orange ginger turtle cookies


Alright, everyone: I give. Fall is here, boo, hiss, etc. I mean, I'm still wearing shorts and no sleeves as I write this and I plan on keeping that up until the temperature hovers somewhere around 55 (okay, 60 might be pushing it) and as itchy as we all are for pumpkin everything (sheesh), I thought I'd take it one step further: enter gingerbread.

I know gingerbread usually gets restricted to the Christmas season, but my question is: why the heck? It's SO good, right, so spicy so full of unique flavor, why the heck are we reserving it for a four-week window in the dead of winter? (Okay, let's not allow this to stem into a rant about Christmas feeling four months long these days. But just so you know how I feel about that.) But I say, if pumpkin drinks and candies and cookies and soups hit the shelves and our kitchens sometime in mid-August, the first week of fall is a good a time as any to start baking with cloves and molasses.

However, I did summer it up just a touch in bypassing the traditional gingerbread man shape in favor of a too-cute turtle cookie cutter gifted to me by my mom, just because. (Thanks, mom!) We recently returned from our annual family vacation to Ocean City, New Jersey, where I've previously been known to spot some daring sea turtles, crossing the road from the bay to the, well, sea. This year, no such luck. So these cookies are a salute to these guys, who I hope to see next year: swim safe!

I've tried a handful of ginger cookie recipes in the past, many of which were good, but I've never felt committed. Until now, my friends: until now. This time, I happened upon Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli's take and decided to give it my own adaptation. She's definitely one of my favorite Food Network-ers. She just seems like she's equally good at being tough and to the point as she is at being sweet. She tells it like it is. Plus, I saw her one time at a no-name pizza shop in Union Square, so you know that makes her pretty down to earth. Plus, this. Cue abnormal squeals of excitement!

Anyway, for this recipe, which is quite easy, you will need:

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 2/3 cup of sugar
Zest of one orange
4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup dark molasses
1 lemon, juiced

For the orange glaze (optional, but wholly delightful):

1 cup confectioners sugar
1-3 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, add your butter, sugar and orange zest. Beat together for about five minutes (but no more than ten) until fluffy and smooth. If you can resist taking a swipe from the bowl, you should win a Nobel Prize. Trust me, though, you don't have a fighting chance.

In a large bowl, sift together you flours, all spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk together until evenly combined. In a smaller bowl, whisk together your eggs, molasses and lemon juice. This mixture might look a little weird and separated, but don't sweat it.

Slowly integrate your dry ingredients into your butter-sugar-zest component, lowering the speed on your mixer so as to avoid flour going everywhere. Once all of your dry ingredients have been added, pour in your wet ingredients and continue to beat until evenly combined. Separate your dough into two even balls and wrap well in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for thirty minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Once your dough as chilled, lightly flour a clean, flat surface. Flour a rolling pin and roll out your dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Using your cookie cutter shape of choice (turtle turtle turtle), cut your shapes aiming to make as few scraps as possible (through the scraps can always be rerolled or shaped into the weird, reject cookies that you get to eat with guilt of throwing off the batch ratio, ahem!). Repeat until all your cookies are rolled and cut. Place on parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until browned around the edges.

When your cookies (turtles) come out of the oven, allow to cool on the pans for about 5-10 minutes before transferring to wire racks. Once completely cool, whisk together your confectioners sugar and orange juice, one tablespoon at a time until you've achieved your desired consistency. Think thick, but spreadable. If it's too runny, it will be hard to ice your cookies without making a total mess. Lightly coat the tops of your cookies with your glaze, which can be done by dipping or careful application with a butter knife.

And you thought pumpkin was the only way to welcome the shift in season. Okay, we roasted a pumpkin today, too. Might as well embrace the change as it comes: bring it on! (Thank you, Alex!)

And, just for good measure, this.