Post 9: Christmas Cookies

It is the holiday season! This is the perfect time of year to enjoy some home-baked goodies with a cup of tea. For my holiday post I decided to make not one, but two types of cookies, because no Christmas is complete without some baked goodies. The first type of cookie I made were chocolate pinwheels. I found these in my Nana’s vintage copy of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. Though I have had these around the holidays before, I had never made them, so they were a new challenge for me. The second kind of cookie I made are a traditional Christmas cookie from my Grandma. We have these shortbread cinnamon thumbs every Christmas season, and they are always delicious.

I started by making the pinwheel cookies so that they could chill while I made the cinnamon thumbs. To start the pinwheels I creamed together 1/2 cup of shortening and 1/2 cup of sugar. Once again, this vintage recipe includes shortening. As I have stated before, shortening is something that people use large quantities of in the past, but has fallen out of style. However, it does make cookie dough come out amazingly smooth. Once the shortening mixture was creamed, I added in 2 teaspoons of vanilla, 1 egg yolk, and 1 tablespoon of milk.

Once the wet ingredients were mixed, I added 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I then mixed the dough on the medium setting until it was combined. While it was mixing I melted 1 ounce of chocolate. I usually do this in a double boiler, but since I was melting such a small quantity, I decided to use the microwave. To do this I put the chocolate in a glass measuring cup, then put it in the microwave for 15 second increments. After each 15 seconds, I stirred the chocolate so that it did not stick and burn.

When the dough was completely mixed, I split it into two balls. I wrapped the first ball in plastic wrap and set in the fridge. I left the second ball in the mixer and turned it on to low. While still mixing the dough, I poured the melted chocolate in slowly. Once it was completely combined, I wrapped the chocolate ball in plastic wrap and set it in the fridge with the plain dough. I chilled both for 1 1/1 hours.

While the pinwheel dough was chilling, I made the cinnamon thumbs. These cookies are very simple and quick to make. I started by pre-heating the oven to 350℉. I then combined 2 cups of flour and 5 tablespoons of sugar in a bowl. To that I added 1 cup of refrigerator temperature butter. I mixed the butter into the flour and sugar mixture until it was a sandy texture. You can do this with a pastry cutter, though I prefer to use my hands. Finally, I mixed in 1 teaspoon of vanilla, also with my hands.

Once the dough was mixed, I pushed it together until it formed a ball. I always feel like I am going to overwork these cookies because they take a lot of mixing. However, the texture does not turn out correctly unless they are well worked. Once the dough formed a ball, I broke off small bits to form into 1 1/2 inch oblong shapes. This step also involves a lot of squeezing the dough with your hands, and again, I often feel that I am going to make the cookies tough. However, the dough will not form a smooth shape unless it is well-mixed, and it is very hard to overwork.

When my oblong shapes were formed, I placed them on a cookie sheet. Then, I pressed them down lengthwise with the tines of a fork. Unlike in a peanut butter cookie, you only press from one direction to get your desired shape. I then popped these in the oven for 15 minutes. At 15 minutes they were still a bit to pale, so I let them bake for about another 5 minutes, at which time they were all done.

While they were still warm, but not so hot they burned my hands, I rolled them in a mixture of 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and a few shakes of red and green sprinkles. I then placed them on a cooling rack.

Once the cinnamon thumbs were done, I got back to the pinwheels. I pulled the cooled dough balls out of the refrigerator, then rolled each into a 10 by 12 inch rectangle. I then brushed some hot milk on the chocolate rectangle, and placed the plain dough on top. This is where things started to get a bit tricky. I am not sure that the dough was quite chilled enough because the plain dough ripped as I was placing it on the chocolate dough. I patched it back together, and hoped for the best. However, when trying to roll the dough from long end to long end, jelly roll style, things did not go do well. The dough crumbled a bit, again due to not being cool enough, and the pinwheel pattern did not come out as clean as I would have liked. Nevertheless, I cut off the ends of the roll, cut the roll into about 4 dozen cookies, each 1/3 inch wide, and placed them on a cookie tray. I put the tray in a 375℉ oven and cooked them for about 10 minutes. Once they were out of the oven I let them cool for a bit before enjoying.

These cookies were definitely a success. As I stated before, no Christmas is complete without cookies, and these are a very good choice. The cinnamon thumb recipe went very well, partially because I had made them before. However, even for beginners, it is a simple, quick, and delicious recipe. They pair especially well dipped in a cup of tea. The pinwheels are also delicious, though a bit more challenging. The mixture of the chocolate flavor and a melt-in-your-mouth texture made them a perfect treat. However, though they were delicious, and I definitely recommend making them, getting the pinwheel shape to come out is an acquired skill. I know that next time I will chill the dough for a bit longer to make the rolling process go a bit better. I feel that these cookies will improve thorough practice.

Whether you enjoy them with hot coca, coffee, or tea, these cookies are a great way to celebrate the holiday season. You can find the recipe for the cinnamon thumbs here and the recipe for the pinwheel cookies here. Happy holidays and happy baking!

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