Circa 1950: Orange Marmalade Cookies
One of the perks of my job is that I get to handle a lot of historic cookbooks, which I find endlessly fascinating, both from a culinary and a cultural perspective. If you bake regularly, then this simple little recipe, ca. 1950, qualifies for the category of “cupboard sweets” — quick and easy to throw together, with ingredients you probably already have on hand. The simplicity of the flavors in this cookie appealed to me: butter, sugar, marmalade. I started with a batch that followed the original recipe more or less as written.
The cookies turned out pleasantly moist and chewy, but a little on the sweet side for my taste. (The Sweet-Toothed Gentleman and my coworkers, however, pronounced them “sweet, but not too sweet.”) The orange flavor was very light — more a hint of marmalade than a whallop of it. I tried a second batch replacing the white sugar with light brown sugar, which toned down the sweetness and also complemented the orange flavor. However, this change also made the cookies’ texture slightly less chewy and more cakey.
Still wanting a more intense orange flavor, I baked a final batch with the addition of half a teaspoon of orange oil to give the marmalade a boost. (Yes, I baked a lot of cookies this week. Don’t worry about our blood sugar levels; we have lots of folks to share with!) This recipe works equally well with any of these variations, but Batch 2 ended up being my favorite. The brown sugar, butter, and marmalade perfectly harmonize with one another, with no one flavor dominating the others. They’re especially good alongside a cup of coffee or spiced tea… and just right for dunking. These cookies would probably be yummy with any kind of jam or jelly you have on hand, making them true “cupboard sweets.”
Confessional: After going on about how Batch 1 was “too sweet,” and how the flavors of Batch 2 were in perfect balance… yada yada yada… I will now lose all credibility by confessing my absolute favorite way to eat these cookies is to sandwich a spoonful of Nutella in between two of them. Oh. My. Goodness. Please do try it, as I am at a loss for words. If you can’t eat nuts, then I’m pretty sure a chocolate ganache (whether store-bought or homemade) would achieve the same magnificence.
Orange Marmalade Cookies
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp orange marmalade
1/2 tsp orange oil or extract (optional)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp double-acting baking powder
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
Sift together the flour and baking powder in a small bowl. In a medium-sized bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until thoroughly blended. At first it will seem like there is too much sugar for the amount of butter, but just keep working the mixture until it comes together.
Beat in the egg until smooth using a whisk or electric beaters. Stir in the marmalade and orange oil (if using).
Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well combined. Drop by the spoonful onto the prepared baking sheet, allowing about 2″ to 3″ between mounds of dough to allow for spreading.
Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown at the edges. Let cool for 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.