After all the cranberry apple dishes I've made so far, I incorporated the same flavors and created pretty pinwheel cookies. The swirl is a lot easier to make than it seems. All you need is sugar cookie dough to roll around the filling. My choice for the filling was cranberry apple butter but you can use any other filling you like.
Don't get scared by the yield of this recipe! We're getting prepared for Christmas and make our logs of cookie dough in advance and store them in the freezer. They make great gifts, and the cookies are small and delicious, so they'll disappear very quickly.
Servings: about 100 cookies
1/2 cup fresh cranberries, (2 ounces)
2 Red Delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced
3 tablespoons honey, to taste
1/2 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise
1/4 cup water
1 egg yolk
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup shortening
For the cranberry apple butter:
Using a paring knife, scrape and gather all the grains of the vanilla bean.
Wash the cranberries. Pick out and discard any bad ones (discolored, shriveled or bruised). Place the cranberries, apples, honey, grains of vanilla bean, 1/8 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 cup of water in a non-stick saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Skim off any foam that develops on the top. Cover and cook for about 25 minutes, until the cranberries have burst. Using a wooden spoon, stir frequently to prevent the cranberries and apples from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Allow to cool, then blend the mixture in a mini-blender (or a regular blender if you don't have a mini).
For the cookie dough:
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
In a mixing bowl, beat the egg and egg yolk with 1/2 cup of sugar for about 5-6 minutes. You'll get a pale, yellow foam and the texture of the eggs will be thicker. Add the vanilla and almond extracts.
In a bowl, combine the flours, salt and baking soda. Sift all the dry ingredients.
Cream the butter with 1/2 cup of sugar (whisk using a stand-mixer to get as much air as possible in the butter). Add the egg mixture, the dry ingredients and the heavy cream. Finish with shortening. Mix well. Divide the dough and roll into 3 (16 x 6-inch) rectangles.
For each rectangle of cookie dough, spread about 1-1/2 tablespoons of cranberry apple butter stopping 2 inches before the end of the rectangle (the cranberry apple butter will spread eventually until the end). The layer should be very thin so it doesn't burst on the side when rolled. Roll the dough and form a log. Repeat for the next 2 logs of cookie dough and wrap them in plastic wrap. Chill them in the freezer until firm. It'll take at least 30 minutes to harden (see storing tips). Slice the logs into ½-inch thick discs. Place the cookies on a baking sheet previously lined with parchment paper. Make sure they are spaced out so they don't touch each other when they expand.
Bake for about 5 minutes at 375°F, then lower the heat to 350°F for another 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
It's much easier to roll the dough if you first roll it on a sheet of parchment paper and use the paper to help get the rolling started. Do not hesitate to use the parchment paper to fold the edge of the cookie dough onto itself to form the cookie log.
For this pinwheel recipe, I used a combination of butter and vegetable shortening. I know,butter is usually preferred but I think for this recipe, shortening gives lighter and softer cookies, whereas the use of "only" butter will give flatter, crisper cookies because of its natural water content.
When washing and soaking the cranberries, also discard the ones that sink.
Remember, the cranberry apple butter should be slightly sweeter to your taste before spreading onto the cookie dough. When the cranberry filling cooks down in the oven, the flavor will get a little more intense; you want to make sure the result won't be too tart because of the cranberries. I think the amount of honey balances out the tartness of the cranberries. With the extra cranberry apple butter, you can make cranberry apple oatmeal crisp.
Don't have cranberries? No worries. You can use apple butter or even Nutella!
After scraping the grains of vanilla, do NOT discard the remaining vanilla bean. Just place the vanilla bean in a jar and cover it with regular granulated sugar. Let it sit for a few weeks and you'll get a nice, fragrant vanilla sugar.
If you don't have any vanilla beans, you can substitute 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract.
You can store the cookies in an airtight metallic tin for up to a week to keep them fresh. If you prefer them harder, just let them cool out or place them in a regular cookie jar. You can also store them up to 4 weeks in your freezer for last minute surprise guests or for Christmas Eve.
Sifting dry ingredients helps get rid of nasty lumps of flour and aerates the mixture when liquid is added. It's very important for all your baking so you get a moist result.