Blog Orange Poppy Seed Cookies
It is truly a culinary serendipity that citrus fruits become ripe in the winter months. We may take them for granted now but it's not difficult to understand how, just a few decades ago, an orange in a child's Christmas stocking or on the holiday table was considered an exotic treat to be savored. In the short and often snowy days of a Northern winter, oranges, lemons, and grapefruits embody sunshine that you can hold and taste. When chocolate starts to seem heavy and overly rich and you've had your fill of apples and cranberries, you can turn to citrus fruits to add a fresh note to your baking. Their juice and zest flavor pies, cakes, fillings, and, of course, cookies. This week's cookie recipe is inspired by the classic combination of orange and poppy seeds, so popular in the form of muffins and tea bread. These rolled cookies are tender and lightly sweet, and a smooth, tangy glaze is the perfect foil to the light crunch of the poppy seeds. I like to use the sunflower cookie cutter for these cookies and decorate them simply, with sparkling sugar or nonpareils.
A few notes about poppy seeds: These tiny bluish-gray seeds are appreciated as much for their delicate crunch as for their slightly nutty flavor. Poppy seeds are truly minuscule; it takes about one million of them to make a pound. Because poppy seeds are 50 percent oil, they are prone to rancidity. The bulk aisle at a natural foods store is your most economical source, but make sure the store has a good turnover so that the seeds you're buying are fresh. They shouldn't smell or taste bitter at all. Store them in the refrigerator; they should last about six months. Enjoy poppy seeds tossed with coleslaw, rolled into coffee cake, whisked into salad dressing, and sprinkled on breads and rolls. And be sure to try them in this week's cookie recipe.