There are dainty cookies. There are itty-bitty cookies. And there are delicate cookies you nibble while holding your pinkie finger in the air.
These Orange Butter Cookies are none of those things.
Indeed, if this cookie were on a playground, it would be the big, hulking bruiser you’d have to make way for fast.
As my husband’s co-worker Kathryn likens, “It’s a monster cookie.”
These cookies measure about 3 1/2 inches in diameter when baked. And I actually made them smaller than the recipe called for. Really!
You’re supposed to form them into balls, using a scant 1/2 cup measure. Me? I used a scant 1/4 cup measure instead, and still they came out pretty ginormous compared to most cookies I bake.
But the flavor is nothing to be afraid of. Buttery, and citrusy, these cookies are crispy on the edges and tender, cakey within. They have this old-fashioned quality about them, reminding me of cookies I ate as a kid that were so big and soft they made for the perfect after-school snack. Of course, the fact that you use your fingers to flatten the dough balls, leaving an impression of your digits after they bake, just adds to the kid-like charm.
The recipe is from “The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread” (Wiley). The book is by Amy Scherber, who launched Amy’s Bread bakery in New York City in 1992, and her Executive Pastry Chef Toy Kim Dupree.
When I tried this recipe, I took the opportunity to try three new products I had on hand. Instead of freshly grated orange zest in the dough (I lacked a fresh orange in the house, if you can believe that), I used orange peel granules from the Spice Hound, which sells at my local farmers’ markets and online. Even though the recipe didn’t call for it, I added 1 1/2 teaspoons of King Arthur’s Orange Emulsion, a concentrated orange flavoring stronger than regular extract. And instead of sprinkling the cookies with regular granulated sugar, I used Nielsen-Massey’s Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Sugar. The results were fabulous.
You don’t have to doctor the recipe with those extras like I did in order to have a soul-satisfying sweet. Indeed, in the recipe below, the only changes I made were to the size of the cookies and the baking time because I made them smaller. The original recipe makes 12 cookies; I made 15.
If you wish to make the belly-buster, behemoth-size cookies as in the original recipe, just measure them out using a scant 1/2-cup measure and bake for the original time of 17 minutes.
Just be warned, though, you might well need two hands to lift one of those gentle brutes.
Orange Butter Cookies
(makes 15 cookies)
1 3/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 2/3 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups sugar, plus extra for topping before baking
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
2 1/2 teaspoons orange zest, finely minced
1 large egg
2 egg yolks
Position one rack in the top third of the oven, one rack in the bottom third of the oven, and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with baking parchment.
In a bowl, add all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking soda, and salt, and whisk together.
In another bowl, using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together sugar, butter, and orange zest on medium speed for 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy, scraping sides and bottom of the bowl frequently. Gradually add eggs and egg yolks, mixing on medium speed until everything is well combined.
With the mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in stages. Mix only until everything is well combined, scraping sides and bottom of the bowl frequently. There should not be any pockets of dry flour left in the dough.
Using a large soup spoon, a metal ice cream scoop, or your clean hands moistened with water, scoop out big balls of dough, placing six balls on each prepared cookie sheet. Use a scant 1/4 cup to estimate the size. Using three middle fingers of your hand, press firmly on the top of each ball to flatten it to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Allow dough to push up between your fingers so an imprint of valleys and ridges remains. If the dough is sticky, you may have to moisten your fingers slightly with cold water to keep them from sticking to the dough. Sprinkle tops of cookies generously with extra granulated sugar. They will spread a moderate amount during baking. Bake cookies for about 15-16 minutes, rotating cookie sheets halfway through the baking time. The cookies should be pale but baked all the way into the center. They should be soft, but be careful not to underbake them or the centers will be doughy.
Cool cookies on sheets for 5 minutes, then remove them to a rack and cool completely before storing.
Adapted from “The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread”