With holiday cookie season in full swing, I’m baking up lots o’ holiday flavor combos over here. Cranberry orange shortbread in the style of Alison Roman with those crispy, sugary edges came outta my oven this week and I gotta tell ya, they are banging. I used Alison’s base shortbread recipe cuz, I mean, c’mon, it’s amazing and I amped up the orange flavor with lots of zest and swapped the chocolate for tangy cranberries. We got a real holiday cookie winner over here!
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Perfect Holiday Cookie Exchange Cookies
The winter holidays are prime baking time in these parts and I’m taking full advantage. I participate in not one, but two cookie exchanges this time of year and I’m always on the lookout for new and delicious cookie recipes to share with my friends. The trick to a great cookie exchange cookie is its portability! It must transport easily, keep well, the cookies should preferably be stackable, and they need to pack well into containers (preferably cute ones!) – these cookies check all the boxes!
Experimenting with an iconic shortbread recipe
So if you haven’t tried Alison Roman’s Salted Butter Chocolate Shortbread Cookies yet, you’re missing out. These cookies popped up all over the place this year and for very good reason – they’re amazing with their slightly salty and buttery shortbread, crispy sweet edges, and just the right amount of chocolate. I baked these about ten times already this year and I’m sure I’ve got at least a few more dozen coming before the year is out. For this time of year, I figured I’d experiment with Alison’s shortbread cookie, but change it up a bit with the holiday flavors of cranberry and orange. I am thrilled with the results and hope you will be, too.
Plan ahead for these cookies
I’m all about getting in the kitchen and cranking out some deliciousness in the form of cookies whenever the mood strikes me. And, believe you me, I do this pretty often! These cookies, however, require some forethought and preparation, as the dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours before baking. So, be sure you leave plenty of time or make the dough up to a week ahead of when you’ll be baking them and you’ll be ready to go.
The preparation of the dough is rather simple – cream the cold butter and sugars with the orange juice and zest, add in the flour and cranberries and voila, you’ve got some dough. Split the dough in half, roll into logs and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. After they’ve firmed up for at least a couple of hours, brush on the beaten egg – I like to do this with a silicone brush. Then roll the dough in a mixture of demerara sugar (aka, sugar in the raw) and orange zest. This part is essential for those crispy edges brimming with orange flavor. Now you’re ready to slice up the dough – I like mine on the thicker side, about 1/2 inch thick. Place them on your parchment-lined trays and bake ’em up.
I tried these cookies with fresh cranberries, too, and while I loved the ultra-tangy flavor, they didn’t look as pretty when I sliced the cookie dough and they won’t keep as well as they do with the dried cranberries. However, if you are looking for a little something different, give that a shot. Simply substitute the dried cranberries for fresh ones in the recipe below. And, be sure to let me know what you think!
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Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies
Cranberry orange shortbread in the style of Alison Roman with those crispy, sugary edges. This cookie gets some amped up orange flavor from lots of zest and a nice tang from the cranberries.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes + chilling time
- Yield: 24 cookies 1x
- Category: Cookies
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: American
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2¼ sticks) cold salted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (packed) dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- 3 teaspoons orange zest, divided (zest from approximately 3 large oranges)
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 6 ounces sweetened dried cranberries
- 1 large egg, beaten to blend
- ¼ cup demerara sugar or Sugar in the Raw (for rolling)
Prepare shortbread dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, orange juice, and 2 teaspoons orange zest on medium-high speed until super light and fluffy, about 3–5 minutes. Using a spatula, scrape down sides of bowl. With mixer off, add flour, and mix on low just until blended. Add in dried cranberries and stir on low just to blend. Divide dough in half, then place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold plastic over to cover dough and protect your hands from getting all sticky. Using your hands (just like you’re playing with clay), form dough into a log shape; rolling it on the counter will help you smooth it out, but don’t worry about getting it totally perfect. Each half should form logs that are 2–2¼” in diameter. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours or up to one week.
Bake: Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two rimmed bakings sheet with parchment paper or silpats. Brush outside of logs with beaten egg using a silicone brush. Combine remaining 1 teaspoon orange zest with demerara sugar. Roll logs in demerara orange sugar mixture (this is for those really delicious crispy edges). Slice each log into ½”-thick rounds. Arrange on prepared baking sheet about 1″ apart (they won’t spread much). Bake cookies until edges are just beginning to brown, 12–15 minutes, rotating trays halfway through baking. Let cool slightly before transferring to cooling racks and devouring them all
Cookie dough can be made 1 week ahead. Tightly wrap in plastic and chill, or freeze up to 1 month. Cookies can be baked 5 days ahead. Store in plastic wrap or an airtight container.
Adapted from and inspired by Alison Roman’s Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk Shortbread.
Keywords: cranberry orange shortbread cookies, holidays, Christmas, holiday cookies, cookie exchange, Alison Roman, nut free recipe, best shortbread cookies, easy shortbread cookies, buttery shortbread, orange, cranberry
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