Buttery and crisp, these shortbread hearts deliver the floral aroma of orange zest, echoed by orange blossom water. You can find orange blossom water online or in Middle Eastern groceries, or you can use vanilla instead. The shortbread are delicious on their own but look prettier with a citrus glaze. The juice of a blood orange naturally tints these cookies and their icing pink; you can substitute any kind of orange. To make cleanup easy, set the racks for the iced cookies over the parchment paper you used to bake the shortbread. The paper will catch the icing drips and save your counter from getting sticky.
Orange Shortbread Hearts
2 hours, largely unattended. Makes about 40.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 orange, preferably a blood orange
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon orange blossom water or pure vanilla extract
- 1 packed cup powdered sugar
- Whisk the flour and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Place the granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer or in a large bowl. Using a Microplane, finely grate the zest of the orange directly onto the sugar, scraping only the outermost layer of zest and avoiding the pith. Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar. Reserve the orange.
- Add the butter to the sugar mixture and beat on medium-low speed or mix by hand until just combined and not at all fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed or beat by hand until crumbly. Sprinkle the orange blossom water over the mixture and continue beating until the dough comes together in large clumps. (It may take a little while. If it doesn’t come together, sprinkle with water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until it clumps.) Flatten into a 1-inch-thick disk, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- On a lightly floured surface and using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough to an ⅛-inch-thickness. Use a 3-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out hearts as closely together as possible. Transfer the hearts to the prepared sheets, spacing 1 ½ inches apart.
- Bake one sheet at a time until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool completely on the sheets on wire racks, then transfer the cookies to the racks.
- Place the powdered sugar in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, squeeze the juice from the orange, including pulpy bits. Add 2 tablespoons juice to the powdered sugar and stir until smooth. The icing should be opaque and flow like honey. If needed, stir in more juice 1 teaspoon at a time to achieve the right consistency.
- Dip the top of a cookie into the icing, coating either half the heart or the whole, then let excess drip off back into the bowl and scrape the icing off the cookie’s edge. Place on the rack, then repeat with the remaining cookies. Let stand until the icing sets, at least 1 hour.
The dough can be refrigerated for up to 1 day before rolling. The un-iced shortbread will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks at room temperature. The iced shortbread will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days at room temperature.