Love it or hate it, it’s coming soon. Think it’s romantic? Disgusting? Sweet? Ridiculous? No matter, it’s inevitable. A conversation heart will surely cross your path in the coming days.
Purely as a form of research, I rifled through a box of Sweethearts that made its way into the house recently. The messages read: Race me. Hey. Boogie. Baby Doll. Crazy 4U. At least “text me” has replaced “fax me” in recent years.
You know you’ve thought it before: You could do better. And now’s your chance. Want to tell that special someone how you really feel? Personalize your message! This Valentine’s Day, some Capitol Hill couples might be thinking “Marry Me.” Or what sweeter way is there to tell someone “I think we should just be friends”?
CakeSpy to the rescue! In CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life, Capitol Hill-based Head Spy Jessie Oleson walks us through the process of making conversation hearts at home. Which sounds absurd, I grant you, but now that I’ve done it I can tell you that it was actually pretty easy. If you’ve got some time and a few pounds of powdered sugar burning a hole in your pocket, this is the project for you.
If spending two hours in the kitchen really isn’t your cup of tea, though, you still have a chance to get your personalized Valentines messages across. This recipe made about a zillion hearts. Which exceeds my family’s needs. So we’re going to give one lucky reader a box of candy hearts and a food-safe writing pen so you can tell the world…well, whatever it is you’d like to say this Valentines Day.
Disclaimer: This is a home cooking column. These hearts were made in my home kitchen. I don’t even know commercial food safety requirements, let alone follow them. And I let my three-year-old help me.
If you still want to be entered to win, leave a comment below with your favorite (existing or new) conversation heart motto. The winner will be chosen at random and notified at noon on Monday. Winnings can be collected at a to-be-disclosed Capitol Hill pick-up location just in time for Valentine’s.
Homemade Conversation Hearts
adapted from Jessie Oleson’s CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life
NOTE: If you’re going to make these, you should probably start today. They need to dry for 24 hours before you can write on them.
- ¼ oz. (2 tsp.) unflavored powdered gelatin
- ½ c. water
- 2 tsp. light corn syrup
- 2 lbs. powdered sugar, plus more for kneading (I used almost 2 ½ lbs. total)
- Assorted food colors
- Assorted flavoring extracts (I used almond extract)
- Food coloring pens, such as Gourmet Writer
Combine water, corn syrup and gelatin in a small microwave-safe bowl. Whisk well, microwave for 30 seconds, then whisk well again to be sure the gelatin has dissolved.
Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl, if you are using a hand-held mixer) and add 1 c. powdered sugar. With the mixer on low speed, mix until smooth. Add more powdered sugar, slowly incorporating 2 lbs. of powdered sugar, scraping the bowl down occasionally as you work.
Generously dust a counter or cutting board with additional powdered sugar, then turn your sticky dough out onto your work surface. Pat more powdered sugar on top of the sticky candy ball. Knead the candy like bread dough, adding more powdered sugar as you go, until the dough is satiny rather than sticky.
Divide the dough into as many colors as you want to make. Starting at this point in the recipe, I found it helpful to keep the dough that I was not working with in a plastic bag to keep it from drying out. Flatten one ball to a 1” thick disc and knead in a few drops each of food coloring and flavoring until evenly dispersed. This step is messy–I lined my counter with parchment paper to avoid staining it. CakeSpy recommends plastic gloves as well. I also added more powdered sugar (just enough to keep the dough from getting sticky) as I worked in the liquid color and flavor. Repeat this process with the remaining colors/flavors.
Roll the dough out to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Use heart -shaped cutters (I used a tiny fondant cutter and a small cookie cutter) to make tiny or not-so-tiny hearts. Smaller = more realistic. Bigger = easier to write on. Pinch the scraps back together and re-roll. The original recipe said it would make 100 hearts, but I got more than 500 in varying sizes. Let the hearts air-dry on parchment paper for 24 hours, then use food coloring markers to add your Valentines Day messages. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Previous Capitol Hill Cooks Posts
- Italian comfort food inspired by the corner of 15th and Pine
- It’s time to host a Capitol Hill soup swap
- Tiny apple pies inspired by the corner of 12th and Madison
Capitol Hill Cooks is a home cooking recipe series featuring ingredients, ideas, and recipes from the neighborhood.