Orange Spritz Cookies

I missed the majority of summer baking. I missed pretty much all of fall baking. But I'm determined not to let the best baking season of all pass me by too. I live for holiday baking! Give me all things gingerbread, peppermint, and chocolate and I'm a happy girl. A bit of a chubbier girl, but definitely happier. So I'm ready-- bring on the holiday treats!

Last week I took a week of vacation to relax before the onslaught of crazy at work over the next month. It was quite honestly the most glorious vacation ever. 7 full days of absolutely nothing to do. And I enjoyed nearly every minute of it. I used my time to do a little Christmas shopping, clean up around the house, and finally put up my Christmas tree that had been riding around in the back of my car since Thanksgiving. (Luckily it's fake. That would have been awkward riding around with a real tree for a week.) I delight in putting my Christmas tree up every year. I spend hours winding lights around every branch, stringing the pearl garland just right, and decking the tree out in beautiful color. But every year, I seem to have the same issue. I always need more lights. ALWAYS.

This year was no different. I started putting my tree up Wednesday night. 4 branches into the bottom layer, and I'd already used an entire 150-light strand. By the time the first of 8 rows was done, I'd already used 2 of the 10 strands of lights I had. I made it halfway up the tree before I ran out completely. Over 1000 lights on just 3 feet of tree. At the rate I was going, it was going to end up like that scene in the movie National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, where Clark finally gets the lights on the house lit, and it's so bright, it blinds the neighbors and drains the power to the rest of the city. You'd be able to see my tree from space! I  mean, really, I probably had more lights on half my tree than most people put on their house. But by that time, it was midnight, and I wasn't about to make yet another light run. I'd finish it in the morning. 

I decided the next day, instead of going to buy more lights, I'd have to make do with what I had. 1000 lights was enough. So I spent the morning and part of the afternoon unwinding the lights from every branch, taking the whole tree apart, and starting over again. Hours later, I made it all the way to the top of the tree, and while it didn't glow quite as bright, it was still beautiful. Until the entire thing went dark.

After consulting the knower of all things, Google, I figured out that I had blown a fuse in my first strand of lights. Let me tell you, every website on how to replace a fuse makes it sound SOOO easy. Just slide up the little door by the plug, the fuse just falls out in your hand, and you just drop a new one in, no problem! Right. It took me 2 HOURS to finally jam the new fuse back into the plug. But, once I finally did get it back in, problem solved! Let there be light! Again! 

Well.. Let there be light until the fuse blows out again the next morning. Apparently 10 strands was a bit too much...

So, after I vowed not to make another light run, I found myself at Target, staring at the overwhelming selection of Christmas lights, looking for the longest, most heavy duty strands I could find to replace the shorter, more temperamental ones I had. 2 packs of 200 lights each that I could plug up to 8 strands into without burning the house down? You're totally going in my cart. That afternoon, for the third time, I spent several hours taking apart my tree, branch by branch, and putting it all back together again. 

And I swear to everything holy--if it goes dark one more time, I'm chucking the whole thing, ornaments and all, down the hill behind my house.

It's a good thing that I didn't have any cookies in the house while I was putting up the tree. Because I seriously would have stress eaten the entire batch within a day.

As it is, I've nearly inhaled the whole batch of these Orange Spritz Cookies in a matter of days. A bit of citrus burst makes these tiny tender cookies irresistible. I literally take handfuls at a time. They're perfect for filling a holiday cookie plate, and are even great for those cookie packages to send across the country. With ample butter and a bit of cream cheese, these little gems stay soft and tender for days. (I'm on Day 4 right now, and they're still just as soft as Day 1.) Filled with orange zest, they're a a bright little balance to all the peppermint and spices that fill this time of year. I think they'd be amazing with lemon zest too, and maybe drizzled with a bit of white chocolate. Mmmm.. I think I have to go bake another batch!

Orange Spritz Cookies
Adapted from Sugarcrafter
Makes about 75 - 100 cookies (depending on the size)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest of one orange
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
2. In a small bowl, combine sugar and orange zest. Using your fingers, rub zest into sugar until well combined.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar mixture together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese and beat until combined. Beat in egg yolk and orange extract. Gradually add flour, beating until just combined. (Dough should be soft but easily moldable without being overly sticky. If it's too sticky, chill in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to make it easier to handle.)
4. Load dough into a cookie press and press out onto a flat, ungreased surface. Gently peel the pressed shape up from the surface and transfer to parchment lined baking sheets.* Bake 10-12 minutes, rotating pans halfway through, until the edges just start to brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 1 minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

*Note: I always have issues with my cookies sticking to the pan after baking if I press them straight onto the cookie sheet, so I've started using this press and transfer trick. It's a bit more work, but I haven't had a single cookie stick or break since.
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