Pinwheel cookies have been around forever. These swirly, whirly, multi-colored beauties have a mesmerizing look, buttery taste and make a great addition to any holiday cookie plate. Pinwheel cookies are classified as a type of icebox cookie, a category of cookies I’ve long been a fan of due to their ease and simplicity.
Named for the predecessor of the refrigerator, ice box cookies, took off with the rising popularity of the refrigerator as a common household appliance. What they offered was, a typically dense dough designed to be chilled and sliced right before baking. Through the process, icebox cookies maintained their elegant shape, saving anyone who was making them time and effort. The design of the icebox cookie also reduced waste, as no scraps needed to be re-rolled and cut again.
Although invented earlier, the pinwheel cookie was everywhere by the 1930s and can be found in numerous cookbooks from that time. The most common pinwheel variation is a chocolate-vanilla one, consisting of a simple sugar cookie dough mixed with some cocoa. After rolling each piece of dough flat, the two pieces get stacked on top of one another, and then tightly rolled to create that signature swirl.
Food historians argue that the graphic design of the pinwheel was also representative of the bold, stylized lines of Art Deco, the 1930s style that took over everything from architecture to clothing.
ky’s the limit when it comes to color variations of these beloved pinwheel cookie. These Christmas-themed ones are bright and cheery and a playful nod to the fun, festive holiday spirit that the holiday season encompasses.
That said, hues of pinks and reds can easily be used for Valentine’s Day, green and white, for St. Patrick’s Day, white and orange for Halloween, or the traditional chocolate variation for Thanksgiving all making a tasty and memorable cookie that requires very little effort from the baker.
Holiday Pinwheel Cookies
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- dash of salt
- 12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- liquid green and red food coloring
- Step 1 In a medium mixing bowl, add the flour, baking powder, and salt, mix well and set aside.
- Step 2 In the bowl of a kitchen mixer, such as a KitchenAid, fitted with a paddle attachment, add the butter and sugar and beat on high for 1-2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined, scraping down the sides as needed.
- Step 3 With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and mix to blend, continuing to scrape the sides of the bowl down as needed.
- Step 4 Using your hands, divide the dough into 3 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Place one ball of dough back in the bowl and break it up. Add a several drops of red food coloring and beat on medium until the color is completely incorporated. Remove the red dough and place on a piece of plastic wrap. Clean your bowl and the paddle and add the second dough balls back in the bowl like you did with the first one. This time add the green food coloring. Beat on medium until the color is completely incorporated. Remove the green dough from the mixer and place on a second piece of plastic wrap. Leave the third piece of dough as-is.
- Step 5 Using your hands, press each piece of dough into a flat square and wrap it in the plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Step 6 Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Place the red dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper or waxed paper. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to a 10-inch square. Leave dough between the parchment and set aside. Repeat this process with the other 2 pieces of dough. Stack the rolled dough in parchment on top of each other and refrigerate for an additional for 30 mins.
- Step 7 Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and take the top layer of parchment off each sheet of cookie dough layer. Place the red dough down on a counter. Top with the white dough, non-parchment sides touching lining up the edges of the dough as best as possible. Remove the parchment from the white dough. Top the white with the green, non-parchment sides touching. Remove parchment from the green dough. Use a large chefs knife to trim all the edges of the cookie dough into straight lines.
- Step 8 Using your hands, starting with once side, gently roll the dough into a long log shape. Lift onto a piece of parchment paper and wrap the dough log in it. Place the log in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Step 9 Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a slicing knife to cut the dough log into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place the cookies on your prepared baking sheets and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cookies are set.
- Step 10 Carefully remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
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