When it comes to dried fruit, cranberries do not top my list of favorites. I love raisins, prunes, dried apricots, dried peaches, and dried tart cherries any time of the year, but it’s rare to find a bag of dried cranberries in my pantry most of the time. However, when Thanksgiving rolls around, I start thinking cranberries and the dried ones inevitably start showing up in my green salads and baked goods and continue to do so through January. They add a festive pop of color and the flavor pairs beautifully with oranges, one of my favorite things to eat in the winter. I do use the fresh ones for holiday cranberry sauces and relishes, but I think dried cranberries are wonderful in cookies, muffins, scones, and green salads.
Phil loves the combination of cranberries and white chocolate, so I decided to put them together in a cookie recipe for him. I had pecans on hand, so I added those as well. I thought orange zest would be perfect in these, but he asked me to leave it out. Luckily I didn’t listen to him, because I think the orange zest is what turned these into some of the best cookies I’ve ever made. The orange flavor isn’t overpowering, but it makes them smell so good and festive that I can’t imagine leaving it out.
Basically, I wouldn’t change a thing about these cookies. The toasted pecans are perfect, and yes, I do think that the extra step of toasting them first is worth it. I also think the almond extract is necessary. Yes, it can sometimes be overpowering, but the small amount used in combination with vanilla extract here is just enough to add a depth of flavor that you’ll notice without being able to pinpoint exactly what it is that’s making you want to shove more and more cookies in your face. I hope you enjoy them as much as we have!