Hey! It’s me. Pushing right up to the acceptable holiday cookie baking cut-off date and sliding into your screen with a steaming plate of these wickedly tasty orange and espresso gingerbread cookies. Orange? Espresso? Has she finally lost it? <- What you might be asking yourself at this very moment. But I promise, this is not all one elaborate typo. I do get it, though, the thought of those two together sounded very strange to me up until two years ago. That was when Jeremy stumbled across an Italian man’s youtube video about homemade ’44 liqueur’, which involved stabbing an orange 44 times and putting a coffee bean into each hole and letting the oils seep into alcohol over a period of 44 days. The name remains a mystery. So Jeremy made some, and it was honestly the best thing I’ve ever drank. Now he makes it a couple times a year to keep our thirst for all things orange + coffee satiated.

All that to say, I wanted to concentrate down the flavor of that drink into cookie form. And since the drink is made up of the orange oils that seep out of the orange skin, I knew I needed to use a lot of orange zest. And after a few tests and tweaks, I ended up settling on 1/2 cup of zest to give the right brightness and that wonderful floral quality that orange zest adds to drinks + baked goods. I know it sounds like an insane amount, and it kind of is, but I promise it is SO good and worth the three large navel oranges you need to zest to reach that quantity. The size of the zest is really important for the cookie texture, though. I recommend using a microplane grater (this is the one I have + love), but if you don’t have one, you can use the small holes on your box grater. Do not use the poke-y tooth-like holes on the box grater, though. You’ll loose a lot of zest and oils that end up stuck in between the teeth. Just use the plain holes, but the smaller of the two hole options.

Soft Gingerbread Cookies with Orange and Espresso

And as for the shape of the cookies themselves, I used deer and pinecone cookie molds from this Etsy shop (it appears they’re on holiday break but hopefully will be back at some point) for this recipe. You’ll need to roll the dough a bit thicker (about 2 cm) for these, or you can go slightly thinner at 1 cm if you’re using traditional cookie cutters. I dive into the baking times depending on the thickness and shape of your cookies into more detail in the actual recipe lower down in the post, FYI 🙂

Now that I’ve talk about graters and cookie molds at length, let’s dive into some of the other flavorings of these cookies! Let’s start with the strangest one, Fiori di Sicilia. Well, it’s not really strange, just unfairly uncommon. You can think of it as the citrus version of vanilla extract—it’s basically an Italian flavoring that’s made from citrus peel and notes of vanilla, and tastes like a creamsicle. If your eyes are rolling out of your head at the idea of buying a fancy new extract, please hear me out. After the first taste, you will want to add this to pretty much any and all baked goods going forward. It is SO soooo good and adds a lightness and warmth to everything. You can make the cookies without it, but it does add that extra special depth to them.

Soft Gingerbread Cookies with Orange and Espresso

Aside from that, it’s just espresso powder, vanilla extract, molasses, a splash of orange juice, and ground cardamom as the flavoring components. I know not putting any cinnamon or cloves in a gingerbread cookie recipe sounds crazy—but trust me when I say that it between the coffee and the orange and the cozy cardamom, you still get that same warmth and comforting flavor, just with more brightness and zip. They’re kind of like a ray of summer sunshine beaming into winter. I hope you enjoy them, my friends, and am wishing you the most joyful + relaxing holiday season ahead!!! Sending lots of love + tasty vibes from my home to yours! ♡

Orange and Espresso Soft Gingerbread Cookies

Orange and Espresso Soft Gingerbread Cookies

Course Dessert
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 7 minutes
Chilling Time 1 hour
Servings 36 cookies

Ingredients

Orange and Espresso Soft Gingerbread Cookies

  • 3 cups plus 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon finely ground espresso
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar packed
  • 1/2 cup finely grated organic orange zest from about 3 large oranges, grated with a microplane or the small holes of a box grater (but not the ones that poke out like teeth)
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon fiori di sicilia flavoring
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Parchment paper

Optional Orange Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice

Instructions

Orange and Espresso Soft Gingerbread Cookies

  1. Mix the flour, espresso powder, cardamon, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl and set it aside.
  2. In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter at high speed until soft and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and orange zest and mix at medium speed until combined and fluffy, about 1 minute more. Add the molasses, orange juice, fiori di sicilia, and vanilla and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture and mix at low speed until a thick dough *just* forms (do not overmix!).
  3. Divide the dough into two equal portions and pat each into a rough oval shape. Cover and place one of the in the refrigerator while you roll out the other one.
  4. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a clean flat surface. Place one portion of the dough on the parchment paper, then place another sheet of parchment on top of it. If you are using standard cookie cutters, roll out the dough until it is 1 cm thick (if you go too thin, the cookies won’t be soft and will be crisp instead. Better to err on the side of a bit thicker than a bit thinner!) If you are using the wooden mold cookie cutters linked in this post, roll it out to be 2 cm thick. Slide the parchment paper-wrapped dough onto a baking sheet or cutting board and refrigerate it while you repeat the same steps with the other portion of dough. Refrigerate both rolled out sheets of dough for 1 hour or until nice and firm.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove one sheet of dough from the fridge and place it on a clean surface. Peel back the top layer of parchment paper and lay it on a baking sheet. Cut out the cookie shapes and place them on the lined baking sheet, giving about 1 inch of space between cookies.
  6. Place the baking sheet in the center rack of the preheated oven. The baking time will depend on the size of the cookie. For thicker cookies or cookies that are larger than 3 1/32 inches across, bake for about 8 minutes. For cookies that are smaller than 3.5 inches in diameter or have a lot of exposed edges, like snowflake shaped cookies, bake for about 6 minutes. It’s okay if they look slightly underdone in the center.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week, or 2 weeks if refrigerated.

Optional Toppings

  1. You can serve them as-is, or if you want them to be a bit sweeter you can dust them with powdered sugar, or you can top with the below Orange Glaze.
  2. For the Orange Glaze, mix together all the ingredients until combined. Pout the glaze into a wide shallow bowl, and dip the cooled cookies into the glaze, top facing down, until just the top but NOT the bottom is touching the glaze (basically, don’t submerge them). Place the cookie on a wire rack, glaze side up, with some parchment paper or paper towels underneath the rack to catch any extra glaze that drips off the cookies. Allow the glaze to cool and harden for 2-3 hours before transferring to an airtight container.

Soft Gingerbread Cookies with Orange and Espresso Cookie with Coffee Soft Gingerbread Cookies with Orange and Espresso

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