Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Orange-Almond Butter Buttons . . . (Christmas Cookie Production Continues!)

And the Christmas cookie parade marches on . . . here comes another one! These unassuming little cookies are crisp, almondy, and permeated with the delicate zing of orange zest and fresh-squeezed orange juice--the perfect partner to a hot cup of Christmas tea. Adapted from a recipe called Lime Pecan Butter Cookies in the book Simple American Cooking by Chuck Williams (of Williams- Sonoma fame), I chose to substitute the fruit and nut of my choice. In addition to that, I thought they looked remarkably like diminutive buttons, and we all know that buttons require button holes. I did a little rewording of the instructions, and I added the possibility of a sweet orange glaze to top them off.

The base recipe is kind of unusual for a butter cookie in that it contains an egg white and it undergoes quite a long period of beating before the flour is added in. It's not rich in the way that shortbread is, but it does have a subtle buttery quality that's just right.

If you prefer a sweeter version than just the plain cookie, you can ice it easily with a quickly made glaze of confectioners' sugar and fresh orange juice. Mmmmm . . .

Orange-Almond Butter Buttons

(For a printable version of this recipe click here!)

2 cups All Purpose flour (I used bleached)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unblanched almonds, coarsely chopped
1 small orange, unpeeled
3/4 unsalted butter, cut into cubes (I used slightly softened butter)
1 egg white (I used a large egg)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Set aside.

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine 1/4 of the sugar and all of the chopped almonds. Pulse until finely chopped. Set aside.

Using the fine holes of a grater, grate off the zest of the entire orange. Cut the orange in half and squeeze out the juice (remove any seeds). Set the zest and juice aside.

In the bowel of a mixer, combine the remaining sugar and the butter and beat on medium speed for about 5 minutes, until light. Add in the egg white, all of the zest, and about 2/3 of the orange juice. Continue beating on medium speed until fluffy, 8 to 10 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.

Reduce the speed to low and carefully beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time. Add in the ground almonds and beat until well blended.

Make balls of dough about 1" in circumference. Place the balls on your parchment-covered cookie sheet about an inch apart and press your thumb down across each one.

Using a pointed skewer, poke four little holes in each one, just as they'd be placed in a button.

Bake until they start to turn lightly golden around the edges, 12 to 18 minutes. Let the cookies cool on a rack.

To make a thin glaze: In a small bowl, stir together up to one cup of confectioners sugar and the remainder of the orange juice. Adjust the thickness as you prefer by adding more or less juice. If it's thin enough, it's easy to simply pour it over each cookie if they're placed on a rack over a cookie sheet with sides. Let the glazed cookies sit out to dry for half an hour or so before storing them.

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