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Friday, December 26, 2014

Orange Butter Balls

Curiously, the originator of this recipe hailed these as springtime cookies due to the orange flavor.  I took one bite and immediately thought, "These taste like Christmas!"  Richly buttery, with just a hint of orange, these were my favorite recipe this year.  (The coconut is only decorative -- it doesn't give any flavor.)   They're very similar to Mexican wedding cookies, but more dense due to the cream cheese.

The only change I made was to use plain water and orange extract instead or orange juice in the frosting because the orange juice alone didn't impart any flavor.  For a milder orange flavor in the cookie, stick with the orange juice.

This is the second recipe I've made recently that called for rubbing the zest into the sugar, and I suspect this is an entirely unnecessary step.  I can see the point if you're going to sprinkle the sugar over something, but since they're both going into the same place and baked, I don't think the result would be any different if you simply dumped them in separately.  Why add an extra step and bowl to wash?  These instructions are somewhat unconventional; next time I will make them using the usual method (creaming butter and sugar, sifting dry ingredients together and then mixing in) and report back.

Here's what I used:

3/4 cup granulated sugar
grated zest of 1 orange
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons soft cream cheese, divided
2 tablespoons orange juice water, more if needed
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, more if needed
1/2 cup unsweetened finely-shredded coconut

Put the granulated sugar and the orange zest in a mixing bowl and rub the sugar into the orange zest.  Sift together the flour and salt and add to the sugar and mix on low speed briefly.  With the mixer still on low speed, gradually add the pieces of butter.  When the mixture begins to look like crumbs, add the vanilla.  Gradually add 2 tablespoons of the cream cheese. When the dough starts to clump together, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Knead it by hand for a few seconds until it is fully combined. 

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Scoop out a small round of dough, about 1 tablespoon, and roll into a ball.  Place balls about 1 inch apart on baking sheet.  Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

In a bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon cream cheese, the water, the extract, and the confectioners’ sugar. Mix on low speed briefly, then increase the speed to medium and mix for 2 more minutes.  The glaze should be as thick as glue.  Pour the coconut into a small bowl. Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze, then into the shredded coconut, and let set for 20 minutes to harden.

Conclusion:  These were delicious!  They will be made again.  You could also add food coloring to the frosting if you wanted to tart these up a little, but I thought they were cute as they were.

Original recipe:  Orange Butter Drops with Shredded Coconut via Serious Eats, who reprinted it with permission from One Girl Cookies

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