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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Maple Walnut Pinwheels

These were the first cookies of the season, as they had to go to far and away places, and the most fancy I was going to be able to pull off this year.  Pinwheel cookies of any flavor are one of the easier Christmas cookies to make, but they do require a little finessing, and definitely time in the refrigerator.

The instructions are very precise about measuring the flour by volume, provided you have a U.S. measuring cup.  I didn't notice that the original recipe gave the weight measure for the flour, so I weighed my results:  338 grams.  However, 12.75 ounces converts to 361 grams mathematically -- that difference of 23 grams equals about 3 tablespoons.  Whatever, they're just cookies.  I'm sure the usual scoop-and-level measuring method would work fine.  Don't overthink it (which, actually, I just did.)

The instructions do not call for refrigerating the dough prior to rolling it out.  So I didn't refrigerate the first roll and, while workable, it was pretty soft and the final roll just flopped all over the place.  It was hard to get it to lay nicely in the refrigerator to make an even log for slicing, and the bottom flattened.  I refrigerated the second half of the dough overnight; this was much easier to handle, but was very stiff and I couldn't get the ends of the roll to adhere nicely.  The best option, if you have the time, is to refrigerate just until firm, or if hard then allow to warm slightly before rolling out.  If you must roll out the dough immediately and while soft, be sure to flour the surfaces and your rolling pin.

I was a little frustrated by the directions to cover these pretty pinwheels with frosting.  For one thing, generally cookies don't need frosting, especially a thick dollop.  If you're going to frost a cookie, it's usually for decoration.  But why cover up what's already a pretty cookie?  I thought I would just drizzle the frosting across the tops, but it was too gelatinous for that due to the butter.  (It's really a hard sauce, not frosting.)  So I opted for reducing the quantity by half and spreading just a thin layer across the bottoms.  The cookies were fine without any frosting at all, but slightly plain.  (The maple flavor is not very prominent.)  The frosting gave them just a little zing.

Yield: about 3 dozen cookies

Here's what I used:

For the nut filling:
1 cup walnuts
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup maple syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk

For the dough:

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups flour (12.75 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the maple frosting:

4 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 1 tablespoon maple or sugar syrup
1 1/2 teaspoon maple extract
pinch salt
1 1/2 3/4 cup powdered sugar

Place walnuts and raisins in food processor or blender and grind very finely - almost to paste. Pulse in maple syrup, butter, cinnamon, salt and egg yolk; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and powdered sugar together until smooth; blend in egg and vanilla. To measure flour, gently spoon into measuring cup and level off with knife. Sift together the flour with baking powder and salt; gradually blend into batter just until smooth dough is formed. Divide dough in half, press each half into an even square no more than an inch thick, wrap securely, and refrigerate an hour or two until firm.  (If refrigerating longer, allow to warm slightly, just until malleable, before rolling out.)  On a sheet of waxed paper or other flexible rolling surface, roll one half portion out to a 10-inch square.  Spread half of nut filling over dough to within ½-inch of top edge, but right to the edge on the other 3 sides. Beginning with side nearest you, roll dough up, lifting waxed paper and folding over the edge to start roll.  Use even but easy pressure -- just enough to exclude any air pockets, but not enough to force the filling out of place.  Seal seam, and repeat with remaining dough and filling. Wrap rolls in plastic or waxed paper and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days. (Rolls may also be wrapped well and frozen and thawed in refrigerator before baking.)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Slice cold rolls into 3/8-inch slices.  Reshape each slice as necessary to make a nice circle, then check front and back to see which side is prettier.  Place best side up, 1 inch apart on baking sheets.  Bake about 10 minutes until set and bottoms begin to turn golden. Let cookies stand on sheet 1 minute before removing to wire rack to cool.

For the frosting, mix melted butter, maple syrup, maple extract (if using), salt and powdered sugar and stir until smooth. If frosting becomes too thick upon standing, add 1/2 teaspoon warm water at a time to desired consistency. Spread thinly across the bottom of each cooled cookie. Allow frosting to set before stacking; store covered.

I had trouble getting the raisins to fully chop and incorporate, and so ended up with some large pieces that show as dark spots.  I'm not sure what purpose they serve in the mix -- perhaps just to add a little "goo" to help hold the nut mixture together.  A substitute might be in order.  These cookies tasted like they were a cream cheese base -- very rich.  They were not very sturdy, breaking along the swirl lines with the slightest pressure.  I think the cookie part absorbs some of the moisture from the filling and they become less crisp, but still delicious, after a day or so.

Conclusion:  This was a great cookie.  I'm not sure I would make it again in this incarnation, but the dough might replace my go-to sugar cookie recipe.  It was very tasty, but a little fragile.  I'll have to test how it holds up to cutouts and decorations.

Recipe:  Maple Nut Pinwheels via Go Bold with Butter

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