Simple Orange Zest Shortbread Cookies

  • Servings: 16-18 cookies
  • Prep time: ~ 10 minutes, Chill 1 hour
  • Cook time: ~ 20 minutes


  • 1/2 cup (4 oz.) pasture butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon (1.4 oz) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Back to Organic Rosemary French Grey
  • 3/4 to 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cane or coconut palm sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary, optional

Every year my daughter looks forward to creating a new cookie for to her friend’s Valentine Day cookie exchange. Last year we made a buttery cookie with raspberry jam inside the heart. They are always a hit with the kids. For a new twist, we created a cookie with fresh orange juice, orange zest and dash of Back to Organic Rosemary French Grey sea salt. Then we cut the dough into fun X’s and O’s as well as hearts.

The orange adds so much flavor and may even help your heart. Some research has shown the bioflavonoids in the zest may reduce your cholesterol better than statin drugs. Now that is the perfect cookie for Valentine’s Day to show someone how much you love them!

Before you cut open an orange or any other citrus fruit for that matter, zest it. Buy a microplaner (it will become one of your favorite tools) and lightly scrape the fruit along the grater to zest the colorful skin. Avoid the white and bitter pith which divides the skin with the fruit.

If you are not planning on using the zest right away, grab a mason jar and scoop in a cup of salt or sugar and add the zest from an orange, lemon, lime or grapefruit. You can even combine all the different zests.  Shake well. Refrigerate the sugar. The salt will preserve the zest and can stay at room temperature or you can refrigerate it too.

If you are trying to regulate your blood sugars, try coconut palm sugar instead of cane sugar. Coconut palm sugar has a lower glycemic index than cane sugar. It looks like brown sugar and will make your cookies look speckled but will taste amazing. Coconut Palm can give your baked goods a nutty flavor. I am a huge fan.


Now for the recipe, I highly recommend doubling or even quadrupling this recipe and freezing the extra dough. Many chefs make the dough, refrigerate it, cut the cookies to size, and then freeze them to pop in the oven when needed. This comes in handy when you are craving something sweet or you want to surprise your loved ones with a delicious treat.

If you are home with the kids for a snow day or ice storm, bring out the William Sonoma Let It Snow cookie stamps and impress Snow on the side of the cookies.



1) Make the Sprinkling Sugar- Zest the orange. Add 1 tablespoon of zest to 1/4 cup of cane or coconut palm sugar and mix well. Optional- Add 1 teaspoon of freshly chopped Rosemary in the sugar for additional flavor.  Place the sugar in the refrigerator.


2) Make the Cookie Dough- Cream the 4 ounces of softened butter with 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon of powdered sugar using a paddle attachment on your mixer. Beat until all the sugar is dissolved in the butter. Add 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed orange juice, 1 teaspoon of zest, and 1/4 teaspoon of Back to Organic Rosemary French Grey salt to the butter/sugar mixture.  Sift in 3/4 cup of all purpose flour. Mix on low until combined. If the dough is still sticking to the sides, add another 1/4 cup of sifted flour.  Shape into a 6 to 7 inch log about 1 inch in diameter and wrap in plastic or wax paper. Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour. Freeze dough if not using that day. The dough will last in the freezer tightly wrapped for 1 month.

4) Shape the Cookies- Slice into 16 or 18 cookies about 3/8 inch thick. If frozen, allow the dough to rest at room temperature until soft enough to roll or cut without crumbling.

Note: If you are creating heart shapes or X and O’s, lightly flour a work surface, roll out the dough to be about 3/8″ thick and cut out the shapes. Use a pastry cutter to cut the x’s and two different size circles for the O.


4) Bake- Sprinkle the orange zest sugar on both sides of the cookies and pat down lightly. Place the cookies on parchment paper or a Silpat to bake. Bake at 325 degrees standard for 20 minutes. Check after 15 minutes to make sure they are not browning too quickly. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Enjoy!


For Valentine’s Day, make these cookies, place them in a bag, and add a cute tag saying like “ORANGE you happy I love you” or “ORANGE you going to be my Valentine” or “ORANGE you glad my Mom can bake.” I am sure you have some other fun ones. Let me know what you come up with.


This shortbread recipe is based on the Vanilla Bean and Cinnamon Sugar Cookie in the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook. We added vanilla bean to our first batch of cookies as shown above with all the specks. The orange zest tastes better in a plain or rosemary sea salt cookie.

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