Photo: Moriah VanVleet
Photo: Moriah VanVleet

After each visit to see family for the holidays, my husband and I are ever grateful to head home with full bellies and a car packed with leftovers, from stuffing and gravy to containers of cranberry sauce.

My soon-after-Thanksgiving tradition has become not one of shopping, nor of eating turkey sandwiches, but of transforming the leftovers into a holiday treat: orange spice thumbprint cookies made with cranberry sauce.

Pushing centers in
Photo: Moriah VanVleet

Cranberry Clove Cookies (makes about 48)

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • Scant 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • finely grated zest of one orange
  • 1/2 cup cranberry sauce
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice (optional)
Filling the centers
Photo: Moriah VanVleet

Preheat oven to 325 F. Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and cloves. Add butter, mixing until dough holds together, then add orange zest and vanilla, mixing until evenly incorporated. Roll into balls that are a little smaller than a tablespoon’s worth of dough, placing at least 1½ inches apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.  Press an indentation  into the center of each ball using your index finger, almost to the bottom of the cookie, but not all the way through.  Freeze for 5-10 minutes, then fill indentations with cranberry sauce. (This is easiest by piping the sauce with a pastry bag or plastic bag with corner snipped off.)

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the bottoms of the cookies are golden brown.  If desired, make a quick icing: Gradually whisk drops of orange juice into a cup of powdered sugar, constantly mixing; stop adding juice when icing is thick and smooth — about the consistency of yogurt. Be sure cookies are completely cool, then use a pastry bag or a fork to drizzle the icing in zig-zags over the cookies. Let icing dry at room temperature, about an hour. Store in an airtight container.

With their shortbread-like dough, warm cloves and tangy citrus zest, cranberry clove cookies impart a decadent taste and aroma alike.  A welcome twist on typical leftovers, these cookies are sure to fill your kitchen with a festive, mouthwatering scent — and your mouth and belly with the deliciousness of the holiday season.

Photo: Moriah VanVleet

Moriah VanVleet is the voice behind Butter Sugar Flowers where this post first appeared. It was also published on Berkeleyside and NOSH on Nov. 26, 2012.

See Moriah’s other sweet recipes published on Nosh

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Freelancer Moriah VanVleet is the voice behind butter, sugar, flowers, a blog she started in 2011 to showcase her original (and often unusual) dessert recipes. Her creations have since been mentioned by...