I know what you’re thinking. Thanksgiving is over, the gluttony has ended, and now it’s time for healthy salads and smoothies and eating broccoli at every meal. To which I say: nonsense!
Thanksgiving should be just the start of indulgence this season ,and I have the perfect recipe to keep the ball rolling. These Cranberry Pecan Pinwheels are made with dried cranberries, toasted pecans, and cranberry sauce, so they’re perfect for using up any leftover cranberry sauce you have hanging around your refrigerator.
Even if you’re completely burned out on the idea of Thanksgiving food, consider this: with their seasonal taste and beautiful design, these cookies would make a stellar addition to a holiday gift platter. Don’t you owe it to your nearest and dearest to give them a try and see for yourself? Perfect! They’ll thank you later.
Cranberry Pecan Pinwheel Cookies Recipe
yield: 4 dozen cookies
For the cookie dough:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 TBSP butter, softened
- 1 egg, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
- 1 cup whole cranberry sauce (homemade if possible)
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries (orange-flavored cranberries would be good too!)
- 1/3 cup toasted pecans
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 TBSP flour
First things first: the cookie dough. In a large mixing bowl combine the sugar and the softened butter. Don’t have a stand mixer? Never fear, a hand mixer also works for this dough. Mix the butter and sugar together on medium speed until they’re light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the vanilla extract and the egg, and continue mixing until the egg disappears into the batter.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
With the mixer running on low, add about a third of the flour mixture, and let it run until the flour streaks disappear and are incorporated.
Let the mixer continue to run, and slowly stream in half of the milk.
Once the milk is mixed in, add half of the remaining flour, then the rest of the milk. Finally, add the remaining flour. (If you’re thinking this method seems familiar, it’s because it’s one of the most common ways to make cake batter. This is a good sign the cookie dough is going to be soft and cakey!)
Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure there are no stray patches of flour or butter that haven’t been mixed in. Your dough should be soft and maybe just a bit sticky.
Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough packets until they’re firm enough to roll out, about 1 hour.
While you’re waiting for the dough to chill, prepare the filling components. Finely chop the pecans with a chef’s knife or food processor and set them aside for now.
In a small saucepan, combine the cranberry sauce, dried cranberries, sugar, and flour. If your cranberry sauce is very thick and gelatinous, add 1/4 cup water to loosen it up a bit.
Stir everything together, and heat it over medium heat until it’s thick, bubbling, and the cranberries have softened. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool completely.
When the cranberry filling is cool and the dough is firm, it’s time to REALLY get the party started. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Lay a sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper on your work surface, and generously dust it with flour. Take one of the packets of cookie dough, and dust that with lots of flour too. Roll the cookie dough out until it’s a thin rectangle about 1/8-inch thick.
Spread half of the cranberry filling over the cookie dough until it’s in a thin, even layer.
Sprinkle half of the chopped pecans all over the top of the cookie dough.
Now for the fun part! Starting at the long edge of the dough, use the parchment or waxed paper to help you start rolling the dough up over itself like a cinnamon roll. Continue rolling until you have a long, thin tube of rolled dough.
Repeat this process with the second packet of dough until you have two long tubes. You can technically use them right away, but I think the cookies look nicest if they’re chilled before you cut and bake them. This doesn’t have to be a long process-you can just wrap the cookie tubes in cling wrap and put them in the freezer for about 20 minutes, until they’re firm enough to cut neatly.
If you’re the make-ahead type, at this point you can refrigerate the well-wrapped assembled cookies for up to a week, or freeze them for several months.
When they’re firm, slice the cookies using a sharp serrated knife into 1/2-inch rounds. Rotate the cookies as you slice them so that they maintain their somewhat round shape. They’ll spread a little while baking, so don’t worry if they’re not perfectly round. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
Bake the cookies at 350 for about 16 minutes, until they’re puffed and just lightly golden around the edges. They shouldn’t take on much color on top, and won’t spread much beyond becoming rounder and puffy. Let them cool on the tray for 5 minutes, then gently remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Even if you swore off sweets after a pumpkin and pecan pie Thanksgiving extravaganza, I guarantee you’ll find a little extra room for these soft, cakey cookies with a tangy, nutty filling. You might even find yourself making or buying a little more cranberry sauce so you can enjoy them over and over again!
All images and text (c) Elizabeth LaBau