Orange Shortbread

orangeshortbreadTo me, a basic shortbread recipe is like a blank canvas: you can add whatever you like to create your masterpiece. I’ve adapted the Essential Shortbread recipe from King Arthur Baking countless times, adding citrus zests, chocolate chips, toasted pecans, maple extract, almond extract, whatever struck me as a good idea. This week’s treat is a simple orange shortbread made with about a teaspoon of the leftover orange zest from the walnut torte I baked on Monday. Citrus zest will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days before losing its flavor, so you can make the most of your zests when you only need a small amount for a recipe.

Rather than baking this in a round tin as I usually do, I chose to scoop out my portions and roll them into balls, then roll them in sugar and press them down using the pretty pattern on the bottom of a glass. They remind me a bit of the kind of cookie you might see at a wedding or other special event, something simple but elegant that tastes great and makes you want the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 5 ounces flour (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons)
  • Sugar for rolling

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line one baking sheet with parchment paper. Place sugar for rolling in a small bowl and set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, salt, sugar, vanilla extract, and orange zest until light and fluffy. Add flour and mix to completely combine. Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop dough and roll into balls, then roll in sugar. Place on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart and press down using the bottom of a glass – I used a pretty crystal highball-style glass from a set my mom brought back for us from her trip to Ireland many years ago.

Bake for 30-32 minutes, until edges are just golden. Remove from oven and cool on the baking sheet for about 2 minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 16.

Chocolate-Dipped Orange Shortbread

orange shortbreadOrange and chocolate is one of my all-time flavor combinations, ranking up there with chocolate and peppermint, chocolate and peanut butter, and lemon and raspberry. The orange Milano cookie is among my favorite commercially-produced cookies, and I’m surprised to say that these cookies taste very much like an orange Milano.

This is the first time I’ve used cane sugar in a recipe, rather than as a topping on my baked goods. I wasn’t so sure about it, given that it sounded like broken glass in my mixing bowl, but it turned out quite well.

If you don’t like orange and chocolate together, you can certainly leave these plain, but I believe the chocolate, particularly semi-sweet, gives these cookies a great dimension of flavor that you won’t achieve otherwise.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup cane sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon shortening

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 baking dish with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, combine butter and cane sugar; mix on medium speed until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently. Add salt, orange zest, and orange extract and beat until well-combined, about 2 minutes.

Add flour about 1/4 cup at a time, beating until a soft dough forms. Press dough into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a small offset spatula. Prick with a fork to make designs, if desired.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is just golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for about 10 minutes; gently lift out parchment and place on a heatproof cutting board. Cut into squares and place on a wire rack to cool completely before dipping.

In a small saucepan, slowly melt chocolate chips and shortening, stirring frequently until smooth. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate and place on parchment or waxed paper to harden; store in an airtight container.