Fully loaded Christmas refrigerator cookies
Prep time: 45 minutes plus at least 8 hours to soak fruit and nuts and 2 hours chill time for dough
Cook time: 15 minutes per batch
Makes about 8 dozen cookies
If you want to try two (or more) fruit-nut combination, divide the dough after the egg and extracts are mixed in. Recipe adapted by Kathy Morrison from Sunset magazine.
One 8-ounce package chopped dates (about 1 3/4 cups)
4 ounces candied orange peel, diced (about 1 cup)
11/2 cups chopped nuts, such as pecans, walnuts or macadamia nuts
1 cup dried currants
2 tablespoons orange liqueur
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon honey or agave sweetener
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh orange zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
22/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
In a medium bowl, combine the dates, orange peel, nuts, currants, orange liqueur, sherry, orange juice and honey or agave. (You should have about 4 cups fruit and nuts.) Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit at room temperature for 8 hours, or up to overnight.
In a large bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, combine the butter, sugar, brown sugar, orange zest and salt, and blend until smooth, about 3 minutes.
With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the egg, vanilla extract and orange extract, and mix until combined. Add the flour slowly, mixing until combined. Add the fruit-and-nut mixture, and stir to combine.
Divide the dough in half. Form each half into an 18-inch-long rectangular log (2 inches wide by about 11/2 inches tall). Wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until firm. (Dough can be frozen, tightly wrapped, at this point for up to 6 months.)
Preheat oven to 350 degreees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cut logs into 1/4-inch-slices. Place cookies on prepared baking sheets, spacing 1/2 inch apart. (They don’t spread.)
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until light golden brown. Let cool on baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in airtight container.
TESTING AND TASTING
• This recipe is easy to tailor to personal tastes. I made half a batch following the recipe, using pecans for nuts; the other half incorporated dried pineapple instead of dates, pistachios instead of pecans, and dried tart cherries instead of currants.
• I use Cointreau for the orange liqueur; Grand Marnier would give the cookies more of a brandy taste, which some people might prefer. If you don’t want to use liqueurs, stir the orange extract into the fruit-nut mixture, and don’t add more while mixing the dough.
• When preparing to create the dough logs, pull out a piece of plastic wrap about 22 inches long. On top of that, put a piece of wax paper 18 inches long – this will give you a guide for the length of the log. Wrap the whole thing up together.
• Use a serrated knife to slice the dough – it will do better with chunks of nuts.
• I baked these cookies on insulated sheets; they took about 14 minutes, but this is when knowing your own oven is crucial.
• I got a lot of notes from the newsroom volunteer tasters. Many liked the original recipe. An example: “Nice blend of flavors. Love how moist. The way to get a ‘fruitcake’ experience without the fruitcake!” Some tasters thought there was too much orange in both recipes. (I did too, and would back off on the orange extract, I think.) Other tasters preferred the pineapple version, which came off a little moister/chewier. It’s also less of a holiday-flavor combination. One taster’s comment: “Mellow flavor – I was hoping for more of a punch, but the flavor does linger!”