11 November 2012

Chocolate Orange Shortbread Cookies

Simple recipes are sometimes the best.  No muss, no fuss, just delicious bare bones that leave you remembering the goodness of food without extra frills.  With all of the stacked bars, stuffed this and monster that out there in the cookie world nowadays, it seems that bigger is better.  I humbly challenge this opinion with the delicious ease of my all-time favorite cookie - Scotch shortbread.

Shortbread is a traditional Scottish dessert with only three ingredients:  butter, sugar and flour.  No salt, no leavening, and no substitutions.  And as anyone who has ever had shortbread can attest, there is no other cookie quite like this.  Incredibly crumbly and light, these cookies simply melt in your mouth due to the abundance of butter.  Yes, butter.  Not margarine, not shortening and not (by all means) light butter.  Delicious, sweet, unsalted butter is the key to this cookie.  Anything else will leave you with a sad, tough little hockey puck of baked disappointment.  So stick to butter.  It's better for you, too.

Growing up, his cookie was a staple of my mom's Christmas repertoire.  While my brothers preferred the chocolate crinkles and peppermint brownies, my mom and I opted for spritz and Scotch shortbread. I would stand on my little kitty cat stool at the counter, smashing the shortbread balls with my mom's cookie press and marveling at the magical snowflake patter than would appear in the lovely pale dough.  And memories like that are the reason that I love this cookie so much....it lives in my heart in addition to my mouth.

Now to please my choco-vore of a husband, I usually dress up my plain old shortbread a bit.  Two of his favorites are a half-dip in creamy milk chocolate and a drizzle of bittersweet.  But when I added orange and chopped chocolate to the basic batter, we both we hooked.  A hint of citrus and little lumps of bittersweet chocolate work wonderfully in the crumbly cookie.  Think of the flavor as the love-child between shortbread and those chocolate oranges that you smash and eat the sections of.  Fabulous.

These little cookies are absolutely perfect with a cuppa Joe.  Good morning, indeed!

Since I grew up individually pressing my cookies, that's the method that I've opted for in this recipe.  However, this stiff dough is perfect for rolling and cutting with cookie cutters as well.  It's really a yogi's choice as to how you make your cookies.  Just be sure to do whichever is going to give you those heart memories that make a delicious cookie something extra special.

Chocolate Orange Shortbread (makes about 3 dozen cookies)
  • 3/4 c unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract
  • 2 c flour
  • 2/3 c bittersweet chocolate chips, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 tbs fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 c powdered sugar
Cut the cold butter into cubes and combine in a medium bowl with the sugar.  Cream together with electric beaters until butter is fluffy and light in color, about 3 minutes.  Add the orange zest and extract and beat for an additional 15 seconds.  

Sift the flour over a large bowl.  Add 2 cups of the sifted flour and the chocolate chips to the creamed butter.  Roll up your sleeves and work dough together with your hands.  Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for about a half hour.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper.  Roll dough into small balls no bigger than 1 inch diameter.  Lightly flour a cookie press or the bottom of a water glass and press the dough balls to a thickness of 1/4 inch.  Place the cookies on a baking sheet 1/2 inch apart.  They can be close as the dough does not expand at all during cooking.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the cookies are set.  They should not be brown on top or around the edges.  Remove immediately to a cooling rack and let cool for at least 5 minutes.

To glaze the cookies, combine orange juice and powdered sugar in small bowl and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over the cookies with a spoon.  Let glaze harden completely before storing.  Cookies will keep in a Tupperware or tin for about 3 weeks (but good luck not eating them first!)  Wonderful holiday gifts!

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