Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Orange Spice Cookies: A Fragrant Recipe

Sweet Spice is an aromatic spice blend sold at Super Green Land, (a supermarket in Dearborn Michigan that is part of a small chain of Middle Eastern supermarkets in the United States). The mixture is similar to anise seed laden Lebanese “cake spice” (ka’ak), but relies on fennel seed for its licorice-like quality. Fennel has a rooty vegetal aroma in comparison to anise, and is less assertive in pastry application when combined with warm spices like cinnamon.

The ingredients in Green Land Sweet Spice include anise, cinnamon, fennel and “spices”, the later of which sounds like a shopkeeper’s secret. When Green Land Sweet Spice is tasted neat, one can detect mahlab (seed of the St. Lucie Cherry which is fragrant and has the taste of bitter almonds), nutmeg and a souring agent that hits the taste buds like salt before turning tart.

The combination of fennel seed with orange peel imparts a delicate caramel-like effect that is nothing short of sublime. It is an excellent example of a synergistic flavor pairing that works brilliantly in a cookie recipe. Glass Petal Smoke decided to use the master dough from December's Lebanese Cake Spice Cookie recipe as a base for Green Land Sweet Spice blend.

If you have access to food grade essential oil of neroli two drops will add a delicate touch of floralcy to the overall flavor of the cookies. Note to perfumistas: this flavor suggestion creates a Guerlainade effect in the raw dough that disappears once the cookies have been baked. The woody, amber-like quality of Shalimar is instantly recognizable.

Glass Petal Smoke suggests allowing the cookies to rest in a sealed container a day before serving. This allows the orange zest to mellow so the other flavors can shine through. The addictive crunch of this cookie makes it impossible to east "just one" when accompanied by a good cup of coffee or tea. 

Orange Spice Cookies
Recipe by Michelle Krell Kydd
Yield: 60 cookies

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (sifted)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 ½ teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
4 ounces (one stick) unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)
1 tablespoon Mexican vanilla extract
cup organic granulated sugar
1 organic egg (room temperature)
2 tablespoon Green Land Sweet Spice (a blend)
Grated zest of one small organic orange

·      Cut a 20 inch piece of wax paper and set aside. This will be used to chill the cookie dough.
·      Sift flour, salt, baking powder and sweet spice mixture in a large bowl. Set aside
·      In a small bowl grate orange peel using a zester.
·      Add egg to the orange zest and incorporate.
·      Blend vanilla extract into the egg and zest mixture.
·      In another small glass bowl microwave the butter for 15 seconds (or enough time to liquefy without heating it).
·      Add sugar to butter and incorporate.
·      Mix butter mixture with the egg mixture.
·      Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring gently with a silicone spatula.
·      Mix the dough thoroughly with your hands. It will have a soft consistency.
·      Using a tablespoon, spoon out dough onto the middle third of a sheet of wax paper and form a 12 inch oblong roll. The dough should be one inch thick and 2 ½ inches wide.
·      Fold the bottom third of the wax paper over the dough, taking care to keep the shape of the dough to the specified measurements. Use your hands to smooth the paper over the dough.
·      Fold the top third of the wax paper over the dough and seal the dough at the ends.
·      Put the wax paper covered dough in the freezer for 1 ½ to 2 hours (or until it is firm). It should be chilled so you can slice through it (not rock hard).
·      Divide oven rack into thirds.
·      Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
·      Line two cookie trays with parchment paper.
·      Unwrap the dough on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife cut ¼ inch slices of dough and place cookies 1 inch apart on each cookie sheet.
·      Bake for 8-10 minutes, reversing trays from top to bottom and front and back to ensure even baking.
·      These cookies will be a light golden color when they are done. The edges will be a soft brown.
·      Allow cookies to cool. Transfer to a wire cooling rack when they are no longer hot.
·      Store in an airtight container.

The website for Green Land Food is limited. Glass Petal Smoke recommends using Yelp to see if there is a Green Land market in your area. The company is based in Atlanta, Georgia.

If you live near or plan to visit southeast Michigan make sure to visit Super Green Land in Dearborn. It is located on Warren Avenue where many other flavor adventures await those with a curious palate and a desire to learn more about Middle Eastern food culture.

Image of Orange Blossom by Meejanski via Creative Commons. If you enjoyed the picture you will enjoy additional  floral shots by this artist; they are mesmerizing.

Image of Fennel Seeds by Jeeheon Cho via Creative Commons.