Baker’s Solstice Countdown: December 6: Chocolate, Cherry, & Pistachio Pinwheels

I found this recipe a long time ago, in some parenting/homemaking magazine, long since forgotten. But the cookies are unforgettable, and are a holiday tradition for us. They are another labor of love, with a number of fiddly steps, but the result is well worth the effort. Chocolate, pistachio and cherry are quite lovely together, and the ample amount of vanilla and almond extracts adds to the pleasing flavor and aroma of these cookies. Plus I love the look of them. They look pretty on a cookie plate even if you think you’ve botched the rolling up process.

Chocolate, Cherry, & Pistachio Pinwheels

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg plus yolk of 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachio nuts
  • 1/4 cup dried sweetened cherries or cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • green and red liquid food coloring (you can use gel colors if you have them, but you will have to adjust the amounts to get the color you like)

Method:

  1. Beat the butter, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, at medium high speed (or high speed of a hand mixer) until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and yolk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy again. Scrape the bowl again, and on low speed, mix in the flour until combined.
  2. Melt and cool the unsweetened chocolate as the package directs.
  3. Finely chop the pistachios, and the cherries/cranberries.
  4. Divide the dough into three equal parts (use a scale if you have one, it helps). Place each third in a separate bowl. Add the melted and cooled chocolate, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract to one bowl. Add the pistachios, the almond extract, and 8 drops of green food coloring to another bowl. Add the cherries, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 8 drops of red food coloring to the last bowl. Stir each bowl until the ingredients have blended. You may find it easier, if messier, to work the ingredients in with your very clean hands, washing in between bowls so you don’t mix colors.
  5. Place each portion between 2 sheets of wax paper. Roll each portion with a rolling pin into a rough rectangle about 8 inches by 10 inches. Stack the doughs on a cookie sheet and chill in the refrigerator for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the top piece of wax paper on the chocolate dough. Remove the top piece of wax paper on the cherry dough. Invert the cherry dough onto the chocolate dough, and remove the wax paper. Remove the top piece of wax paper from the pistachio dough, invert onto the cherry dough, and remove the wax paper. If the dough seems very soft and sticky, chill in the refrigerator for 5 minutes. Otherwise, go on to the next step.
  7. Starting on a long side, carefully begin rolling the dough up tightly, peeling the bottom piece of wax paper as you go. If the chocolate layer cracks (it will), gently rub the dough together to close them. Take your time with this step, as a good tight roll will give you a better spiral in your cookies.
  8. Gently roll the dough log back and forth a couple times to smooth the outside, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 10-15 minutes in the refrigerator.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Cut the dough log into slices just under 1/4 inch, and move to an ungreased baking sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes, until bottoms are light golden. Move cookies from the sheet immediately to a cooling rack to cool.

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