Buttermilk Orange Pecan Cookies

Pecan orange cookies 

I remember reading Molly Wizenberg's post,"CILTE" (Crap I Like to Eat). She hadn't cooked in eons, especially not anything blog readers would be much interested in. In fact, she was eating peanut butter sandwiches for every meal and generally finding herself with not an ounce of energy for kitchen creativity. At times like that, she said, she lists to herself all the things she likes to make and eat, reminding herself the world of food is still out there, still real, but just hibernating for awhile.

My CILTE list has always included these cookies. When it seems like my bag of tricks is empty, I've often thought, "There's always the orange pecan cookies. I can't believe I haven't trotted those out yet." Readers, I guess it's your lucky day. I'm pulling out what may be my last trick (until I scrounge for something tomorrow).

This is my great grandmother's recipe from Louisville, Kentucky. My mom made them for us many times growing up, and sometimes they'd even be warm from the oven when we came home from school. I've always intended to keep up the warm cookie tradition now that Wyatt is school-age, but I've only delivered a couple times. The timing is tricky, and I'm always pooped by 4:00. I admire her feat even more now.

These cookies are similar in texture to these all-time favorites--more like a mini cake than a cookie. Because they are not not too sweet, the icing is essential, and they are best eaten within a day or two after making them. Somehow, when I sit down with an afternoon cup of coffee and one of these, those after-school moments around the island in our family kitchen don't seem so far away.

Buttermilk Orange Pecan Cookies

Makes 3 1/2-4 dozen cookies. If you are allergic to nuts or just don't like them in baked goods, you can leave the pecans out. (Although I can't imagine these cookies without them, of course). It's important to watch these really closely in the oven, as with all cookies. You want the bottoms lightly browned and the tops just done. And wait to frost them until they are completely cool, otherwise you'll end up with a puddle of melted butter.

For cookies:

1 1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. unsalted butter
2 eggs
3 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 Tb. baking powder
1 c. buttermilk
1 1/2 c. toasted pecans
finely grated rind of one orange
1 tsp. vanilla

For icing:

juice of one large orange, pulp strained
3 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350. Cream brown sugar and butter together in an electric mixture until smooth, about 2 or 3 minutes. Add eggs, beating after each addition. Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and baking powder.

With mixer running, add buttermilk and flour mixture alternately in 3 additions each. Add one cup of the pecans, and mix until everything is just incorporated.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake until just done, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely before icing.

To make icing and finish cookies:

Beat orange juice, butter, and powdered sugar together until smooth. It may be a little bit grainy, but don't worry about it. If you're not ready to use it yet, put it in the fridge and stir every five minutes so it doesn't harden too much.

Generously spread each cookie with icing, and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 c. chopped pecans over the top.