My husband and I used to go out for the stereotypical "romantic" meal every Valentine's Day, which we always enjoyed - but at times felt a little cheated by both the quality of food and inflated prices.
A few years ago I was recovering from surgery and couldn't go out for our usual meal, so I decided to surprise my husband with a romantic carpet picnic complete with oysters and champagne.
I set to work creating an intimate scene on our living room floor with blankets, candles and our finest china before realising there was no dessert or gift.
In a panic, I decided to whip up a batch of heart-shaped biscuits and solve two problems at once. I added in some lemon zest to complement our menu and made a small hole in each of the biscuits before baking.
After icing the biscuits I threaded ribbon through each hole and hung them around our picnic scene. I even pinned some long ribbon to the ceiling directly above the blanket, which really created an almost enchanted feel to the room when the lights were out and the candles flickered - reflecting in the blue and white china.
The evening was a huge success, but to my surprise it was the effort I had gone to with the homemade biscuits that really touched my husband. He still talks about that evening to this day, and we both enjoyed having privacy to talk and share our hearts so much that we now plan a romantic evening at home every Valentine's Day with the stipulation that the heart biscuits make an appearance somewhere during the evening.
Lemon heart biscuits (makes around 35)
These biscuits are buttery and very moreish. The dough is versatile and a number of ingredients can be added to change the flavour as you desire. I have suggested a few variations at the foot of the recipe.
250g of soft butter
130g of caster sugar
1 medium egg yolk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
300g of plain flour
Zest of 2 lemons
150g royal icing sugar
4 tablespoons of lemon juice
Red icing pen
1. Combine the butter and caster sugar in a large bowl.
2. Add the egg yolk, lemon zest and vanilla extract and mix well.
3. Add the flour and stir until combined. Use your hands to pull the dough together if necessary.
4. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.
5. Roll out the dough on a clean work surface until it is around 5mm thick. Use a cookie cutter or cut out desired shapes and place biscuits on a lined baking tray.
6. Bake at 180C/fan 160C/gas 4 for 15 minutes or until they are firm and starting to brown.
7. Cool on a wire rack.
8. Combine the icing sugar and lemon juice just before use and decorate cooled biscuits as desired.
Orange: Replace the lemon zest with the zest of one large orange.
Poppy seed: Add two tablespoons of poppy seeds at the flour stage.
Spices: Add 2 teaspoons of your favourite spice such as cinnamon or ginger.
Fruit / Chocolate: Add 150g of dried fruit or chocolate chips after adding the flour.
Almond: Replace the vanilla extract with almond extract and add 125g of chopped or slivered almonds into the mixture before adding the flour.
These biscuits keep well in an airtight container for a few days, but can also be frozen.