Orange and chocolate have been having a love affair for centuries, probably since the discovery of chocolate by the Aztecs in ancient Mexico. This is one combination that you will find repeated in many different forms from cakes and truffles to today’s cookies.
This month for the Secret Recipe Club I was assigned the fun blog, Sweet as Sugar Cookies, written by the delightful Lisa. Lisa grew up in Hawaii and credits the island’s multiple and varied cultures as the inspiration behind her love of food and cooking.
I can imagine how wonderful it must have been to grow up there, enjoying the natural beauty and all the different cuisines. Each time I have visited, I have fallen more in love with the people. I haven’t been in many years and I think it is time for another visit!!
Lisa and I both find tremendous joy in cooking and baking for our families. She expressed it beautifully when she wrote, “Nothing pleases me more than to see the smiles on (my family’s) faces … That is life at its best.” I couldn’t agree more Lisa!
Today’s cookies are a cross between a chocolate biscotti and a crinkle cookie. The orange-infused sugar really makes these special with a burst of fresh citrus flavor that is perfectly balanced with the cocoa powder. I wasn’t sure about including such a high percentage of orange zest, but by golly, it is fantastic!
At first glance, I wondered if there would be enough liquid in this recipe for all the dry ingredients. As I added in the flour and cocoa I was certain that the dough would never come together. It is a rather heavy dough, but trust the recipe and keep the mixer going and you will be happy. If your dough is a bit sticky, put it in the refrigerator to firm up the butter before making the cookies.
The only challenge I had with these cookies was figuring out when they were done baking. Chocolate desserts are always a bit tricky because they start out dark and you can’t see them “brown.” I depend on texture and aroma. These cookies are great whether you bake them 10 minutes or 15. At 10 minutes they are very delicate with a slightly crunch exterior and soft interior. At 15 minutes they are crunchy all the way through, more like biscotti and equally delicious. Try a few trays with 6 cookies on each, testing different baking times, to see what you like best. Then make a note on the recipe and you’ll know exactly how to replicate the results next time you make them!
I used my new favorite kitchen tool to make these, the Better Zester from Edgeware. It has a cover that collects the zest and measures it at the same time. It was a cinch to know when I had enough zest for the recipe! When you are ready to empty it, hold it vertically above a bowl and slide the cover off. It has a built-in scraper that gets nearly all the zest off the grater. It a nifty, easy-to-use, and helpful tool that is a wonderful hostess or birthday gift!
The Artist is my willing guinea pig for many experiments, some that he struggles to find positive things to say about and others that he thinks are fairly good. And sometimes he really enjoys a recipe. Tonight he nearly skipped dinner just so he could dive into these cookies. He loved them and made sure to tell me several times – he wanted to be sure I knew so I would make them again, LOL!
I would serve these cookies for bridal or baby showers, ladies luncheons, summer barbecues, or during the holidays. I am sure they will be making a repeat appearance as part of my holiday gift bags this year!
Thank you Lisa for a fantastic recipe that is a hit with everyone. Go buy some fresh oranges and a zester and make these cookies – you will love them!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
If you have forgotten to set out the butter to soften ahead of time, just cut the butter into cubes and set it out on a plate. Get the rest of your ingredients prepared and preheat your oven. By this time the butter is probably soft enough to beat. If it is still too firm, pop it into the microwave for 3 to 4 seconds and then place in the bowl of your standing mixer. The friction of the beaters will act to soften it as well.
If you use my favorite gluten-free flour blend, you don’t need to make any other adjustments to this recipe.
- 2 tbsp orange zest (about 3 large oranges)
- 1-1/3 cup sugar, divided
- 2/3 cup butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 large egg
- 1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour blend
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda (gluten-free if needed)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Set aside.
- Place the sugar and the orange zest in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse until the zest is completely incorporated and the sugar has turned a beautiful light golden color. This will only take about 20 seconds. You can also do this by hand, rubbing the zest and sugar together between your fingers. Transfer 1/3 cup of the orange sugar to a shallow container and set aside.
- In the bowl of your standing mixer, combine the remaining 1 cup of orange sugar and the butter. Mix on medium speed until fluffy and lightened in color, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and beat until fully incorporated, another minute.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk until evenly combined. Gradually beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Cover the cookie dough and refrigerate for 1 hour or until chilled and firm. Dough can be made up to 1 day in advance.
- Use a fork to break up any clumps in the reserved orange-sugar mixture.
- Using a spring-loaded ice cream scoop, portion the dough into 1-inch balls (about 1 tbsp each) and then roll each ball in the reserved orange-sugar mixture, coating thoroughly.
- Place balls of dough about 1-1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. (12 to 15 per standard half baking sheet.) Bake for 6 minutes and then spin the baking sheet front to back. Continue baking for an additional 5 to 7 minutes, or until the top is cracked and slightly firm to the touch when gently pressed. Cool slightly and transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling thoroughly.
- Store in an airtight container.
- Yield: about 3 dozen
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