You guys… I have never pawned off a batch of cookies with more urgency. Normally, baked goods will hang out on my counter for a while, waiting for me to meet up with a friend or catch my neighbor when she’s going out for a walk. I will enjoy one here and there in the meantime. But this was what you might call a Dangerous Situation. Janeane Garofalo would rightly make fun of me, but the cookies had to go!
I’m all about the orange-chocolate combo, you see. The fragrance, the bitterness of the orange, plus rich, dark, swoon-worthy chocolate… It’s all so dreamy.
And man, these are good. Chewy, rich and fudgy, with tons of texture courtesy of crunchy pecans and toothsome, chewy candied orange. That’s two kinds of chewy for those of you who are keeping track! Flavorwise, need I say more? My goodness.
But first! First, you might find yourself in a dilemma when it comes to the candied orange peel part. You may not be able to find it at stores, but never fear–making your own is easy (though you do need a day or two to dry them out completely). First, you butcher an orange like this:
I’m a visual person and find this much easier than trying to explain what to do in words.
This part is much easier to articulate: CUT UP THEM THINGS.
Boil your orange peel in hot sugary water for a while. It’s like a hot tub for citrus, but you are not welcome in there. Watch out for hot, hot sugar syrup!
Toss them around in–what else?–more sugar. Then, we fast forward a day or two. Let’s do the time warp! These will be dry and chewy. You must dice them.
…And introduce them to the rest of the family. Nice, huh? Flour and lots of cocoa, The Butter (it needs respect), sugar (brown only for maximum chewiness), egg, chocolate, nuts.
Cookie-making commences with creaming butter and sugar. You knew that.
The rest quickly follows. Get yourself a sturdy wooden spoon–there’s lots going on here. Force it all together.
Plop things onto a baking sheet. Smooth them a bit if you feel like it, but these days, you MUST put sea salt on a cookie. I didn’t make up this rule, but it’s a pretty good one. And I say that as someone who recently broke it!
Oh look, we’re done.
Chocolate-orange lovers, rejoice. And definitely don’t make these alone unless you have a distribution plan ready or are willing to eat all of them (in which case, godspeed to you, dear friend).
For candied orange peel:
2 large or 3 medium oranges
4 cups sugar, divided
3 cups water
Wash oranges well, especially if they’re not organic, and dry off. Cut off a 1/4 inch from top and bottom with a sharp knife, then score each orange into 4 segments vertically, cutting through the skin but not the fruit (see photos above). Peel off each segment in one piece, then cut into 1/4-inch wide strips.
Cook these in a large pot of boiling water for 15 minutes or so, then drain and rinse off. Then, bring 3 cups of sugar and 3 cups of water to boil in your large pot over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then add peels and return to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until soft, 45 minutes or so. Try not to stir them–swirl the pot around if you must for some reason, but they should be left alone.
Spread the remaining cup of sugar on a large baking sheet. Fish out the peels and drop them onto the baking sheet–they will be very hot and very sticky. Tongs are useful. Separate them if they stick together and toss around in the sugar to coat. When cooled, shake off excess sugar and transfer to a sheet of foil–leave them to dry out for a day or two. Makes about 2 cups.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened, Dutch processed cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup diced candied orange peel
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional)
Sea salt, for sprinkling (also optional)
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar with a mixer until pale and fluffy (2-3 minutes), then add eggs, one at a time, beating just until incorporated. At a lower speed, add the flour mixture, beating just until incorporated. With a wooden spoon, stir in the chocolate, candied peel and nuts, again, mixing just until incorporated.
Use a scoop to drop walnut-sized balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. Use your slightly damp fingers to smooth the tops and gently flatten the cookies a bit. Sprinkle each with a bit of sea salt, if using.
Bake, rotating halfway through, until puffy, about 12-14 minutes. Cool on the sheets, placed on a cooling rack, for 15 minutes or so, then transfer cookies directly onto rack to cool completely. Makes a generous 2 dozen or so.