When I first made Orange Date Nut Cookies, I had them triple-tested over multiple households and two generations. Everyone who obliged me gave eager compliments on-the-spot. Some offered thumbs-up while giving a “yummm!”, which is all that can be said with a mouthful of cookie; and even the tester who doesn’t like nuts loved them, especially the soft date-nut middle. So, this recipe is a keeper… which I especially knew when my 11-year old wanted me to quit passing out samples and save more for us.
These cute little rectangles are perfect for gift-giving, even by mail, because they become more tasty over time. We loved them best two and even three days after baking. And do you happen to know any friends who are “dunkers”?… these are the perfect cookie for them, because these were absolutely fabulous when dipped in hot, freshly brewed coffee. And I imagine they’d be equally good in a steamy cup of tea or even ice cold milk.
The recipe is a soft shortbread with chopped pecans added, with a middle layer of minced dates and orange zest, topped with a simple drizzle of orange zest and confectioners sugar. Easily made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator to slice and bake at a moment’s notice.
The dough is divided into three sections, and one of those sections gets incorporated with the dates, orange zest and tiny bit of orange juice. It then gets layered in a loaf pan and placed in the fridge for two hours (or longer).
Once you’re ready to bake the cookies, just uncover the loaf, cut into three sections and then cut these logs into 1/4-inch cookies. Each log makes about 2 dozen cookies. Re-wrap unused sections and freeze or refrigerate to use again later.
A variety of flavors in every bite, these cookies are both crisp and chewy. Nutty and citrus-y. The pecan-shortbread layer is delightful enough on its own, but the layers make a pretty presentation as well as being delicious.
The orange glaze is a mixture of confectioners sugar, fresh orange juice and zest. You can brush glaze over the entire cookie, but all my testers preferred just a drizzle here and there. Or, if you prefer, serve them naked without the glaze at all.
True multipurpose tasty treats, Orange Date-Nut Cookies will be great with breakfast or brunch, a tea-and-sandwich luncheon or on-the-go and across the country.
- For the cookies:
- 8-ounce package of chopped or whole dates (Deglet Noor are excellent and most common)
- Zest from one medium orange
- 1 generous Tablespoon juice from fresh orange
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
- 1½ cups sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup finely chopped toasted pecans, divided
- For the glaze:
- Zest from one medium orange
- 3 Tablespoon fresh orange juice
- ½ to 1 cup confectioners sugar (depending on how thick you want the glaze)
- To make the cookies:
- Line a 9- x 5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, allowing enough to extend over the edges of pan so they can cover the dough for refrigerating. Set aside.
- Position knife blade in food processor bowl; add dates, orange zest and orange juice. Process 45 seconds, or until dates are finely chopped.
- In a medium bowl, beat butter at medium speed until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating until well blended.
- Add the egg and vanilla; beat well.
- In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together to combine.
- Gradually add flour mixture into the butter mixture, beating at low speed until blended.
- Divide the dough into 3 portions. Knead ½ cup of the pecans into 1 portion of dough; press this portion into prepared pan.
- Knead the date mixture into 1 portion of dough; press in pan over pecan dough.
- Knead remaining ½ cup pecans into remaining dough; press into pan over date dough.
- Cover and chill at least 2 hours or freeze up to 1 month. (If freezing, defrost again in refrigerator for 2 days before making cookies.)
- Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
- Invert loaf pan onto a cutting board; remove and discard plastic wrap. Cut dough lengthwise into 3 lengthwise logs. Cut each log of dough crosswise into ¼-inch thick slices. Place the slices 1-inch apart on parchment lined baking sheets. (Each log yields about 20 cookies)
- Bake for 10-11 minutes until still soft and NOT brown at edges (I like these a little more chewy, but if you want them as tea or coffee dunking cookies, bake an additional 2 minutes until the edges are browned).
- Cool slightly on baking sheets; remove to wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the glaze:
- In a small bowl, mix orange zest and juice. Whisk in ½ cup confectioners sugar and add more for thicker glaze.
- Using a spoon, drizzle a stripe or droplets over each cookie. Let sit for about 10 minutes to let glaze harden slightly for packaging or serving.
- These cookies ship well as they taste even better two or three days after baking.
Recipe adapted from a Christmas cookie book no longer in print that’s been in my kitchen forever!