Monday, October 25, 2010

Adventures in Baking 101: Cherry Almond Pinwheels

In the last baking class we were given a homework assignment: choose a cookie recipe, change at least two things about the recipe (either ingredients or method of preparation), and bring thirteen cookies to the next class for critique and discussion. The cookies were to be evaluated on overall appearance, taste, and modifications.

I chose to modify a recipe called Fig Pinwheels that I found in a Martha Stewart holiday cookie periodical from 2005. The cookies are spirals of buttery dough with a figgy filling, and look like small cinnamon rolls. They have a dramatic appearance that I thought would make a good impression.

The filling for the original cookies called for dried figs, golden raisins, apple juice, and orange juice. I substituted dried cherries for the figs and–to kick up the cherry flavor–pure cherry juice for the orange juice. The other significant modification was adding almond extract to the dough.

The modified recipe is below. For those intrepid souls who are contemplating making these, I'll warn you that if the dough warms up it becomes very sticky and almost impossible to work with, so it needs to be kept COLD. You can always put it back in the freezer for a few minutes if necessary. Rolling the dough into a log is tricky and it was only with the second batch that I was able to accomplish it to my satisfaction. Also the dough requires at least 2 1/2 hours freezing time in three stages, so these are not quick to prepare.

Looking back it was a bit crazy to choose this recipe for the homework assignment, but I learned a lot and have no regrets! The family and I were pleased with the outcome, and the cookies were well-received in baking class too.

Cherry Almond Pinwheels

For the dough:
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 t. coarse salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 t. almond extract

For the filling:
1 1/8 c. dried cherries
2/3 c. golden raisins
2/3 c. apple juice
2/3 c. pure cherry juice
  1. Make dough: Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda into a large bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs and almond extract. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. Divide dough in half; wrap each half in plastic. Freeze until firm, about 1 hour or overnight.
  2. Transfer one of the dough halves to a lightly floured piece of parchment paper. Roll out to a 10-by-12-inch rectangle; trim edges with a knife. Repeat with remaining dough half. Transfer each rectangle on parchment to a baking sheet. Freeze 30 minutes.
  3. Make filling: Bring cherries, raisins, and juices to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until fruit has softened and only a few tablespoons of liquid remain, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely. Transfer mixture to a food processor, and purée until smooth.
  4. Spread half the filling over each rectangle. Starting with a short side, roll dough into a log. Wrap each log in plastic; freeze until very firm, about 1 hour or overnight.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut logs into 1/4-inch-thick slices using a sharp knife, transferring to baking sheets lined with parchment paper (and reshaping into rounds, if needed) as you work. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges turn golden brown, 12-15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

1 comment:

  1. Yummm... i actually dried some of my figs this year... makes me want to try out your recipe :)