Friday, January 2, 2009

Pinwheel Cookies

Honestly, I can't think of many foods that are more fun to bake than this cookie! It reminds me of being a little kid and playing with clay- I had this book that taught u how to layer colored clay, roll it into a log, and slice it into little pieces with a design inside- just like you do with these cookies.

The dough itself is pretty straightforward, as it's a simple icebox cookie dough. It's also very versatile, lending itself to countless variations in flavoring, shape, or additions (nuts, chips, etc). It freezes extremely well and can hang out in the fridge for a few days (in fact, it kind of has to) before you're ready to bake. Additionally, the two colored dough can take tons of different shapes- checkerboards, chevrons, striped cookies, marbled, whatever you think up.
I split my dough in half and tinted it with red food coloring (use paste), but you could also use melted chocolate or, obviously, any other food color (I plan on making a Superbowl version soon with team colors). You then split each half in half and roll them out in a square shape. You'll have two squares of red, two squares of plain. Place one plain on top of the colored, and roll them tightly together. This step is important, as you don't want a gap in the center of your cookie when you slice it! The roll chills overnight- another very important step, as it won't cut properly if the temperature isn't right.

Pinwheel Cookies, adapted from Carole Walter's Great Cookies.
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unslated butter, slightly firm
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Red food coloring (I used Wilton paste variety)

Strain together flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, mix the butter on medium-low speed until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar in four additions, and mix for two minutes longer. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, mixing again for one minute.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, blending until just combined. Be careful not to overmix.

Using a kitchen scale, divide the dough in half. (Each half will weight about 1 lb, or measure out to 1 and 1/3 cups of dough). Blend the red food coloring into one half of the dough, mixing thoroughly but trying not to overwork. Shape each half into a 4 x 5 in rectangle, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour (or until firm enough to roll).

Divide each half into quarters. You'll have 4 pieces of red dough, 4 pieces plain. Shape each piece into a cylinder about 4 in long and 1 1/4 in wide. Wrap and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 3 days in fridge or 3 months in freezer).

When ready to roll, place each red cylinder in between two lightly floured sheets of wax paper and roll into a 6x7 rectangle. Do the same for the plain cylinders, rolling into a 6x6 square. Chill each piece in fridge for 10 minutes.

Remove the top sheet of wax paper from each piece of dough, and invert the plain dough onto the red dough. Line it up so that a bit of red dough peeks out at the top and bottom. Press lightly to seal the layers together. Peel off the top layer of wax paper.

Starting at the side closest to you, curl the edge of the dough, careful not to leave any space where the pinwheel's center will be. Use the wax paper to help you lift and turn the dough, rolling tightly. Repeat this process for each of the sheets of rolled out dough. You'll wind up with four cylinders. Wrap them in plastic, refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Turn each cylinder periodically during the first hour just to ensure that you don't wind up with one flat side.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350, and arrange racks to separate oven into thirds. Line cookie sheets with nonstick foil. Slice cookies into 3/16 inch slices and bake for 9 to 11 minutes. Let stand one minute then allow to cool on cooling racks.

These cookies will last for 3 weeks stored airtight.

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