Monday, December 11, 2017

Christmas Pinwheel Cookies

There are many sugar cookie recipes out there, all of which claim to be the very BEST. Well, I guess one would have to taste ALL of them in order to come to that conclusion, so I'll just say these cookies are pretty darn good! Fair enough?  I was browsing on FB and saw a video of how to make pinwheel cookies. I figured, ok, that looks festive, let's give it a go! The thing is, you can really use any rolled sugar cookie dough, so I set out to find the right one for me. I decided I wanted one with almond extract in it (because that's a classic flavor when it comes to sugar cookies), and I found this one on a blog called The Slow Roasted Italian. They seemed very classic and homey and basic, so I went with it! They tasted exactly the way I hoped they would! Soft and chewy with rich vanilla and almond flavor, and they're pretty enough to jazz up any tray of cookies. They do take a little extra time, but you can do them a step at a time so it's really not that bad. When I made them, I mixed up the dough one day, rolled them into logs the next morning, and then sliced and baked them the following night. See? Easy! You can even roll the entire log of dough in colorful sprinkles or red or green sugar to add an extra little pop of color around the edges of your cookies. Also they don't spread out to much so you can literally bake an entire batch in one go. Definitely place a tray of these little gems in the center of your dessert table, and you'll surely get lots of OOs and AAHHs!

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
3-4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
red and green food coloring

 In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar, on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).
Add the eggs, vanilla, and almond.  Beat until combined. Add the salt and 3 cups of flour; beat until you have a smooth dough. If the dough is sticky (meaning when you touch it and pull your fingers away the dough sticks to you), add more flour a tablespoon at a time until it comes together.
  Separate prepared dough into 2 halves. Add 1/2 of your cookie dough to a stand mixer and add red or green food coloring until your mixture reaches your desired color. You can also knead food coloring into dough until completely combined if you do not have a stand mixer. Wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about one hour or until firm enough to roll.

   Place red cookie dough on parchment paper. Roll out to about 1/4 inch thick rectangle. Set aside. Place plain cookie dough on a sheet of parchment paper. Roll out to about 1/4 inch thick rectangle. Stack cookie dough sheets on top of each other with the parchment on the outside. Remove the top parchment and roll over the dough gently with a rolling pin (to help the 2 doughs become one). Beginning on one of the long sides, roll the cookie dough into a log (removing the remaining paper as you go). If dough is too soft to work with, refrigerate for 30 minutes and then try again. Once dough is formed into a log, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate 3 hours to overnight.

Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Slice cookies and place on cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake 9-11 minutes or until the cookies feel set. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

It's your choice whether to make white cookies with a colored swirl, or colored cookies with a white swirl. Before you roll up the log, your dominant color should be on the bottom, and your swirl color should be on top. Savvy?
If you're not a fan of almond extract, use any kind of flavoring you like! I've used orange extract and also rum extract, you could use lemon extract, or just use twice as much vanilla. It will all work!
Be sure to give it time to chill in between steps. It makes it MUCH easier to slice when the log is completely chilled and firm. Also be sure to keep the log as round as possible, otherwise your pinwheel design will have flat edges.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Cocomia Cookies

 Many many years ago, I bought a Mrs. Fields cookie cookbook. I'm pretty sure I was at a mall doing some Christmas shopping and I happened to see the book on display at a bookstore. I figured, "well, obviously I deserve to buy MYSELF a present as well!" so I bought it. Now, one thing you may not know about me is that I LOVE to read cookbooks. Like, not just turn to whatever page to look for a specific recipe. I mean just like some people like to curl up on the sofa with a nice juicy novel, I like to curl up and read a whole cook book. What can I say? I like to learn the back story of a recipe, where it was developed, and what the inspiration for it was. I also like to read the recipes from beginning to end and look for interesting combinations of ingredients. It may sound silly, but you'd be amazed at how often I'll be looking for ideas and I'll remember seeing a recipe that paired two seemingly odd ingredients that you'd never think of putting together. (Pineapple Basil Jam, anyone?)
 Aaaaanyway, as I was reading through my brand new Mrs Fields cookie book, I happened upon this recipe for cocomia cookies, which is short for coconut macadamia nut cookies. I thought, "ok, THIS will be the first recipe I try!" and they've been my absolute favorite Mrs. Fields recipe ever since. Actually, if I'm being honest, there wasn't a single recipe in that book that I didn't love, but the cocomias were still my favorite! (Side note, this is also one of those recipes that I've used for years and years, and THOUGHT I had already posted it, but then when I recently went looking for it, I discovered that somehow it slipped by me! Ah well, better late than never!) Oh, and one other thing... Yes, yes, I know it's a bit of an investment to buy the macadamia nuts, but seriously, they're worth every single penny! This is DEFINITELY one to add to your holiday cookie repertoire. Bring a batch or two to your next holiday cookie swap! Come to think of it, you should probably make a couple extra batches because they won't last long! Not even kidding.

2 cups all-purpose flour                      
1/2 tsp baking soda                          
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar                          
1/2 cup granulated sugar                
3/4 cup softened butter
2 large eggs                                           
2 tsp pure vanilla extract                  
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup macadamia nuts                       

Preheat oven to 300º F. 
Cream sugars with butter. Then add eggs and vanilla. Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.
Mix flour, baking soda, salt together, then slowly add mixture to butter mixture.
Add coconut and macadamia nuts until just combined.
Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets, 2 inches apart.
Bake for 23 minutes at 300º F. Remove to a flat surface to cool.

There's really nothing I can add to this recipe because it's perfect just as it is. The one thing I will say, though, is to make sure you include the salt. I can't say enough about how much of a difference it makes to add salt to your baked items, especially ones that contain any kind of nuts. The salt is what makes it!! I use salted butter for everything, and I STILL add the salt listed in the recipe. It makes all the difference in the world!
 If you're just like me and you can't leave a recipe alone no matter how perfect it is, you can add a a few white chocolate chips to the cookie dough. I'm sure Mrs. Fields won't mind!