Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cranberry-Orange Pinwheels

Phew... what a crazy week it's been since I last talked to you! It seems like Christmas is always super-busy, no matter how much pre-planning goes into it. But despite the craziness, I had one of the best Christmases in recent memory this year.

As I mentioned before, I did a whole lot of baking in the week prior to Christmas. I'm not sure where all of my ambition came from - trying to keep up with my fellow food bloggers perhaps! - but this year I decided that I wanted to contribute something homemade to each holiday gathering I could. I always hate walking into a party empty handed, and with all the cooking and baking I've been doing it just didn't seem right to bring anything store-bought. But why four kinds of cookies? Surely one or two would have sufficed. Haha... who knows... call me crazy, but it sounded like fun.

In this year's cookie bin: returning acts Coconut Macaroons and Raspberry Thumbprints, as well as newcomers Chocolate Crinkles and these tasty and pretty treats, Cranberry-Orange Pinwheels.

Lightly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, these little gems are perfect for pairing with tea (or coffee or hot chocolate or apple cider...). With the sweetness and consistency of shortbread, these cookies are just sweet enough to curb a craving without sending you into sugar-overload, and they're light enough that even a few won't fill you up. Just a hint of orange in the cookie, combined with the nutty cranberry-pecan swirl, gives an instant feeling of Christmas. Plus they look festive, with that pretty little red swirl in the middle.

The recipe is quite easy, but the dough does require cooling at more than one point in the process. For ease of cutting, I recommend cooling the roll overnight, so for those of you short on time like I am I'd recommend doing most of the assembly the day before you plan to bake.

Cranberry-Orange Pinwheels
(taken from my BH&G cookbook)

1 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup pecans
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
Cookie Dough:
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1. For filling, combine cranberries, pecans and brown sugar in a food processor until finely chopped. (or finely chop cranberries and pecans with a knife, then combine with brown sugar). Set aside.

2. In a large missing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Add eggs and orange peel; beat until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer; stir in remaining flour. Divide dough in half; cover and chill about 1 hour or until easy to handle.

3. Between wax paper, roll half of the dough into a 10 inch square. Spread half of the filling over the dough to within 1/2 an inch of the edges; roll dough into a thin log, using wax paper to guide you. Moisten edges and pinch to seal. Wrap in plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Chill for 4 to 24 hours.

4. Preheat oven to 375. Cut rolls into 1/4 inch slices; roll the dough as you cut, to avoid developing a flat edge. Place slices 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are light brown. Cool on cookie sheet for one minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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