Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cookie Contest Entry: Cranberry Pecan Swirls

I was never able to wait for a cookie to cool the whole way
before "taste testing".
Now that my cookies have been submitted to the office of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, I feel like I can share my recipe. Not that I think any of you would steal my recipe, but since I can't change what I submitted any more I can give you the best version of this recipe.

(There were three versions total... My husband ate a lot of cookies!)

For a bit of background, I wanted to enter an original recipe in the Localicious category. You can read all about it in my previous post here about my grandma and cookies. If you don't want to look back (although you should because my grandma is awesome), here's the short story version: You must use at least one locally grown or produced ingredient that isn't butter. Since Wisconsin is "The Dairy State", everyone could have counted butter as their local product. My Wisconsin ingredient choices are cranberries and honey. They worked really well together, and I feel like I've got tons of antioxidants flying around my body since I've also eaten a lot of these cookies. Plus, I snacked on cranberries as I was baking.

NOTE: The cookie dough is very firm, so you should probably use a stand mixer if you can. Otherwise, be prepared to invest in a new hand mixer. I burned out TWO of them in three batches! Granted, one of them was really old and wimpy, but it tried it's hardest. See Pulled Pork and Prayers for my hand mixer menace confession.

The recipe that I submitted doesn't have quite so much (barely any) fun tips or pictures, so you're in for a treat! Tips are quoted/indented.

Holiday Cookie Contest – Localicious Category Entry
Cranberry Pecan Swirls – Original Recipe

Dough Ingredients:
1 cup butter, softened
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tsp baking powder
3 ½ cups all purpose flour

Filling Ingredients:
2 cups whole Wisconsin cranberries
1 cup crushed pecans
3 tbsp Wisconsin honey (available at State Fair!)
1 tbsp orange zest (about one orange)

In a large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese with a mixer until fluffy.

Tip: If you need to, you can pop the butter in the microwave for 10 seconds. Make sure the butter doesn't melt otherwise it's too hot for the egg. If it starts cooking the egg, then you get this weird scrambled egg consistency which is gross and you'll have to start over. 
Beat in sugar and then the vanilla and egg. Add baking powder and salt. Mix in flour 1 cup or ½ cup at a time so it doesn’t fly out of the bowl. Cover the bowl and chill in the fridge for at least two hours (overnight is fine).
Tip: I chilled mine overnight because I didn't have enough time to wait for this and keep baking all in one night. If you're doing marathon cookie baking during the day, you can totally wait.
While dough is chilling, crush Wisconsin cranberries and pecans in a food processor or blender until you have a barely-chunky paste. Mix in Wisconsin honey and orange zest. Cover and refrigerate until dough is ready.
Tip: Since honey is kind of a pain in the neck to scoop out without getting all sticky, it's actually easier to use your fingers than a plastic/silicone scraper. Just make sure you washed your hands well!

Using a rolling pin, roll out half of the chilled dough between two sheets of wax paper. Try and keep it in a rectangular shape.
Tip: You still may want to sprinkle some flour on the wax paper so it isn't all sticky. Otherwise, you swear at the dough when it sticks to your rolling pin, and we all know that there's no swearing in the kitchen.
See how the dough stuck to the wax paper on the lower right-hand side? Ugh.
When it is about 1/8-1/4 inch thick, spread half of the filling in a thin layer over the dough. Either using your hands or by pulling up the bottom sheet of wax paper, roll the dough over until you have a long roll of dough. Wrap in wax paper and pinch ends shut. Repeat this process with the other half of the dough and filling. Refrigerate at least one hour for easy cutting.
It's not quite a rectangle, but that's about as close as you need
to get for an even roll. Approx 11" x 14"
Tip: I put the two rolls next to each other and put some plastic wrap around the ends. I set them on a cookie sheet so they wouldn't roll out of the fridge or anything. I've seen some people even put them in two cups open-end to open-end so it's like a big capsule of dough so you don't have a flat side. However, I didn't care too much if one side of the dough was going to be a bit flat. They still taste good!
Preheat oven to 375. Cut chilled roll of dough into slices no thicker than ½ inch. Place on non-stick cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until edges are golden brown and the middle is firm. Makes 3-4 dozen cookies.

Thank you to my test market: Husband, Mom, Dad, Grandparents, Co-Workers and Friends!

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