Soft Cranberry Orange Cookies

When signing up for a pre-Thanksgiving work potluck recently, I noticed that no one had signed up yet for a dish with cranberries. I thought of making cranberry sauce or relish, would be tasty and all – but we all know that I love sweets. I decided to make a cranberry dessert, and thought that a cranberry cookie with orange zest would be perfect for it.

Soft Cranberry and Orange Cookies
Soft Cranberry and Orange Cookies

Soft Orange-Cranberry Cookies (adapted from King Arthur Flour)

1 stick margarine
3/4 cup sugar
grated peel of 1 (large) orange (lemon or grapefruit would be good, too!)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg
1 1/2 cup flour
2 cups dried cranberries

Cream together margarine, sugar, orange peel, vanilla, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Add egg. Add flour, mixing briefly to incorporate some, and then add cranberries. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheets. Flatten the cookies with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar, until they are about 1/2 inch tall. Bake at 425F for 6 minutes, until barely set. Do not let brown. Remove cookies from sheet and let cool.

These were great cookies; there were none left after the potluck. That said, these were a few problems I had:

I used a larger scoop (tablespoon measure, I think) for these cookies than was called for. I tried making the cookies on the smaller side, but largely failed. I think I got about 35 cookies when I should have gotten 48.

The dough was very sticky and I had trouble smoothing down the tops of the cookies with a sugared glass. I used a lot of sugar on the tops of these, which meant that the centers under-baked a little for a few of the cookies. I would use a wet spoon or glass – or just clean fingers – instead to flatten these next time.

The most difficult thing about getting these cookies to turn out right was timing the baking. My oven runs hot and bakes unevenly, so I usually only bake one sheet of cookies at a time in a rack in the center of the oven. Now and then I use two sheets and switch the racks halfway through. That works for many cookies but did not work the best for these in my oven. The softness of the cookies really depends upon the bottoms not browning; switching racks halfway through ensured they all browned a little bit.

Overall, the cookies were tasty. Cranberry and orange is a fantastic combo. The cookies were bright and flavorful, just what you need when the weather outside is cold and gloomy. I loved the orange zest in the cookies. They were very cranberry-y; I’ve never put so many cranberries in a recipe in my life. I had the option to substitute nuts for some of the berries, but that would just add crunch to an otherwise soft and chewy cookie. Part of what makes these cookies so good is the high berry-to-dough ratio. These cookies were best soft. Slightly browned bottoms were still soft-ish, but browned bottoms were not. Cookies puffed up a little while baking but did not spread.

I will make these cookies again. I may shape them by hand or finally break down and buy a new, smaller cookie scoop. I will flatten them with wet fingers and sprinkle them with sugar.  I will definitely use a full 2 cups of cranberries – don’t skimp! This is a great recipe for Thanksgiving (or any other time in November); you should definitely give it a try.

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