Its Beginning to Smell a Lot Like X-mas

Ok that sounds like a 8 year old boy’s funny version of a Christmas carol — but I am juvenile enough that I am going to stick with that title. Besides smells really are a big part of our memories. Who doesn’t smell cinnamon and vanilla without remembering a cookie from their childhood. Or smell lavender and think of freshly laundered sheets at Gram-ma’s house.

I said I don’t do X-mas and also that I was going to relax this week but I couldn’t help myself Sunday after watching a rather dismal football game, I had to do something to cheer myself up. So I hauled out the flour + sugar and butter + eggs and got to work. Actually baking is one of my favorite things so it isn’t work at all. I have many recipes for cookies but I wanted quick  and simple so I went to a recipe that I modified from an old Fannie Farmer Cookbook. It’s one that my mother made all the time when I was a kid. My Mom filled 3 big tins with cookies — there were oatmeal cookies and chocolate chips and if we were really good pinwheel cookies.

The great thing about pinwheel cookies is you make the 2 doughs and then roll them up jelly roll style and wrap them and throw them in the fridge or freezer. If you have them made up ahead of time you can slice and bake for fresh cookies at a moments notice. And they look fancy!

Pinwheel Cookies just like Mom’s

white layer

1/2 cup butter

2/3 cup brown sugar    1/3 cup white sugar

1 egg              1 tsp vanilla

1  1/2 cup of flour   1/4 tsp of salt and cream of tartar

cream together butter and sugar in your mixing bowl. add egg and vanilla-beat till fluffy. mix in dry ingrediants.  roll into a rectangle between 2 sheets of wax paper. set aside and make chocolate layer.

chocolate layer is the same as the white layer adding 6 TBS of cocoa powder and 2 TBS of butter. mix in the same bowl as the white(see how I saved a little cleaning by making the vanilla layer first). roll into a rectangle shape between two pieces of wax paper. Don’t worry if you don’t have a rolling pin you can use a wine bottle instead or a glass from your cupboard. Now its time for the hard part– after you have rolled out each dough into a rectangle shape take the top sheet of wax paper off and then put one dough on top of the other. Whew! now take the top sheet of paper off the 2 doughs and now roll up your dough jelly roll fashion. you need to chill the dough/jelly roll for a while (1 hour)before slicing the cookies to bake. This is where you can wrap the dough and tuck it into the freezer for a rainy day when you want cookies but don’t have time to mix them.

When you are ready to bake preheat your oven to 400*  cut the cookies into 1/4″ slices. pop them on to a cookie sheet and admire how clever you are as you admire the swirls of vanilla and chocolate then bake for 8 minutes or so until they are done.

Now you don’t have to stop here this recipe can be altered and changed very easily. My family loves orange flavors instead of the vanilla so I substitute 2 tsp of orange extract for the vanilla. I also use dark chocolate cocoa powder instead of regular. I always throw 1/2 cup dry powdered milk into my cookie doughs for the extra calcium and so I can convince myself this is a health food not just a sweet treat.

Another favorite of my daughter’s is when I grind up candy canes and substitute them for some of the white sugar. This time I added 1/3 cup of chopped up candy canes for the same amount of sugar. Every one knows that peppermint and chocolate is yummy!

Last I made a batch of ginger swirls. I made an orange layer for the outside and a ginger spiced layer for the inside by adding 1/2 tsp ginger and cinnamon and 1/4 tsp of nutmeg  and used 1/3 of a cup of blackstrap molasses and took out the egg yolk to make up for the liquid. I saved the egg yolk and put it in coconut crack cookies another favorite of someone I know! This was a hit too but I think next time I will make the ginger swirls with the darker spiced dough on the outside. With the lighter dough on the outside these cookies look a little like dog treats.

I am sure that you can come up with all kinds of ideas for a swirl cookie of your own using flavors that you like. Maybe a mocha chocolate with a swirl of cinnamon. Or maybe a nut layer. Chia swirls…..well you get the idea. When you are altering a recipe though remember your ratio of fat/butter to sugar and flour needs to remain the same, but you can still play around and come up with a special cookie to call your own.

As I was writing this post and thinking about my Mom’s kitchen and the delicious aromas that filled the air as she baked—- a wonderful package arrived in the mail from my brother Tim and his family. THANK YOU. It is the best!Funny how I am reminiscing about smells of baking and thinking about my Mom and the big potato chip tins that were refilled weekly as I grew up- that this would arrive in the post this morning.

I am speechless and need to page through this right now.

I almost forgot to add that I haven’t heard from 122XXXX yet send me an e-mail so I can send you a kit. If I haven’t heard by tonight I will draw a new winner tomorrow.

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