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My worst Valentine’s Day happened in second grade. This was the age when we still passed out valentines to the entire class, everyone coming away with fistfuls of cards and boxes of powdery-sweet conversation hearts.
I spent a week carefully crafting my valentines. My mother, a proponent of homemade everything, helped me select doilies and glitter and markers. I sat cross-legged, earnestly focused on cutting and pasting my cards.
February of 1995 was exceptionally snowy. We lived on a farm set back from the main road down a long hilly driveway. When the weather was at its worst, we leave our car near the road; otherwise, we’d never make it to school.
Valentine’s Day brought storms and sleet. In the morning, I gathered together my cards and placed them gently in a cardboard box. My mother bundled us up in winter coats, scarves, and thick mittens. I strapped on my backpack and stepped out into the swirling snow with my three sisters.
We trudged slowly up the half mile-long driveway, making slow progress. There was a frigid wind biting at my face. I held my box of cards stiffly in front of me, squinting my eyes and keeping a fixed gaze on our car.
A third of the way through, I slipped on a slick patch of ice. Down I went, my arms splayed, my cards spilling onto the snow. The wind swept them away, scattering them across the snow-covered cornfield.
I felt hot tears prickling behind my eyes. How many hours had I spent making those? My sisters scrambled into the field, gathering up as many cards as they could. But I could see they were already ruined: The marker ran in wet streaks, the paper was sodden and ripped.
My heart still twinges when I picture my second-grade self, tiny and freezing out in the snow, stoic-faced with a trembling lower lip. But despite the trauma, I’d do it all over again and here’s why: There’s something incredibly meaningful about homemade gifts, and I'll always prefer homemade for the pleasure it brings (both giving and receiving).
Ever since 1995, I’ve made a serious effort to make every Valentine’s Day a rousing success. Tricky baking projects and complicated dinner menus are off the table: I’m not in the business of inviting disaster on February 14.
Instead, I’ve found the perfect cookie. Delicious, easy-to-wrap, and beautifully festive, linzer cookies are pretty foolproof. The addition of almond flour gives the cookies a nutty flavor and firm, sable-like texture. Perfumed with lemon zest and ground cinnamon, the dough freezes nicely and is easy to make ahead of time.
You can skip the heart shapes if you want and use a round cookie cutter. You can even skip the cutout bit, and just sandwich the jam between two solid cookies.
If you even wanted to forgo filling in favor of dipping the cookies in dark chocolate or spreading them with lemon curd, well, I won’t stop you.
Take it from me: If you want to avoid any and all Valentine’s-related disappointment, make these cookies. Give them to someone you love, or savor them slowly by yourself at home, as a sweet antidote to any Valentine’s disaster from years past.
- 1 cup butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 cup almond flour
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, for dusting
- 1/2 cup raspberry jam
Share a Valentine's Day sob story with us in the comments below.