Saturday, December 14, 2013

Cranberry Orange Pinwheel Cookies

This was a big Christmas baking weekend at our house. We're going to a cookie swap at church tomorrow evening, and there's also a cookie outreach after morning church to some of the families around the church, so I needed to bake a whole lot of cookies. I was thinking all week about what kind of cookies to make, something that would be delicious, pretty, and distinctly Christmassy, but wouldn't take forever. Finally I remembered these cranberry pinwheel cookies, after reading Cranberry Christmas with the girls a few days ago. It was the perfect recipe - and the yield was enormous! This recipe makes just over eight dozen pinwheel cookies.

The cookie dough is a rolled butter cookie recipe I made with my grandpa every Christmas when I was a kid, although I added in orange zest for this version. The filling is based on the cranberry pinwheel recipe on Between 3 Sisters. The result is both beautiful and delicious!

Cookie Dough
  • 1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3 c. white sugar
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • Zest of two oranges
  • 6 c. flour

Cranberry filling
  • 3 c. (1 bag) of whole cranberries, fresh or frozen, thoroughly rinsed
  • 6 T. white sugar
  • 1/2 c. water, divided
  • 2 T. + 1 t. cornstarch

Cookie dough

  • Cream the butter with a mixer (stand or handheld) until smooth. 
  • Add the sugar, and beat until fluffy. 
  • Add the room temperature eggs one at a time. If you (like me!) forgot to get your eggs out in advance, you can drop them in a cup of hot tap water for 5-10 minutes. Having the eggs warm will help your dough to come together nicely instead of separating. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated.
  • Add the salt and vanilla.
  • Stir in two cups of the flour and the orange zest. Continue to add in the flour, one cup at a time, until fully mixed. It will be a very stiff dough, which is one reason a stand mixer is great for this recipe. If you don't have one, though, it will just build your arm muscles!
  • Cover bowl and chill in the refrigerator for an hour or until your cranberry sauce is finished and chilled.

Cranberry filling

  • Combine cranberries, sugar, and 1/4 c. of the water together in a small saucepan.
  • Bring the cranberries to a gentle boil, and cook until all the cranberries burst, stirring frequently.
  • While the cranberries cook, stir the cornstarch into the remaining 1/4 c. of water to make a slurry.
  • When the cranberries are beginning to form a sauce (some large chunks are fine), turn off the heat and stir in the cornstarch slurry.
  • Heat the mixture back up, stirring constantly (sauce will be very thick), until the creamy color from the cornstarch slurry has gone clear. 
  • Turn off the heat, transfer into a bowl, and chill in the freezer.

  • When the cookie dough and cranberry filling are both thoroughly cooled, you're ready to assemble the pinwheel logs. 
  • Divide the dough into thirds.
  • If your dough is sticky, sprinkle your counter with powdered sugar to help it not stick to your counter or rolling pin. This dough is pretty stiff, so I tried this with one log and not with the other two, and they all came out just fine.
  • Roll the first third out into a rectangle, as thin and even as you can without risking tearing, between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. I found it helpful to trim and patch uneven edges as I rolled, so I wouldn't lose much area to trimming. Your finished rectangle should be somewhere around 12 x 16 inches, but they can vary a lot. Just aim for large, thin, and even.
  • Spread one third of the cranberry filling on the dough rectangle. Spread it as evenly as you can, pushing out out to within 1/2 inch of the edges.
  • Beginning at one end of the rectangle, roll it up the length of the rectangle, going slowly and evenly. Pinch the ends in, and you have your first pinwheel log!
  • Wrap the log in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer.
  • Repeat these steps with the other two thirds of cookie dough and filling.
  • Chill the logs in the freezer until thoroughly frozen (at least 4 hours), or overnight. I made my dough one day and baked it the next, and that worked perfectly.

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Remove cookie logs from the freezer, and place on a cutting board
  • With a sharp knife (I used my 6" chef's knife), slice the dough into 1/4 inch rounds.
  • Lay the cookies out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Let thaw for at least 5-10 minutes before baking. I could fit 20 cookies on my cookie sheet (4 x 5), since they spread very little while baking.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, or until edges are just starting to turn golden and the cookies look thoroughly set.
  • While your first batch of cookies are baking, go ahead and slice another pan of cookies and arrange them on a second sheet of parchment paper. I like to conserve parchment paper, since it's a bit of a luxury, so I only use two sheets for this recipe, and rotate which sheet is in the oven.
  • Cool on a cookie rack. When they're fully cool, these cookies will be a little crunchy, not lose-a-tooth hard, but crunchy and satisfying with that nice soft, tart cranberry filling.

Yield: Just over eight dozen.

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