Without a doubt, these are my favorite Christmas cookies of all time. They just embody the flavors and smells of the holiday. A little bit of spice, combined with a citrusy zest puts these fragrant, chewy cookies at the top of my holiday baking list every year.
This recipe is originally from America's Test Kitchen; in my experience, that's a pretty solid guarantee of goodness in itself.
I always double the recipe and freeze a few dozen, so I can pull them out as needed throughout the holiday season. Even so, I still usually end up making a second batch.
They are that good!
*This makes about 2 dozen cookies
2/3 cup plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) softened, unsalted butter
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup molasses
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 375. Combine 2/3 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons orange zest in a food processor and process until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Spread in a shallow dish for coating and set aside. Whisk the flour, baking soda, spices, pepper, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.
2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, brown sugar, and remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3-6 minutes. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla until combined, about 30 seconds more. Beat in the molasses and remaining 1 teaspoon grated orange zest, just till incorporated. Scrape down bowl and beaters as needed.
3. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds (the dough should be soft). Give the dough a final stir with a rubber spatula for good measure, just to make sure everything is thoroughly combined.
4. Roll dough into balls (about 2 tablespoons each), then roll in the orange-sugar to coat. Arrange them on parchment-lined baking sheets, about 2" apart. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until the edges are set and the tops cracked but the centers are till soft and underdone. You can peek throughout the cracks to check the centers. It should take about 10-12 minutes.
5. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.