Cranberry Pinwheels

Apologies to my SMS friends, especially our host this week – Jennifer of Maple N’ Cornbread, who selected butterscotch pudding.  I learned we aren’t fans of butterscotch pudding when I made it for Tuesdays with Dorie and I didn’t want to have to throw it away again.  I’ll be back next week for sure but in the meantime you can stop by the SMS blogroll to see how everyone else fared with the pudding.

Cranberry Pinwheels

I still wanted to share something today, though, and I decided on these wonderful cookies I made to ship to my Secret Baker recipient this month.  We select a theme each month, and for January it was healthy treats, which we figured everyone would be more than ready for after the holidays.  I went a bit overboard on buying cranberries this year so I had plenty in my freezer and knew I wanted to include them in what I made.  I came upon these cookies on and decided to make them almost immediately!

Cranberry Pinwheels

You start by making the filling for the cookies, which includes both fresh and dried cranberries – tart and colorful, honey – sweet and floral, and orange zest, cinnamon and cardamom – wonderfully spicy and fragrant.  The smell of the filling as it cooked on the stove was easily one of my favorite scents ever.  I’d gladly buy it if someone were to bottle it or turn it into a candle!  After it cooks, you puree the mixture and the next time I make these I’ll be sure to puree mine a bit more than I did this time.  I still had small bits of cranberries which made cutting the dough difficult and caused the cookies to look a bit messy after they were baked.

Sweet Smells, 1-18-10

The cookie dough comes together easily and after a brief chill, you roll it out, spread it with the cranberry filling and roll the dough around the filling.  The key to this whole process is keeping the dough cold as it will get more sticky and soft as it warms.  The recipe suggests enclosing the wrapped rolls of cookie dough in the cardboard tubes from paper towel rolls before freezing them in order to ensure uniformly round cookies.  I tried it, but still struggled with achieving round cookies.  The dough got warm very quickly so in conjunction with pureeing the filling more next time, I’d also pop the dough into the freezer more often to keep it cold as I cut it.  I think those two changes would lead to better results in terms of appearance of the cookies.

Cranberry Pinwheels

As for the taste, I think my Secret Baker recipient, Margot, described them best when she told me they were “curiously addictive.”  I agree completely!  They’re sweet and spicy, tender and chewy, and all too easy to pop into your mouth one after the other!  The recipe is a bit time consuming, but it makes a ton of cookies and since the rolls of dough can sit in the freezer, you can make them ahead of time and just slice and bake the cookies as you need them.  They’d be wonderful around the holidays but I won’t limit myself to those few months, especially since I’ve still got plenty of cranberries in my freezer!

Cranberry-Honey Spice Pinwheel Cookies

1 1/2 cups sweetened dried cranberries
1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen, thawed
1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (allspice can be substituted for the cardamom)

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (allspice can be substituted for the cardamom)
1/3 cup canola oil
3 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons low-fat milk, plus more as needed
2 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

To make the filling: Combine the dried and fresh cranberries, honey, orange zest, cinnamon and cardamom (or allspice) in a medium nonreactive saucepan (aluminum and cast iron are examples of reactive saucepans – if you use them here they may impart off color and/or off flavor to the filling) over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil and cook, stirring, until the fresh cranberries burst and soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly then transfer to a food processor and puree.  You can add up to 2 teaspoons of water to the mixture if it seems dry.  Cover and refrigerate the filling until you are ready to use it.  It can be made up to 2 days ahead of time.

To make the dough: Whisk the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and cardamom (or allspice) in a large bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the oil, butter, sugar, honey, eggs, milk, orange zest, vanilla and almond extracts. Beat first on low speed, then on medium speed, until well combined. Add the dry ingredients, in 2 additions, and beat on low speed until just incorporated.  You can add up to 1 tablespoon of milk to the dough if it is too dry to hold together.  (I didn’t find I needed any extra milk for my dough.)  Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for 30 to 45 minutes to reduce its stickiness.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide it in half. Shape each half into a 6-inch-long log. Working with one log at a time, center it on a 16-inch-long sheet of parchment or wax paper.  Cover with a second sheet of parchment or wax paper.  Press and then roll into a 12-by-15-inch rectangle of even thickness, inverting the dough occasionally to roll out any wrinkles and patching it to make the sides as even as possible. Transfer the dough, still in the paper, to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining log of dough and transfer to the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the freezer until the rectangles of dough are slightly firm, about 15-20 minutes.

To shape the cookies: Place one rectangle of dough on a work surface. Peel off the top sheet of parchment or wax paper.  Spread half of the reserved cranberry filling evenly over the dough – it will be a thin layer of filling.  Starting with a long end facing you, tightly roll the dough around the filling, leaving the bottom sheet of parchment or wax paper behind.  Wrap the roll in a clean sheet of wax paper, twisting the ends to prevent unrolling.  Place the roll on a baking sheet. Repeat with the second rectangle of dough and place on the baking sheet.  Freeze until firm, at least 3 to 4 hours, and up to 2 months.

To bake the cookies: Position racks in the upper third and center of the oven; preheat to 350 F.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with one pinwheel roll at a time, trim the uneven ends. Cut the roll crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices using a large serrated knife; periodically turning the roll to maintain a relatively round cookie shape. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart. Bake the cookies until puffed and barely golden brown, 12 to 16 minutes, rotating the pans back to front and top to middle halfway through baking. Immediately transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Cut and bake the remaining pinwheel roll, if desired.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a week or frozen for up to 1 month.

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