These light and moist cookies use orange juice, orange zest, and optional orange extract for a mild orange flavor. This is one of those recipes from way back – all the Italian ladies in my old Philadelphia neighborhood made them, and they all used this same basic recipe. Go figure!
Make these cookies as they are the perfect addition to your Italian cookie tray, which might also include pignoli cookies, ricotta cookies, anginetti cookies, sesame seed (regina) cookies, and fig cookies (cuccidati). Yum!!
Don’t forget to add Jordan almonds or even some Hershey kisses.
The general ingredients you’ll need include:
- Flour (all purpose)
- Sugar (granulated)
- Shortening (or butter)
- Orange juice (fresh or store bought)
- Orange zest
- Orange or vanilla extract
- Baking powder
- Confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)
Cookie Making Tips
Consider Refrigerating Your Dough Before Baking:
- Refrigerating dough before baking cookies will help prevent spreading by allowing the flour to hydrate more and allowing the fats to get cold.
- Place your dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 24 hours. Consider forming the cookies and then placing them on a cookie sheet before refrigerating.
- Try to portion the dough consistently so the cookies bake evenly. A cookie scoop or spoon helps.
Make Ahead and Storage
For the Baked Cookies:
- Baked cookies should keep well in the freezer for 3 to 4 weeks, with the USDA saying 8 to 12 months.
- At room temperature, baked cookies should keep well for 3 or 4 days.
- For more tips on storing baked cookies at room temperature vs the refrigerator vs the freezer, see this article by Real Simple.
For the Cookie Dough:
- Most cookie doughs will freeze well for 2 months. See more here about how to bake after freezing cookie dough.
- Homemade cookie dough can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 days.
Italian Orange Cookies
- cookie sheets
- 7.5 cups (938 g) all purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 1.25 cups (256 g) shortening
- 4 medium oranges zested
- 8 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 tbsp vanilla or orange extract
- 1.5 cups (300 g) sugar
- 1 cup (248 g) orange juice
- 2 cups (240 g) confectioners sugar (powdering sugar) for rolling cookies; plus more if needed
- Cream the shortening and then add juice, sugar, extract, and orange zest and mix until well combined.
- Add in the eggs one at a time and beat well.
- Combine the baking powder and the flour in a separate bowl and then add the flour mixture to the egg/sugar/shortening mixture 1 cup at a time until all is well combined.
- Refrigerate the dough covered for 2 to 24 hours.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees and fill a plate with sifted confectioner sugar.
- Using a small cookie scoop or tablespoon, portion the dough evenly and then roll each portion into a smooth ball.
- Roll each ball into the confectioner sugar to coat the cookies. I like to do this twice.
- Place the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
- Do not over bake; cookies should be light in color and the bottom edges should be slightly golden.