Recipes

Bake up these winning Christmas cookies

Pistachio pinecones
Pistachio pinecones TNS

Here are a couple of finalists from the Star Tribune’s Taste Holiday Cookie Contest.

We love the festive and easy-to-prepare cherry pinwheels.

Not a fan of cherry? Just about any fruit preserve —lingonberry, apricot, raspberry — works with this cookie.

The pistachio pinecones recipe follows a simple cut-and-bake formula.

A gluten-free flour mix variation (try to find the Cup4Cup brand, available at Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table and many Target stores), produced pleasing results.

Cherry pinwheels

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Taste Tip: This dough must be prepared in advance. Dough can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated, or wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil and frozen for up to a month. From a recipe in Gourmet magazine.

2 1/2 cups flour, plus extra for rolling dough

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup cherry preserves

2 tablespoons decorative sugar

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and cardamom, and reserve.

In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, cream cheese and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolk and vanilla extract, and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing just until combined and dough forms. Divide dough into 4 equal pieces, flatten each piece into a block, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 to 3 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough blocks (1 at a time, keeping remaining dough refrigerated until ready to roll) to 1/4 -inch thickness. Working quickly (dough is easiest to work with when chilled), trim edges to make 8- by 12-inch rectangle. Rewrap scraps in plastic and chill, until ready to re-roll.

Using a pastry wheel, cut rectangle into 2-inch squares. Using a spatula, transfer squares to prepared baking sheets, placing 2 inches apart. With a small knife, carefully make a 1-inch-long cut in 1 square, from tip of each corner in toward center, halving each corner (you will have 8 points). With tip of knife, lift every other point and gently fold into the center (forming a pinwheel), overlapping ends slightly. Press center lightly to form a small well. Brush cookies with a lightly beaten egg white. Place 1/2 teaspoon jam in center and sprinkle with decorative sugar. Repeat process with remaining chilled dough and scrapes.

Bake until edges are pale and golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Pistachio pinecones

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Taste Tip: This dough must be prepared in advance. If salted, dry-roasted pistachios are unavailable, toast and salt them yourself. To do so, place nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring or shaking the pan frequently, until they just begin to release their fragrance, about 2 to 3 minutes (or preheat oven to 325 degrees, spread nuts on an ungreased baking sheet, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and bake, stirring often, for 4 to 6 minutes). Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. From a recipe in Midwest Living magazine.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 vanilla bean

2 cups flour

2 cups finely chopped salted, dry-roasted pistachios, divided

12 ounces white chocolate

1 tablespoon vegetable shortening

In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter for 30 seconds. Add sugar, vanilla extract and salt, and beat until just combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Using the tip of a paring knife, scrape seeds from bean into the butter mixture, and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour in 1/2 cup increments and mix just until combined. Stir in 1 cup of pistachios.

Divide dough in half and shape each half into logs measuring 1 1/2 -inches in diameter, giving log an oval shape (one with distinctive wider and narrower ends) so that cut cookies will resemble pine cone shape. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a thin-bladed knife, slice chilled logs into 1/4-inch slices. Place slices 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until just firm and browned on the bottoms, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

In a microwave-safe bowl (or in a double-boiler over gently simmering water), melt white chocolate and shortening and stir to combine. Place remaining 2 cups chopped pistachios in a wide bowl. Dip the wider end of each cookie in melted white chocolate (to resemble a pine cone), then dip in the pistachios. Transfer cookies to waxed paper and let stand until set.

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