These cookies are very special to me because they are the foundation of my favorite childhood memory. As a twelve year-old, I was extremely shy and quite awkward in social settings. It was a strange and lonely time for me. On top of my not having very many friends, I was sick with mononucleosis and strep throat for much of my seventh grade year. The one part of my life that was stable and sure was the relationship I had with my family. My mother became my strength and I looked up to her for everything. This is why, when she had agreed to participate in a community-wide Christmas cookie exchange and had to make 12 dozen cookies, I was honored that she would ask me to help her.
As life goes, we started the baking process at around ten p.m. the night before the exchange, and ended up baking until well into the early morning (and yes, it just so happened that this extravaganza fell upon a school night). I loved that time I had with my sweet mother to talk and laugh together. She knew how to love me better than anyone else and I am eternally grateful for her kindness towards her young, awkward daughter. She became my best friend that night and has remained that way since. These are the cookies that we made together, and no matter how many cookbooks I sift through, these will always be my favorite.
Orange Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from The Lion House cookbook
1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp (or more) grated orange rind
1 tsp orange extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350 F. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Mix in orange rind and orange flavoring. Gradually add flour until all is incorporated. Divide dough in half; roll out to 1/4 " thickness on a floured surface. Use a circular cookie cutter to make shapes. Place cookies on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes, or until very slightly browned. Cool cookies on wire rack. Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips in microwave or in double boiler. Dip half of the cookie in chocolate and cover in chopped nuts if desired. Let harden on wax or parchment paper. Because of the high butter content in these, they will take on the flavor of any surrounding food. Make sure they are stored in a covered container. Enjoy! They are delicious! (Makes about 4 dozen)
*Note: The way my mom and I did them was a little bit different. We rolled them into 2 inch logs and flattened one side with a fork. After baking we dipped the non-flattened side in chocolate and nuts. They were very pretty.