After each visit to see family for the holidays, my husband and I are ever grateful to head home with full bellies and a car packed with leftovers, from stuffing and gravy to containers of cranberry sauce. My soon-after-Thanksgiving tradition has become not one of shopping, nor of eating turkey sandwiches, but of transforming the leftovers into a holiday treat: spice cookies made with cranberry sauce. [This post was originally published in the summer, when I found a can of cranberry in my cupboard. Original version follows.]
I know what you’re thinking: Cranberry clove cookies in June? They sound so wintery! And you’re right – there’s an abundance of dessert-potential in the fresh, seasonal produce right now; farmers markets are bustling with berries and fruits that simply taste like summer. (I’ve been experimenting with them, trust me! Recipes coming soon.) But when I found a can of cranberry sauce in the back of our cupboard the other day, I couldn’t help but think of making it into these fragrant, luscious cookies. I admit it: the cranberry sauce is a leftover we were sent home with at Thanksgiving or Christmastime, but the strange stuff lasts forever, and I surely won’t use it otherwise. Besides, these cookies are delicious any time of year, with their spice and tang and sweetness. Here’s how I made them.
- 1 cup butter, at room temperature
- Scant 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- finely grated zest of one orange
- 1/2 cup cranberry sauce
Preheat oven to 325 F. Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and cloves. Add butter, mixing until dough holds together, then add orange zest and vanilla, mixing until evenly incorporated. Roll into balls that are a little smaller than a tablespoon’s worth of dough, placing at least 1½ inches apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Press an indentation into the center of each ball using your index finger, almost to the bottom of the cookie, but not all the way through.
Freeze for 5-10 minutes, then fill indentations with cranberry sauce. (This is easiest by piping the sauce with a pastry bag or plastic bag with corner snipped off.) Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the bottoms of the cookies are golden brown, like this:
If desired, drizzle icing over the cookies once they’re cool. Gradually mix drops of orange juice over 1 cup powdered sugar, constantly mixing; stop adding juice when icing is the consistency of yogurt. Using a pastry bag or a fork, drizzle the icing in zig-zags over the cooled cookies, then let icing dry for at least an hour.
With their shortbread-like dough, warm cloves and tangy cranberry, these cookies impart a decadent taste and aroma alike. They are sure to fill your kitchen with a mouthwatering zesty scent, and your mouth and belly with utter deliciousness. And if they remind you of winter holidays, well…why not use them as an excuse to celebrate a spiced-up summer?
Maybe next time… Nuts, chopped very finely, are a great addition to this cookie dough, and melted chocolate is as scrumptious a drizzle as the icing. This recipe is a great model for endless thumbprint-style cookies, many of which I’ll share in the future. You can simply replace the cranberry sauce with almost any thick jam, replace the cloves with another spice, or replace the orange zest with another kind. Whatever you do, enjoy!