Orange Cardamom Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
As promised, today I’m sharing my little sister’s wonderful recipe for the oatmeal cookies that she baked as wedding favors for me and Paula.
These are some of the best ever oatmeal cookies: crisp on the bottom, a little crunchy across the top, and perfectly baked and chewy in the middle. And though I may be partial to oatmeal chocolate chip cookies myself – but never oatmeal raisin cookies – the bright orange and cranberry flavors in these cookies won me over immediately. They are incredibly flavorful, with just the right balance of tart and sweet.
I made a batch this past weekend, and felt that my sister’s additions of orange zest and fresh orange juice to the original America’s Test Kitchen recipe were right on: each time I scooped into the dough to form another cookie, the fresh scent of orange zest floated up temptingly from the bowl.
And the cardamom that she added complements the tangy flavors of citrus and cranberry, and is more subdued than nutmeg or cinnamon would be.
I would go so far as to say that these are the perfect fall cookie (as long as your ‘perfect fall’ anything category isn’t limited to recipes that include pumpkin…).
Of course when my sister Jess made these for my wedding last month, the weather was just about as far as you could get from fall. Santa Barbara was in the middle of a heatwave – one that has practically lasted all summer and is continuing through October, I assume because of California’s drought – and it was especially hot on the days right before and after the wedding. We’re talking 90-something degrees in my apartment with no air-conditioning, not to mention my sister’s crazy, wonderful plan to keep the oven on for several hours while she baked no fewer than:
- 103 Snickerdoodles (smitten kitchen),
- 130 Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies (also smitten kitchen),
- and 104 Orange cardamom cranberry oatmeal cookies
…to give out to 84 guests at our wedding. (Including extras for snacking on during the Cookie Baking event, of course.)
Actually, we would have all been confined to my hot apartment for even longer had it not been for Jess’s genius plan to whip up all of those cookies over the previous week back at her place in Chicago, and then transport the frozen cookie dough to Santa Barbara for baking.
Our only concern was her security check at the airport… I mean any serious cookie connoisseur knows that cookie dough is obviously a solid and not a liquid, but how much does it differ in texture, really, from toothpaste or peanut butter or other borderline liquids/gels/pastes that are banned?
(We looked it up and oddly enough, you can bring (cakes and) pies through security, but not jellies or jams, despite the fact that some pie fillings are more liquidy than some jams! Or do I just not add enough corn starch to some of my pies…?)
Anyway, we were leaving a lot up to chance and the good will of Jess’s randomly assigned TSA officer.
Things could have gone either way, and I’m sure if her cookie dough had been confiscated in Chicago, then we wouldn’t have had enough time to make as many cookies before the wedding, and certainly not three varieties of them. But it still seemed worth it for her to make the cookie dough in advance…
So for each big batch of cookie dough, she rolled the dough into little cookie-sized balls, and froze them on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Then she transferred the balls of frozen cookie dough to Ziploc bags, and packed them in her suitcase. Actually, that’s an understatement: her suitcase was FULL of plastic bags of frozen cookie dough balls, with a few items of clothing packed in around the edges.
Then, on the Thursday evening before my wedding (which was on a Saturday), my sister and her husband flew from Chicago to California. We never actually got to find out whether cookie dough is kosher for carry-ons, though, since they flew an airline that made it cheaper to check bags than to carry on. And luckily that worked just fine – the cookie dough balls still felt frozen when they arrived, but after sitting in our fridge overnight, they were perfectly defrosted and ready for baking!
I may have spent a good chunk of the end of my wedding reception sending people over to the cookie table and making sure that everyone got to take some home, but no one needed any convincing.
Thank you, Jess!
Print this recipe. (PDF)
Orange Cardamom Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
(My sister’s adaptation from the America’s Test Kitchen oatmeal cookie recipe.)
(Makes 30-36 cookies; doubles easily.)
Active time: 20 minutes; Total time: 1 hour, plus 1 hour (or overnight) optional time to chill the dough.
~ ¾ cup flour
~ ¼ tsp. salt
~ ¼ tsp. baking powder
~ ¼ – ½ tsp. ground cardamom
~ 1 stick butter, slightly softened
~ ½ cup brown sugar, packed
~ ⅓ cup + 1 Tbsp. white granulated sugar (or up to ½ cup for crispier cookies)
~ 1 egg
~ zest of half of an orange
~ 2 tsp. fresh orange juice
~ 1½ cups rolled oats
~ ¾ cup dried cranberries
How to make it:
0. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees (unless you’re making the dough in advance!).
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and cardamom, and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until soft and creamy, then to blend in the sugars until the mixture is fluffy, with plenty of air (or for about 3 minutes, while periodically scraping down the sides of the bowl). Then beat in the egg (if doubling the recipe, fully incorporate one egg before adding a second one).
3. Use a silicone spatula to gently stir in the orange zest, orange juice, and the flour mixture from step #1, until just incorporated. Next, stir in the oats and the dried cranberries.
4. For the best results, optionally cover and chill the dough for 1 hour, if not overnight (but then allow it to warm up slightly before working with it). [Or, if you’re making hundreds of wedding favor cookies, roll heaping tablespoons of the dough into balls, freeze individually on a baking sheet, then transfer to freezer-safe airtight containers. Defrost in the fridge before baking.]
5. Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough onto baking sheets and slightly flatten each ball of cookie dough with your hands or a spoon. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until cookies are just browning around the edges but look like they might be undercooked on top — they’ll be crunchy on the bottom and chewy in the center.
Print this recipe! (PDF)
(Mostly food photos)
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