Our last conversation with my Grampa, who died two years ago, was the evening before Thanksgiving, while Charlotte and I were baking. We were making cranberry-orange cookies, dipped in chocolate, when we tracked Grampa down at the hospital, where he’d just been admitted. Cha Cha had too much dough in her mouth to be intelligible when we wished him a happy Thanksgiving over the phone, and Grampa chuckled and said, “Oh, Little Honey, enjoy those cookies!”
Those cookies have now become part of our Thanksgiving repertoire. They always make me think of him, and they’re the only holiday cookies I regularly bake that aren’t from the recipe files of my grandmother Honey–Grampa’s wife, whose real name was Charlotte. The recipe is based on one in the first Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, by Jennifer Appel and Allysa Torey. It’s shortbread with a twist, and keeps well–if you don’t eat them all at once!
Grampa’s Cranberry-Orange Cookies
Makes 4 dozen
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2-1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
12 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate, melted
In a large bowl, cream the butter until smooth, about 3 minutes. Gradually beat in the sugar, and continue to beat until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Stir in the orange zest and the vanilla extract until well combined. Gradually add the flour until blended (the dough will be crumbly). Mix in the dried cranberries. Shape the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or overnight).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let soften for 5 minutes. Taking small pieces of the dough, roll them into balls and shape into 3-inch logs. Place logs on an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving an inch between cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheet, then remove to a rack to cool completely.
Spread a sheet of aluminum foil on a counter and smooth any creases. When cookies are cooled, dip them halfway in the chocolate, then place them on the foil until chocolate is set. When chocolate has hardened, peel the cookies off the foil and serve.