Making your own conversation hearts from scratch is the ultimate (and super fun) Valentine's DIY. Aside from being easy to make, homemade conversation hearts also give you the ability to write your own messages (or let your Valentine write his or her own!). That makes these candies as fun as they are tasty. —Erin McDowell
about 5 dozen pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons
few drops flavoring or extract (you can use multiple flavors, if you wish; I like to use food coloring to demarcate the various flavors)
few drops food coloring (optional, and you can use multiple colors, if you wish)
edible ink pens (available online, or wherever cake decorating supplies are sold)
In a heat-safe liquid measuring cup, measure the water and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface. Let bloom for 5 minutes, then melt in the microwave in 10-second bursts until fluid and fully dissolved.
Transfer the melted gelatin to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the confectioners' sugar 1 cup at a time and mix on low speed until fully incorporated.
Continue adding confectioners' sugar and mixing until the mixture is smooth and resembles a white dough. The dough shouldn’t be sticky and it should be firm to the touch.
Divide the dough into even pieces, depending how many flavors and colors you’re planning to make (I did four). Wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap: It’s important that the dough stays tightly wrapped until you’re ready to use it, as extended exposure to air will cause it to form a skin.
Line your work surface with parchment or wax paper. Working with one piece of dough at a time, drop a few drops of flavor and/or color, if using, onto the dough. Knead by hand until the color is uniform and the dough is even (if you’re using a bright color, you may want to wear gloves at first to avoid staining your hands with the color). Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough, wrapping each tightly when finished.
On a clean, dry surface, roll out one piece of dough to 1/4-inch thick. Every few rolls, pick up the dough and turn it 45 degrees in either direction. If you work quickly and keep rotating the dough, it shouldn’t stick to the surface. (Note: If you’re having trouble, you can roll the dough between two sheets of parchment, wax paper, or Silicone baking mats. Or, use a light dusting of confectioners' sugar on the surface and on the dough.)
When the dough is the proper thickness, pick it up and rotate it once more, then use a small heart cutter (or another small sharp cutter) to stamp out individual candies out. Transfer each piece to a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving a small bit of space between each candy.
Repeat with the remaining candies, then let them all dry, uncovered, for 2 days.
When the candies are dry, use edible ink pens to write messages on each piece. The finished candies can be stored in airtight containers for up to 3 weeks.
I always carry three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's pie. My first cookbook, The Fearless Baker, is out on October 24, 2017.