Friday, December 21, 2012

Orange Date Nut Cookies

This is another cookie that I tried for the first time this year and it will definitely become a Christmas regular.

Prior to making the dough for the cookies a filling is made with dates, orange juice and orange rind.  I'm so thankful that dates can be purchased already chopped.  I have a not-so-fond childhood memory of being required, every Christmas season, to sit at the kitchen table and chop up those sticky whole dates

Process with the knife blade.  You will want the date mixture very smooth.

The cookie has three layers so the dough will be divided.  If you have a kitchen scale, separate the dough and weigh into 3 equal pieces.

Line a 9" x 5" loaf pan with foil allowing the sides to hang over.

Knead half of the pecans into 1 portion of dough.  Press into the bottom of the loaf pan taking care that the layer is even and firmly tucked into the corners.

For the middle layer, knead the date orange mixture into a portion of the dough.  When well incorporated press onto the top of the bottom pecan layer. Use enough pressure to try to keep any air pockets from forming.  The more even and neat you make your layers the nicer your cookies will look.

Knead the reminder of the toasted pecans into the last portion of dough.  Press this onto the top of the orange date layer.  Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.  Mine stayed in over night.

When you are ready to slice your cookies  preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Turn the firm, molded dough out onto a cutting board.  Remove and discard the foil.  This is what your dough looks like from the side.

Slice the dough lengthwise into 4 sections

My loaf pan sloped a tad on the ends so I trimmed off the end to make it even.

Now you can start your cutting with a straight edge.

Slice each cookie about 1/4" thick and place them 1" apart on the prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 9 to 10 minutes  or until lightly browned.  Cool slightly on baking sheets, remove to wire racks to cool completely.

I baked one batch until they were quite brown and they crisped up; almost like a thin biscotti.  The  norm should be a little softer.  Lovey  liked the over done batch to have with his coffee so all turned out well.  However, remember what makes this cookie fine in NOT being over baked.  Soft and chewy is what you want.

In addition to the fact that these cookies taste great, here are some other reasons they can be your friend during the holiday:
~ The recipe yields a large quantity, making it a good selection to make for a holiday cookie swap
~ Being a "slice and bake" type of cookie, they're great for keeping a batch of the dough in the refrigerator during the holidays.  You'll be able to slice off a few and stick them in the oven when someone stops by for a visit.

Orange Date Nut Cookies
Adapted from Christmas Cookies published by Oxmoor House
Yield 8 dozen

1 (10 ounce) package chopped dates
grated orange rind from 1 medium orange
1 Tbsp. orange juice
1 cup butter softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup pecan pieces

Mise en place:
  • set out butter to soften
  • line a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with aluminum foil, allowing foil to extend over edges of pan.  Set aside
  • cover cookie sheets with parchment paper
  • toast the pecans for 8-10 minutes or until browned and aromatic; cool
  • grate rind from orange
  • juice the orange
  • measure out sugar & vanilla
  • measure out flour, baking powder and salt
  • finely chop pecans and divide in half
Position knife blade in food processor bowl and add the dates, orange rind and orange juice.  Process 45 seconds or until dates are finely chopped.

Beat butter at medium speed with a heavy duty electric stand mixer until blended.  Gradually add sugar, beating until blended.  Add egg and vanilla, beat well.

In a small mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended.

Divide dough into 3 equal portions.  Knead 1/2 of the pecans into 1 portion of dough; press into prepared pan.  Knead date mixture into 1 portion of dough; press in pan over pecan dough.  Knead remaining pecans into remaining dough; press into pan over date dough.  Cover and chill at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Invert loaf pan onto a cutting board, remove and discard aluminum foil.  Cut dough lengthwise into 4 sections.  Cut each section of dough crosswise into 1/4-inch slices.  Place slices 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 9 - 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool slightly on baking sheets,; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

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