12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup molasses (either light or dark will do)
1 teaspoon orange zest
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons orange zest (or zest from one small orange)
Move the oven rack to the middle and set the oven to heat to 375. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients, including spices and salt together.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter with the brown sugar and 1/3 cup granulated sugar with the paddle attachment until fluffy and no lumps remain, stopping once in the middle to scrape the bottom of the mixing bowl with a spatula. On medium-low speed, add in the egg yolk and vanilla and mix on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Reduce the speed again to low and add the orange zest and molasses. Whip again on medium until fully incorporated, stopping once to scrape the bottom of the bowl again with a spatula.
Set mixer to lowest speed again and slowly add the dry ingredient mixture. Mix on low for about 30 seconds. Stop the machine, remove the bowl. Add any excess dough from the paddle to the bowl, and knead the dough a bit by hand to get all the little bits of dry ingredients off the bottom.
In the bowl of a food processor, add the 2/3 cup granulated sugar and the orange zest. Process for about 30 seconds to create a fine orange sugar. You may have to stop once and scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula to fully incorporate all the sugar. Place orange sugar into a medium bowl.
With wet hands, form small dough balls (about 1 inch diameter) and roll around in the orange sugar until just lightly coated. Place onto parchment paper on cookie sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake in single batches in the oven for abut 10-11 minutes until the edges are browned but the middle is still puffy, rotating the cookie sheet once half way through. Pull these cookies out even if they don’t look done in the middle. They will continue to cook on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Then use a spatula to transfer them to a wire rack to cool.