Pin Wheel Cookies are self-explanatory in their appearance, but the one thing that I have learned over the years is that every family that bakes them for the holiday season has their own interpretation on the ingredients used. For the pinwheel cookies that have been made in our family, Dates and Pecans are the primary ingredients. All I know is that they are from my father’s side of the family, but at that point, I do not know if they are from either his French-Canadian or Polish heritage.
The difficulty in determining their origin within the family history is that the two primary ingredients are Pecans and Dates. Neither ingredient is indigenous to either of these two cultures. Pecans originated in the southern United States and Dates have been cultivated throughout the Middle East and North Africa for thousands of years. It is very possible that at one time, in lieu of Pecans, Walnuts were used; but I cannot fathom what was the ingredient used prior to Dates. What I do know is that traditionally among European cultures in centuries past, more exotic ingredients were used to make cookies and treats during the holiday season for it was a special time of year.
I may know my way around the kitchen, but a baker and dessert maker I am not. I have made these cookies many times and even the first batch was not difficult. All that is required is patience and to not deviate from the technique of rolling out the cookie dough. The pinwheel cookie in best described as a “jelly roll” cookie, where the dough is rolled out, the filling spread on top and then the entire cookie dough is rolled up into a log with the individual cookie be sliced from the cookie log.
Although the recipe below is for one batch of pinwheel cookies, all pictures in this post is for a double batch.
Ingredients for the Filling:
- 8 – 10 Ounces of Pitted Dates (Whole or Chopped)
- ¼ Cup or Less of White Sugar
- ½ Cup of Water
- 6 Ounces of Pecans Finely Chopped (I like to chop whole Pecans. They tend to be more fresh)
Preparing the Filling:
- In a sauce pan add the Dates, Sugar and Water on Medium Heat.
- Stir until the Dates have broken down to a paste and the mixture has thickened. If the paste is too thick, then add one tablespoon at a time of warm water.
- Add the chopped Pecans and completely mix the ingredients together.
- Set the sauce pan to the side.
Ingredients for the Cookie Dough:
- 2 Cups of White Flour
- ½ Cup of Butter
- ½ Cup of White Sugar
- ½ Cup of Brown Sugar
- ½ Teaspoon of Salt
- ½ Teaspoon of Baking Soda
- ½ Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
- 1 Egg
Preparing the Cookie Dough:
- Add the White Sugar, Brown Sugar, Butter, Eggs and Vanilla Extract in the Mixer.
- Mix the wet ingredients together.
- In a separate bowl, sift the Flour, Salt and Baking Soda together.
- Once the wet ingredients have been completely mixed, and then slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl with the Mixer on low. In a few minutes the ingredients will have been transformed into cookie dough.
Preparing the Cookie Roll:
- Lay out a large sheet of wax paper, about 24 inches long.
- Form the dough into a log in order to prepare equal size portions.
- Cut the cookie dough into equal size portions.
- Place the first half of the cookie dough on the wax paper.
- Fold the wax paper over the cookie dough and with a rolling pin roll out the dough until it is 1/8” – 1/4” thick with the width of the dough of uniform size for the entire length.
- Pull back the wax paper and with a spatula, place an equal portion of filling on the rolled out cookie dough.
- Spread the filling to a uniform thickness, leaving only a small edge at the top and bottom of the cookie dough sheet free of filling.
- Using the wax paper, lift the bottom edge of the cookie dough sheet and roll the dough onto itself until you have made a “jelly roll”.
- Wrap the cookie log in the wax paper and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours.
- Repeat the steps above for the second half of the cookie dough and filling.
Baking the Pinwheel Cookies:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove the first cookie log from the refrigerator and unwrap the log onto a cutting board.
- Slice cookies, about 3/4” thick from the log. One log will generate about 15 cookies.
- Place the raw cookies on parchment paper on a baking sheet.
- Bake for about 10 – 12 minutes until the top of the cookie is light brown. The bottom of the cookie will brown quicker because of the sugar content in the filling and dough.
- Remove from the oven and allow the pinwheel cookie to cool prior to storing.
- Repeat the process for the second cookie log while the first batch is baking.
Pinwheel cookies are a sweet remembrance of when with a little effort and the use of special ingredients not always available was made for the holiday season. They are not dipped in chocolate, nor covered in crushed candy canes. Pinwheel cookies are simply a cookie whose origin is lost in history, but representative of the time and effort made in kitchens decades ago to fill the holidays with a dozen or more home baked cookies to celebrate the season.