When I was a little kid, every Christmas I would pick oranges from one of our trees and stud them all over with whole cloves. The resulting pomander ball was incredibly fragrant and it only took a couple to infuse almost the whole house with a very subtle smell of orange and cloves, a scent that I associate with the holidays as much as eggnog, hot cocoa, wood-burning fireplaces and peppermint candy canes.
This year, I took that orange and clove concept and put it in cookie form. The resulting cookies don’t last nearly as long as their pomander counterparts – which can last for months in a dry environment – but they just taste as much like Christmas as those clove-studded oranges smell like it.
The cookies are snowballs, shortbread-like round cookies that almost seem to melt in your mouth when you bite into them. The cookies are rolled in confectioners sugar to give them their snowball-like appearance, and to add some sweetness to them, since the cookie dough is only very lightly sweetened to begin with. The crumbly texture comes from ground almonds (almond flour or meal) and some cornstarch, as well as from the relatively high butter-to-flour ratio of these cookies. Orange zest and ground cloves give the cookies their distinctive warm, spicy flavor. These improve with age, so feel free to make them a couple of days ahead of time and store them in an airtight container.
Orange and Clove Snowballs
1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp orange zest
1/3 tsp ground cloves
1/4 cup ground almonds/almond flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup confectioners sugar, plus extra, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and confectioners sugar. Beat in orange zest, ground cloves, ground almonds, cornstarch and salt.
Slowly blend in the flour with the mixer on low speed until all of the flour has been incorporated and the dough comes together.
Shape dough into 3/4- to 1-inch balls and place on prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the edges of the cookies just start to brown.
Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes.
Sift 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar onto a plate Dip the bottom of each cookie into the confectioners’ sugar, then place on a wire rack. Dust tops of cookies thoroughly with remaining confectioners sugar, using more sugar if necessary.
Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Makes 2 1/2-3 dozen cookies.