An unplanned event required showing up with a few dozen cookies. When I spied a jar of blood orange marmalade in the back of the cupboard, I immediately knew what I'd be baking.
I ran across this recipe six years ago when Neiman Marcus published "Neiman Marcus Taste," a follow-up to it popular "Neiman Marcus Cookbook." You may remember the latter title. It's the one that published the store's famous chocolate chip cookie recipe.
I've probably prepared Orange Marmalade Cookies a dozen times, and they never fail to impress. The fruity marmalade adds an unexpectedly tangy bite and probably accounts for the cookies' chewy, super-moist texture. Fresh juices and zest keep the icing - laid on thick, of course -- from becoming too sugary sweet. They're pretty, too, especially when the weather turns cold and citrus becomes an automatic mood-brightener. Who doesn't cheer up when they frosting flecked with colorful and fragrant orange and lemon zest?
Another attraction, at least for this history buff, is that the recipe originates with the pioneering Helen Corbitt. She was recruited to run the store's Zodiac Room restaurant in 1955, shortly after it opened inside the store's downtown Dallas flagship, and she wielded enormous influence on the way in-store restaurants evolved and matured.
Department store restaurants forged happy memories for generations of American shoppers (the Oak Grill at Dayton's and the Fountain Room at Young-Quinlan in downtown Minneapolis are two local examples), and Corbitt's creative work made Neiman Marcus a leader in this field. She expanded her influence beyond Dallas by writing more than a half-dozen cookbooks (I have three Corbitt titles in my kitchen library), retiring from the store in 1969 but remaining an active consulting presence well into the mid-1970s. She died in 1978.
"She changed the face of retail dining in America by setting new and higher standards," wrote Kevin Garvin in "Neiman Marcus Cookbook." "Her impact in Texas and the wider food world was so great that many people in Dallas and beyond still mentioned her with admiration and affection."
James Beard referred to her in one of his cookbooks as "the queen of the ladies' lunch," and Stanley Marcus, the store's chairman, introduced her as the "Balenciaga of food."
While these cookies aren't exactly the equivalent of a Parisian couturier's work, they do exude a bit of glamour. Well, more than your basic Snickerdoodle, anyway. Would you expect anything less from Neiman Marcus?
At the event, the cookies were a hit, as always. I snuck one from the table and as I enjoyed its bright citrus bite, two thoughts came to mine: I'm going to have to remember to use the icing to jazz up a simple sugar cookie (we have a doozy of a recipe that's coming out on Dec. 5th in our 11th-annual Taste Holiday Cookie Contest). And I've always thought this cookie would be delicious with lime marmalade and a lime zest/lemon zest icing. Next time.
ORANGE MARMALADE COOKIES
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
Note: From "Neiman Marcus Taste: Timeless American Recipes" by Kevin Garvin with John Harrisson (Clarkson Potter).
3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. orange marmalade
2 tsp. freshly grated orange zest
1 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 c. freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 c. powdered sugar, divided
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
To prepare cookies: Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soad and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Add granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and mix until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until combined. Add marmalade and mix until combined. Using a teaspoon, drop dough, spacing cookies 2 inches apart, on prepared baking sheets (if dough is too sticky, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour). Bake until cookies are light brown in color, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
To prepare icing: In a small bowl, combine orange zest, lemon zest, orange juice and lemon juice. In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to low, add 1 cup powdered sugar and mix until creamy. Add remaining 2 cups powdered sugar, salt and zest-juice mixture and mix until smooth. Spead icing over cooled cookies.