This is the epitome of a family recipe. I have never seen this recipe or eaten these cookies anywhere else but at my Gram's house. She and Gramps used to make these cookies for us every Christmas. I have fond memories of a group of my aunts and uncles and cousins crowded the kitchen counter, eating these cookies for what seemed like hours.
It has been a few years since Grams made these cookies, and I thought it was about time I give it a try myself. I was really worried they wouldn't be as good as hers. You know how it is--anything from Grandma's house is always better. But you know what, these turned out amazingly well. Yes, I was in the kitchen from 10am to 3pm working on them, but it was totally worth it. Even Kevin loved them. He's not a cake or frosting fan, and these cookies embrace both of those descriptions. It must be something about the distinct orange flavor that keeps you coming back for more.
Just be careful when zesting the orange peel. Near the end of job, I grated the knuckle of my thumb. LITERALLY. It was not a pretty sight folks. Safety first. (Either that, or have your husband do the grating. That's what Grams always did!)
5 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup grated orange peel
1/3 cup orange juice (can be squeezed from the zested oranges)
1-1/2 cup buttermilk (milk plus 1-1/2 Tbsp lemon juice)
2 tsp baking soda
for the icing:
3-3/4 cup unsifted confectioner's sugar
4 Tbsp margarine, softened
2-3 Tbsp orange juice
1/3 cup grated orange peel (more or less to taste)
1 Tbsp vanilla
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a separate large bowl, cream together shortening, sugar, vanilla, grated orange peel, and orange juice. Add in eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl with each addition.
Mix together buttermilk and baking soda.
Add buttermilk/soda mixture alternately with the flour mixture into the creamed ingredients. Beat well and scrape sides of bowl after each addition. Dough will be similar to the consistency of brownie batter.
Chill dough 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a cookie scoop drop dough onto a cookie sheet, leaving 2 inches on all sides. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until bottom edges begin to brown. Remove from the oven and leave on the baking sheet 2 minutes. Finally, remove to a wire rack to cool.
for the icing:
Beat together margarine, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Using a wire whisk (by hand or stand mixer attachment), stir in confectioner's sugar until perfectly smooth and combined. Spread a thin layer of icing onto cooled cookies.
to freeze the frosted cookies:
Place frosted cookies in a single layer on baking sheets. Place in the freeze, uncovered for 1 to 3 hours, until frozen. Stack and store cookies in an airtight container in the freezer.