It’s prime orange season right now, and I plan to do my part and fight a recurrence of scurvy in the U.S. population…one cookie at a time.
Since it’s prime orange season now, I decided to take advantage of the bushels of oranges currently inhabiting my kitchen counters — okay, I really only used one orange for these cookies (and it was just the zest), but every little bit helps! In the market for a bit of a switch-up from my go-to brown butter chocolate chip cookies, I decided to go for a fresher, springier take on the classic — after all, it’s finally reliably above-freezing in New England.
A brief glance through my recipe archives might give the impression that I like browning butter; this impression is 100% accurate. I firmly believe that browning the butter is worth every extra minute needed to accomplish this noble purpose. The wonderful aroma, rich nutty flavor, and caramel-y color you lend your cookies by simply browning the butter cannot be beat. Since the butter browning process involves heating the butter, a little orange-flavor-infusion is easily achieved at this step.
Adding half of the orange zest to the melted butter, just before it starts to brown, allows for the orange flavor to infuse into the butter, and adding the other half of the zest directly into the dough keeps the flavor fresh and light.
You could use vanilla extract if you really want a strong orange creamcicle flavor, but I really like the extra aromatic flavor that almond extract gives (especially since the cookies also have toasted almonds in them). And SPEAKING of those toasted almonds, here’s a great dish-saving, flavor-enhancing tip: DON’T WASH THE BUTTER-BROWNING PAN! After you scrape all of the browned butter into the mixing bowl, slap that skillet right back on the stove and toast your almonds in it! Make the most of all that energy you spent browning the butter/infusing that orange flavor by toasting your almonds right in that pot of gold (and save your poor, dry hands one trip to the soapy dishwater). But really, after you toast your almonds, you will eventually need to wash that skillet — or maybe you can bribe your SO/roommate(s) to do the dishes for you in exchange for fresh cookies. Bartering with cookies has never yet failed me [*knocks on wood*].
Orange Cream Cookies
Yield: ~ 20 cookies
1 stick unsalted butter
Zest of one orange, divided
½ cup slivered almonds
½ cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 egg + 1 yolk
¼ – ½ teaspoon almond extract (depending on personal preference)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt + extra for sprinkling
White baking chips (or chunks of white baking chocolate), for stuffing
In a medium saucepan (light-colored, if you have it), melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add HALF OF the orange zest, and continue to heat butter, until browned, stirring occasionally with a heat-safe spatula, scraping up the brown bits (should take ~5-7 minutes after addition of orange zest, but watch it like a hawk, since pan color/type can speed up or slow down this process). Place directly in refrigerator (still in skillet) for 20 minutes.
In the bowl of a standmixer, combine both sugars with the cooled orange-brown butter, ensuring that you have used your rubber spatula to thoroughly scrape all of the brown bits and zest flakes into the mixing bowl. Return the skillet to the stove, and use it to toast your slivered almonds (~5-7 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring regularly, just until starting to brown and become fragrant) – transfer almonds to a plate to cool.
Use the paddle attachment to cream together the butter and sugars, until pale, light, and fluffy, ~3-4 minutes on medium speed. Add egg, yolk, and almond extract. Beat for an additional 2 minutes. In a large measuring cup, use a fork to aerate and combine the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Turn mixer to low, and gradually add dry ingredients, mixing only until JUST combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and fold in the toasted almonds and REMAINING orange zest. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and chill 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees farenheit. Remove dough from fridge, and line a baking sheet with a non-stick baking mat or parchment paper. Use a 1 ½ tablespoon cookie dough scoop (or large spoon) to scoop up dough, compact the dough with your palm, and press your (clean) thumb into the middle of the dough blob (still in the scoop/spoon), pressing hard enough to create a depression without pushing through to the metal of the scoop/spoon. Place 5-6 white baking chips or 1 chunk of baking chocolate into the depression, and use your fingers to pinch the dough over the now-filled depression and your palm to gently smooth the surface – see picture series above. Transfer dough, flat-side down, to the prepped baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing blobs ~2” apart. Freeze for 5 minutes (or fridge them for 10) on sheet. Sprinkle tops with a touch of kosher salt, and bake for 9 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through bake time. Remove when edges have JUST started to brown, and tiny microcracks on the surface indicate that they are done. Allow to cool on sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to wire racks for complete cooling. Store in airtight containers, at room temp, for up to 5 days.