tsp) unflavored gelatin
• 1/2 cup water
• 2 tsp light corn syrup
• 2 lbs powdered sugar, plus additional for dusting
• Assorted flavoring extracts of your choice (we used peppermint)
• Assorted food colors of your choice
• Heart-shaped cutters
• Food coloring markers

1. Place the corn syrup, gelatin, and water in a small microwave-safe bowl. Stir until the gelatin is well-distributed. Microwave the mixture for 30 seconds, so the gelatin dissolves, and stir well.

2. Pour the gelatin mixture into the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Alternately, if you are using a hand mixer, pour the gelatin mixture into a large bowl. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar and turn the mixer to low, mixing until the sugar is incorporated.

3. Once the sugar is mixed in, add another cup of sugar, again mixing on low until it liquefies. Continue to add the remaining powdered sugar, one cup at a time, pausing in between additions to allow the sugar to mix in, until the full two pounds of powdered sugar is added. Periodically, stop the mixer and scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. The candy will progress from a thin, watery liquid to a very stiff dough.

4. Once all of the sugar is incorporated, dust a work surface (counter or large cutting board) with powdered sugar and scrape the candy out onto the work surface. The candy will be very sticky and stiff. Generously dust the top of the ball of candy with powdered sugar, and begin to knead the candy like bread dough: fold the ball of dough over onto itself, then use the heel of your hand to push it down. Give the candy a quarter-turn, and repeat the process, dusting it with more powdered sugar as often as necessary to prevent it from sticking to the board or your hands. Knead until the candy is satiny and not sticky.

5.Decide how many colors/flavors of conversation hearts you want to make, and divide the candy dough into that many portions. To flavor and color the candy, take one of the balls and flatten it into a palm-sized disc. Add a few drops of food coloring and flavoring extract to the center of the disc, and fold it over on itself. (It is a good idea to wear disposable plastic gloves during this step to keep your hands free of colors and odors.) Knead the dough ball, just as you did before, until the color is evenly dispersed throughout the candy, and all streaks have disappeared. Repeat this process with remaining candy balls and colors/flavors, until all of your candy is colored and flavored.
6. Dust your work surface and a rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out one of the candy balls to your desired thickness. Small store-bought conversation hearts tend to be fairly thick, generally over 1/4” thick. I find that this thickness works well for small hearts (under 1”), but it makes larger heart sizes very substantial and a little overwhelming. However, the thickness is entirely a matter of personal preference and does not affect the taste of the final candy.
7. Use heart-shaped cutters to cut hearts out of the rolled candy, and transfer the hearts to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Smaller hearts are more realistic, but larger hearts are easier to write messages on. Once you have cut out your hearts, you can re-roll the scraps to get more shapes out of the candy. Repeat with remaining candy balls.
8. Allow your hearts to air-dry for at least 24 hours before you write on them. This step is VERY important, because the extra moisture in the hearts will cause the ink to run if you do not let them dry properly.
When I was done cutting out the hearts, I rolled all my scrap dough together and made swirly hearts!
9. After the hearts have dried for a day, use the food writing markers to write messages or draw designs on the hearts. Store your conversation hearts in an airtight container at room temperature.
Ty and I had fun writing messages to his favorite loves!
These were super easy to put together. I did all the prep work and had them ready to decorate the next day. It was tons of fun and made sweet little Valentines treats for Ty's favorite people.


Kim said...

Little boys make the best Valentine's, don't they?

I've never seen anyone make conversation hearts before. Didn't even know that you could. Thanks for sharing this one. I'll definitely remember them next year!

Yours look great!

Julie said...

What a wonderful idea...I love it :)

scrambledhenfruit said...

Cute conversation hearts! I bet they taste better than the store bought ones too- I've never even thought of making them at home!

Jo said...

These look wonderful!!