Thursday, November 5, 2009

OLD-FASHIONED SUGAR COOKIES AND CRANBERRY-PECAN PINWHEEL COOKIES

SWEET LITTLE THING

A little girl walks into a bakery
And asks the baker :
“Do you serve big cookies in here?”
The baker leans over the counter and looks at the little girl and says:
“ I don’t know. How tall are you?”
- from a Peanuts comic strip


JUST CALL ME SUGAR, COOKIE! Cookies are a part of our childhood: hands slipped surreptitiously into cookie jars, stolen treasure stuffed into pockets and off we rush out into the yard, climb the tree and savor each forbidden bite nestled in the branches; open up the brown paper bag and we are bedazzled by the array of cookies wrapped carefully in plastic, bringing home to the school playground; cookies as chips while playing card games with little brother or simply curling up with a book in our favorite armchair with a selection of our favorite cookies stacked up on the arm next to us, eyes locked on the page as we blindly feel for another and another. Cookies are child’s play, the perfect size, big enough to satisfy, small enough to allow for a choice, one of each, not having to choose just one. Satisfying first bite over and over again, an endless choice of flavors. Love from the oven.


We always had sweet treats in the house, but most came from a box: cakes and pudding, jello, frozen pre-made pie crusts, fruit filling from a can, non-dairy whipped topping. And cookies were never homemade, they came in a package from the supermarket shelf: chocolate chip or peanut butter sandwich, chocolate covered marshmallow or mint, stuffed with fruit paste, vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon-sugar-topped graham crackers, shaped like nuts or animals or cars.


And there were rituals surrounding cookie eating, sacred childhood rituals evolved over time, changing as our moods changed or as we grew older: unscrew the top cookie off the sandwich, scrape the front teeth across the bottom “skkrrrrrkkkk” through the sugary cream filling leaving a trail like tire marks in the snow; pick out the chocolate chips, one by one, using only the front teeth; carefully peeling away the cookie shell to reveal – and leave – the fruit paste filling to be savored alone; eaten straight, crunchy, crispy, leaving a trail of crumbs or dunking in milk or hot chocolate until softened then sucking in all the flavorful goodness; picking out and ordering the animals as they are pulled out of the tiny caravan, biting off heads, then feet then popping the body into the mouth; sucking off the frosting, white or pink, before deciding whether or not the cookies sans frosting are still worth eating.


And the best thing about growing up in a household where packaged cookies were the norm? No fighting! No “What kind of cookies shall I bake today?” Nah, it was a trip to the grocery store and we could each pick our own. Great, because little bro and I definitely did not have the same taste in either cookies, cereal, Kool Aid, Pop Tarts or soda.

Whenever I am back in the states with my boys, we get a thrill rushing off to the grocery store and standing in the cookie aisle in front of the astounding array of boxes, all the types of cookies offered in this wonderland of the American Dream. We stand in utter amazement at the selection, marveling at all the new cookies that people – or elves – have dreamed up. Do we choose our old favorites or try something new? Oreos and animal crackers for son, decadent marshmallow pinwheels for mom, and let’s try one or two new ones. After all, we must test them out!


But at home back in France, though we live in the city of LU, le Veritable Petit Beurre, le Palet Breton and les BN, I make and bake my own. Homemade. Well, that’s no surprise coming from a food blogger and confessed baking addict, now is it? Yet cookies, I believe, are the most unforgiving of all baked goods; time consuming and aggravating. Folding in the flour, all that elbow grease needed to turn those luscious ingredients into something stiff and sticky, scooping up and pushing off spoonful by spoonful of batter onto baking sheets, goo up to our elbows, in our hair and stuck to our face then popped in the oven, 8 minutes, 10, 12 tops, waiting, watching, scooping, pushing more batter, another baking sheet, and another and another. Leave the cookies in just one or two minutes too long and they are too crispy, burned around the edges. Can’t twitter, can’t answer the phone or * oops * lost another batch!

Why not another cake? Measure, beat, fold, pour, pop one pan or two into the oven and set the timer for 30, 40, 60 minutes and off you go to take care of other things.


So why do I bake cookies when a trip to the grocery store or patisserie is so simple? Or why not bake another cake? Because my men love cookies. Soft, buttery chocolate chip cookies disappear with a rapidity that makes me wonder, leaves me bouche bée (chin meets chest). JP snags the box early in the morning and takes it to work where he leaves it, open, by the coffee machine. Lunchtime he brings back the empty box. Biscotti are our favorites, and I’ve made a few (cappuccino, peanut butter, chocolate chip/almond and cranberry/pistachio), the perfect treat for dunking in a hot cup of coffee or a cold glass of milk. And wafer-thin chocolate rounds, better than any Oreo could ever be, the ultimate chocolate flavor, and Rachel’s rich Chocolate Crinkles. Or scrumptious Rugelach, too easy to eat one after the other. Cookies are a wonderful grab-and-go snack, wrapped up all pretty to offer as gifts, and, of course, homey, cozy fair for an afternoon treat. I bake cookies for my men.


And these cookies are truly gems. Yes, they are time-consuming little buggers, but oh so worth the effort. Soft, moist sugar cookies, the best going and luscious cranberry-pecan pinwheels, the perfect holiday treat. Enjoy! I’ve done all the work!


So, go ahead, just call me Sugar, Cookie!

OLD-FASHIONED SUGAR COOKIES

1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 ½ cups (300 g) sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
2 ¾ cups (415 g) flour
Sugar for rolling the cookies in


In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds until fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until well combined. Beat in the eggs, the cream of tartar, baking soda, vanilla and salt until well combined.


Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer then fold in the remaining flour with a wooden spoon.


Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.


Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Put a few tablespoons of sugar in a small bowl.

Remove the cookie dough from the fridge and shape into 1-inch (2 ½ cm) balls. Roll each ball in granulated sugar to coat and place the balls on ungreased cookie sheets spacing them 2 inches (5 cm) apart.


Bake for 9 to 12 minutes until spread, puffed, golden and just starting to brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and gently transfer the cookies to wire cooling racks.


CRANBERRY-PECAN PINWHEEL COOKIES

1 cup fresh cranberries, thawed if frozen
1 cup pecans
¼ cup (50 g) packed brown sugar
1 cup (16 Tbs), 225 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
3 ¼ cups (405 g) flour
2 tsps grated orange peel (optional)

Prepare the filling:
In a food processor combine the cranberries, pecans and dark brown sugar. Whiz until finely chopped but not a paste! Set filling aside. (This can also be done by hand, simply finely chop both the cranberries and the pecans and stir together with the brown sugar).


Prepare the cookie dough:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds until fluffy. Add the granulated sugar, baking powder and salt and beat until well combined, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the eggs (and the orange peel, if adding) and beat until combined.


Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer then fold in the remaining flour with a wooden spoon.


Divide dough in half, wrap each piece in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour or until easy to handle.


Between sheets of waxed paper (I ended up pulling off the waxed paper and working on a floured surface, but you do what’s easiest for you), roll each half of dough into a 10-inch (25 cm) square. Spread half of the cranberry-pecan-brown sugar filling evenly over the first square of dough leaving about a 1/2-inch margin free at the top.


Roll up the dough jelly-roll style. Moisten the bare edge, press and pinch to seal. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.


Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Cut each roll into ¼-inch (1/2 cm) slices. Place slices on ungreased cookie sheets spacing them 2 inches (5 cm) apart.

I must admit that I forgot to chill the dough before slicing. I may have had prettier results.

Bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until edges are firm, cookies are golden and the bottoms of the cookies are light brown. Remove from the oven, allow the cookies to rest for 1 minute before transferring them to wire cooling racks. Allow to cool.

44 comments:

Ino said...

Argh, these look so good. I had literally just decided to make salted caramel ones, but you've thrown me into a dilemma. Or a trilemma. Brilliant!

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

These pinwheels look so pretty. I love the way you show us how you've made them every step of the way. I always forget to pick the camera up again!

Asha @ FSK said...

YUMM-O!! :))) love the pin wheels.. hmm cookies are made by the hub in my house.. :) I have no patience for them (irony no?!)

btw looove the vintage pics.. where ever do you get them??

The Cooking Ninja said...

Love your pin wheels. It reminds me of the Choc Hazelnut Scroll that I love to make.

I'm so with Ino on salted caramel ones. :) drooling.

♥♥♥Ria♥♥♥ said...

Ooooh! the pinwheel looks great! So do the sugar cookies!! I want some now! Please send me some :)

Mary said...

I love cookies that have a light filling in them. These look wonderfully seasonal and I'll wager they're delicious.

Heavenly Housewife said...

I love simple sugar cookies. The pinwheels look really yummy too though. Liked the joke at the beginning, very cute.

Jamie said...

@The Cooking Ninja: Oh, Pam, I have so bookmarked your choco (Nutella!!!)-hazelnut pinwheels! Thanks!

Cathy said...

Yummmm, I do love a good cookie. And sugar cookies are a favorite in my house. The pinwheels are so festive with the cranberries and I can just see them on my cookie plates this Christmas.

TKW said...

These are so pretty! I'm thinking that they would make wonderful holiday gifts--do they keep well?

Jenn said...

Yum!! I love sugar cookies. You can never take the cookie away from me. Those pinwheels on the other had will be my breakfast. I'll take two pieces. ;-D

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Lovely little cookies! I love old-fashioned treats...

Cheers and have a great Friday,

Rosa

sunita said...

yummy! I love pinwheels; will trade my chocolate and pistachio pinwheels for yours (http://sunitabhuyan.com/?p=320)

Mowie said...

Yum Yum Yum - Nom Nom Nom! I am Mowie the cookie monster and I will have ALL your cookies!

Jamie - just yum. As Sarah said, I too love that you capture all the steps - a big challenge for me. First baking. Then photos. The two just don't mix for me. What can I say, I'm special that way =)

Btw, perfectly timed for Sesame Street's 40th today! xxx

Hilda said...

Aha, that's funny about your memories because I have essentially the French version of that since my mother doesn't bake, except of course, aside from buying Lu barquettes and Petit ecolier and Lions candy bars and huge jars of Nutella at the store, we'd be able to stop at the boulangerie- patisserie on the way home from school and get pastries and Carambar and Haribo and all sorts of other things. These are great, I will definitely be making the pinwheels soon but probably with chocolate. Can't resist. ;)

Glenda said...

I want a Bake-O-Mat to drive by. I do miss the Helms Bakery truck that use to come in the early 60's, miss those donuts. Your cookies look great,I wish we had taste and smell-a-blog. Liked your picture with the egg shell in the middle. You're a good chef!

Barbara Bakes said...

This post has given me a whole new perspective on the cookie. I thought I liked baking cookies because I was a lazy baker and cookies were so easy. Now that I think about it though they are time consuming. I think the difference is I don't mind being in the kitchen while the cookies bake because I sample the cookie dough between batches. Perhaps you are not doing enough cookie dough sampling!

Have you tried an ice cream scoop for cookies?

The Cooking Photographer said...

Jamie both of these cookies are something I'm going to make, but I have one request for someday. I always have difficulty printing your recipes through the nice pictures, would you consider bunching them together sometimes? Or installing a print feature?

As always I loved your post!

Laura

Daily Spud said...

What a delicious ode to cookies Jamie. I love your rundown of the childhood cookie-eating rituals - that certainly brought back memories for me!

Sophia said...

Guess what? I have never had a cookie before until I moved to America. Before then, cookies were just not a regular thing in Singapore!! So I was basically cookie-deprived as a kid!

Sarah said...

Oh how I love cookies! They don't last long in our house.

MeetaK said...

i love those cranberry pinwheels! cranberries are something i could always munch on and have been making a few things sweet and savory with them recently. just will have to add this to the repertoire too!

Colloquial Cook said...

That's it you got me hypnotised with those pinwheels. Now I really want one. They say you should never contradict a person under hypnosis, do you know?

Katy ~ said...

OUTSTANDING!!!

Murasaki Shikibu said...

The pinwheels look delicious. I remember when I was a child I had a dream about some 'pinwheels' but wasn't sure if they even existed. My mom never made them and I guess I either heard about them or ate them somewhere but couldn't remember. I remember asking a friend whether such a thing existed!

bethany (Dirty Kitchen Secrets) said...

They look so yummy! Wish I could reach into my screen and grab one to enjoy with my tea!

LoveFeast Table said...

Ahhhh, for a childhood ritual I would have definitely eaten these layer by circular layer, until I got to the center. I also, remember coming in the back door to my Grandmother's house and opening a series of reused coffee cans to see what hid inside, mostly fresh baked cookies...molasses, sugar, chocolate chip, peanut butter with pressed fork marks, and sometimes in the last can a store bought Cameo cookie. Love it, "love from the oven". -Chris Ann

LoveFeast Table said...

Ahhhh, for a childhood ritual I would have definitely eaten these layer by circular layer, until I got to the center. I also, remember coming in the back door to my Grandmother's house and opening a series of reused coffee cans to see what hid inside, mostly fresh baked cookies...molasses, sugar, chocolate chip, peanut butter with pressed fork marks, and sometimes in the last can a store bought Cameo cookie. Love it, "love from the oven". -Chris Ann

5 Star Foodie said...

Mmmm... cranberry and pecans pinwheels look especially wonderful!

Katherine Aucoin said...

A cookie cookie makes everything better. You made some gorgeous cookies and looking over the ingredients, these sounds amazing!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Those pinwheels are calling to me! I might have to take a swim over to get some. :)

Cinnamon-Girl Reeni♥ said...

This entire post reminded me of my family! Especially the picture of the dish washing man! I love it - I must borrow that one some day. Home-made is so much better! The pinwheels fooled me - thought they were cinnamon - but cranberry is even better. My Mom would love those!

Barbara said...

My first visit to your post. Loved it!
The cranberry pinwheels look right up my alley.
(the cookie monster joke is a hoot)

Deeba PAB said...

Swimming right behind Natashya, petrified of drowning, but will come for those wheels! My kids still loudly suck & then lick the frosting off, and enjoy these unforgiving creatures to the hilt. How right you are about everything sistah!! LOL, as kids we ate cookies out of boxes, & then I 'happened' to our home. Hvnt bought many cookies after that. Love both these you've baked, esp the fresh cranberries ones. Never seen fresh cranberries, & the combination is DROOLICIOUS!!

The Cooking Photographer said...

Jamie I spied you on Foodgawker!! that made me happy to see.

That same cookie monster cartoon sits on my cookie myspace album. It's one of my favorites.

Laura

girlichef said...

Gorgeous :D The pinwheels are amazing...as is your writing and the way you can walk right into my life with each word. I always feel like I'm living what you've penned. Love it :D (and I love the cookie monster pic, too funny)

Corissa Jade said...

Your pinwheel cookies look great! I'm actually making them for a bake sale. Just a quick comment though.. is it just me or is the butter missing in the ingredients list? I don't know how much to use!

Jamie said...

@Corissa Jade: Good catch and thank you so much! The pinwheel recipe is now corrected with the butter added. Whew! Glad to have readers like you! And these are delicious and will work great at your bake sale. Let me know how they turn out.

Corissa Jade said...

Thanks for your super quick reply. You saved me! I'm going to go ahead and make those cookies now. Yum-O!

Jamie said...

@Corissa Jade: This is the second time I've done that and am always glad when someone points it out, even if I am embarrassed that it happened! Good luck with the cookies!

Scintilla @ Bell'Avventura said...

We all had our quirks in eating cookies as kids. Chocolate Royals were my faves in Australia and eaten starting from the top of the crunchy chocolate, sucking off the marshmallow, licking off the jam base then nibbling the chocolate coated biscuit. Haven't done that in years.

Nora said...

What a fabulous cookiefest! Those look delicious - you have some very lucky men!

Alessandra said...

The opening line is :-)

First time here, great blog Jamie, Brava!

A.

asiangrrl said...

I love how you take the classic sugar cookie and jazz it up in different ways. Yum!

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