It’s cranberry season, my favorite time of year. I love cooking and baking with cranberries. Their tartness adds zip to both sweet and savory recipes. I especially like them in cookies. I think they balance out the sweetness in cookie recipes and add a festive flavor.
Now need I mention that it is also getting very close to holiday baking season, and every year I try out at least one new cookie recipe. I saw a version of this recipe in an Allrecipes magazine and tweaked it not only from an ingredient perspective but also to adapt it to high altitude baking.
High altitude baking can be tricky and unless you purchase a cookbook specifically written for high altitude baking you are most likely using ingredient amounts designed for sea level. The higher the altitude the lower the air pressure which makes it difficult for the baker. Baking depends on specific interactions of various ingredients such as flour, leavening, fats and liquid. Those interactions change with a change in air pressure. And to make matters worse, baking at 3,500 feet is different from baking at 5,000 feet and as you continue to rise in elevation the trickier it gets. I live at a 5,000 feet and have done a lot of research into how to adapt recipes for that elevation and still have some baking failures. But the more you do it, the better you get at it. The additions to this recipe are specifically designed for baking these cookies at 5,000 feet. I played around with the ingredients and I nailed it! But since many of you are probably at sea level I will use sea level amounts as the base and note what needs to be changed for high altitude.
Lesson Learned 1 – Use the juice from fresh oranges: Fresh ingredients are always the best. This recipe requires both orange zest and juice. Don’t take the easy way out and use bottled orange juice. Plus take a look at the amount of sugar in your orange juice. It’s crazy the amount of sugar there is a most juices. It can be anywhere from 10 to 30 grams. That’s a lot of sugar. Use fresh juice. Any small way that you can control the amount of sugar in anything you make is a good thing.
Lesson Learned 2 – Use a cookie scoop to ensure even amounts of cookie dough: When I was growing up most cookie recipes would say drop the dough in rounded teaspoons or tablespoons onto the cookie sheet. That wasn’t very precise and you want to make sure you can, to the best of your ability, make each cookie the same size. That way every cookie will bake evenly versus having some baked and others raw or burnt.
These days you can purchase what looks like a small ice cream scoop to make the cookie dough virtually the same size on your baking sheet. Working with them can be a little tricky so here is a helpful hint: spray the inside of the scoop with baking spray before scooping any dough. That way the dough will release more easily. I found that even with using baking spray the scoop gets pretty gummed up after scooping out a dozen or so cookies. Once you’ve filled your baking sheet, put your dirty scoop into a glass of warm water. When you’re ready to scoop out more dough, take a paper towel, wipe the inside clean and spray it again. This may sound like a lot of work but the results are evenly sized, evenly baked cookies.
Lesson Learned 3 – How to glaze cookies: I’m not a professional baker nor do I have some of the tools that professional bakers have namely pastry bags and decorator nozzles. When I glaze cookies I put the glaze in a plastic bag, work it into one of the bottom corners, twist close the top of the bag and snip the corner where the glaze settled. Voila, a home made pastry bag! Here are a couple of helpful hints for glazing cookies and working with a homemade pastry bag:
- Open the plastic bag and put it in a tall drinking glass, spreading the bag open as widely as you can inside the glass. Now you have an easy way of pouring the glaze into the bag and both of your hands are free to do this.
- Snip only a very small portion off of one of the corners of the bottom of the bag. That way you’ll have a manageable stream of glaze when decorating your cookies.
- Put a sheet of wax paper under a cooling rack and put your cookies on the cooling rack before glazing. That way clean up will be a breeze.
- Just free flow the glaze over your cookies. You can do each cookie individually or do one long strip back and forth over a row of cookies. Have fun with it.
- Let the glaze set before storing them. Touch the glaze and if feels firm then you’re ready to store them.
These are fabulous cookies and perfect for a holiday get-together. You really should try these and let me know what you think. Enjoy!
Iced Cranberry Orange Walnut Cookies
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar (minus 1 Tbs. for high altitude)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar (minus 3/4 Tbs. for high altitude)
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. orange zest (1 large orange will give you the zest and juice you need)
2 Tbs. orange juice (plus 2 Tbs. for high altitude)
2 1/2 cups flour (plus 2 Tbs. for high altitude)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh cranberries
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp. orange zest
3-4 Tbs. orange juice
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 375. Cream together butter and sugars. Beat in egg until thoroughly combined. Add zest and juice and combine.
In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Add in batches to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until combined. Stir in the cranberries and walnuts by hand.
Drop dough in rounded tablespoons (the cookie scoop will do this perfectly for you) two inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 – 14 minutes (mine baked in 13 minutes – sea level baking on average takes less time). Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.
For the glaze: combine all ingredients together. Drizzle glaze onto the cookies. Let the cookies stand until the glaze has set and then store.