40, 39, 38, 37...No! 35 days to Christmas Eve :) Isn't it great? Imagine you sitting in front of your fireplace, seeing those beautiful orange dancing flames, listening to christmas carols and eating christmas cookies, of course! You know, Christmas isn't about giving and receiving gifts. It's all about love, family and friendship and traditions. And the best gifts are the homemade ones. How about a small box of these wonderful orange almond cookies?
When I was deciding what to write an article about yesterday, I thought: Hey! Christmas is coming and you love them! Write something Christmassy! And then I was like: Okay, no prob :) So I love Christmas the most, even more than my own birthday!
In my country there's a big tradition when it comes to baking Christmas cookies. Everyone makes about 10 to 20 different kinds of cookies and if not, they buy it in a store. However, I hate store-bought Christmas cookies. At first Christmas baking is a wonderful and funny tradition and the second reason is the very, very poor quality of store-bought cookies. Yes, they're made of some vegetable fats and often are just sweet with no other flavour and they're not cheap at all. And if you want a high quality product, you have to look for it pretty hard and be ready to pay a lot (if you're able to find it, of course). So every year my Mom and I bake about 10 kinds of delicious Christmas cookies, give them as a small gift to our loved ones and enjoy them in the evening with our family while watching Christmas fairy tales on TV and chatting and sharing love.
These cookies aren't that traditional for our country, but I love them for their kind-of-juicy taste as they contrast nicely to the heavier butter cookies.
Some people start baking the cookies in November. I don't like that - why should I eat so old cookies when I can make them fresh? I mean, I know that some cookies need time to soften, but that's usually about 5 - 10 days, not more (however, you can store most of them for up to 1 month). Though, when you make them in November, it's almost two months ahead and then the holidays last for about another 10 days and it just doesn't seem right to me. So I recommend you make these orange almond cookies 1 week ahead, not more, because thery are great right after baking and don't need any other time to soften. Let's get to work :)
125g butter, softened
100g powdered sugar, sifted
150g all-purpose flour, sifted
50g finely ground almonds
1 egg yolk
1.5 tsp cornstarch
1.5 tsp grated fresh orange zest
1/2 tsp baking powder
100g fine dark chocolate
almond slices for sprinkling
Using a wooden spoon, mix butter and sugar until creamy. Add egg yolk and mix well. In another bowl mix flour with baking powder, cornstarch, orange zest and ground almonds. Gently fold the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture, 2 tablespoons at a time. You should create soft, smooth dough. Now, divide the dough into small balls (diameter - about 1 inch, not smaller) and place them on lined baking sheet. With you hand flatten the balls into thick disks ( height - about 1/5 inch). Refrigerate for about 45 minutes. Bake in preheated oven to 180C for about 8 - 10 minutes or until the edges start becoming golden in colour. Let cool completely. Melt fine dark chocolate in a bowl over a pot of warm water. When melted, pour the chocolate in a zip-top plastic food bag. Squeeze air from bag and seal tightly. Clip a very small corner out of bag with scissors. Squeeze chocolate gently out of corner of bag in a fine stream and create thin strikes of chocolate over the top of each cookie.Finally, sprinkle with almond slices. Let the chocolate thicken again or eat right now (as we usually do :D). Store in an airtight container in a cool and dark place.
- If you don't like soft and chewy cookies, bake them for a little bit longer - they'll be crispy and drier.
- Give them as a gift to your friends in a nice box. Choose colour (of the box) that goes well with the colour of the cookies (e.g. golden, orange, brown, beige etc.).
- You can use any chocolate you like (milk, extra fine dark etc.), but the darker, the better. Use only high or good quality chocolate with at least 30% cocoa solids for milk and 50% for dark chocolate (make sure your chocolate doesn't contain any other fats except for cocoa butter).
Everytime I make these I'm extremely pleased with the results. They're crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The combination of dark chocolate, almonds and orange is utterly delicious and the orange flavour gives them the right depth and freshness. So don't leave out the orange zest in any way! I love their softness and lightness and they always disappear withing a few hours. Wonderful cookies + the preparation is pretty quick :)