Orange Cranberry Walnut Balls are like classic walnut balls but with a twist. Bright aromatic orange and studded with cranberries, these Christmas cookies are a festive way to celebrate the holidays.
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What are some of your holiday treat traditions? You know, the cookies, candies and desserts that your family will mourn if they are not at the holiday table.
For us it is my Mom’s Walnut Balls and Dad’s Old Fashioned Fudge. Over the years there have been other Christmas treats that we have loved, but these two were always a must-have every year. Since both of my parents have passed, they have become even more cherished.
The beauty of these cookies is that they are very easy to make.
My favorite part, everyone who takes their first bite is expecting a traditional snowball cookie but is met with a “WOW, that is really good” reaction.
So if you are looking to add a little more cheer to your holidays, these Orange Cranberry Walnut Balls are a sure fire way with their bright orange citrus buttery happiness.
How to Make the Best Orange Cranberry Walnut Balls
These Orange Cranberry Walnut Christmas Cookies really are very easy. There are just a few tips that will make the baking experience easier.
- Remember to leave the butter out on the counter the night before. It is the easiest way to ensure the butter is room temperature when it’s time to bake.
- Gather the ingredients ahead of time. Because this Christmas cookie recipe does call for a few special items like orange extract, orange zest and dried cranberries, it’s a good idea to make sure you have everything you need before you start.
- Bake these cookies when you feel refreshed. Not even kidding about this one. I made these on a Friday night at the end of a very long week not that long ago. I was tired and the cookies showed it. They looked like a Pinterest fail (yes, we have them too).
- Sift the powdered sugar- Unfortunately, if you use organic powdered sugar it can become clumpy while sitting in the packaging. Sifting prior to rolling the cookies will help the cookies to roll with ease and they will look much prettier.
- Zesting Citrus- When zesting oranges or any citrus fruit, make sure to avoid the white pith as it can be bitter. Only zest the colorful outer layer for the best flavor.
- Finely Chopping Ingredients- Make sure to finely chop both the walnuts and dried cranberries to ensure an even distribution of flavors and textures in the cookies.
- Mixing Ingredients- When adding the dry ingredients (flour and salt) to the wet mixture, mix just until combined. Over mixing can result in tougher cookies.
- Preventing Crumbling- Allow the cookies to cool slightly before rolling them in powdered sugar to prevent them from falling apart.
- Cranberry Orange Shortbread- Modify the recipe to create a buttery, crumbly shortbread by reducing the flour and adding more butter. This will yield a different, melt-in-your-mouth texture.
- Cranberry Orange Thumbprint Cookies- Create an indentation in the center of each cookie before baking and fill it with a dollop of orange marmalade or cranberry sauce.
- Citrus Glaze- Drizzle a glaze made with orange juice and powdered sugar over the cookies for an extra burst of citrus flavor and a decorative touch.
- Nut Variations- Experiment with different nuts such as pecans or almonds for a unique twist on the recipe.
- Double Coating- For a thicker powdered sugar coating, roll the cookies in powdered sugar twice.
- Chocolate Topping- Drizzle melted chocolate over cooled cookies.
Commonly Asked Questions About Orange Cranberry Walnut Balls
What type of cranberry should I use?
Definitely use a dried cranberry for these Christmas Ball Cookies. A fresh cranberry would add too much moisture causing the cookie to fall apart. This brand is a great option.
How do I get a perfect ball shape for these Christmas Cookies?
The best way to achieve a uniform ball shape is to first start by scoping the dough with a tablespoon and then rolling it in between the palm of your hands. See video as a guide.
Why is there orange zest and orange extract in these cranberry orange cookies?
In order to achieve that bright citrus taste, both the extract and the zest are needed.
Can I use orange juice instead of orange extract?
While orange juice can add a hint of orange flavor, it is more diluted than orange extract. For a more robust orange flavor, it’s best to use orange extract. You can also use orange zest for a natural citrus kick.
What’s the best way to zest an orange?
This is truly my favorite zester! Not only is it affordable, it’s durable and does a phenomenal job zesting citrus, grating parmesan, garlic and ginger.
How do I store these cookies?
Store your Orange Cranberry Walnut Balls in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. If you want to keep them longer, freeze them in a well-sealed container for up to three months.
Orange Cranberry Walnut Balls
- 1 cup butter *room temperature
- 1/3 cup brown sugar *firmly packed
- 1 tsp orange extract
- 1 tbsp orange zest *about 2 large oranges
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2 cups walnuts *finely chopped
- 1 cup dried cranberries *finely chopped, up to 2 cups can be added if desired
- 2 cups powdered sugar *for rolling cookies
- Preheat oven to 375℉.Chop walnuts and dried cranberries.
- Cream together butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in extract and zest.Sift together flour and salt and mix into butter mixture. Stir in walnuts and cranberries.
- Using clean hands break off pieces of dough the size of a walnut and shape into a ball, rolling between hands. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 12- 15 mins or until lightly golden brown. Using a spatula, remove from cookie sheet and let cool slightly before rolling in powdered sugar to help prevent crumbling. Once cooled slightly, roll in powdered sugar.