[27] Chocolate Pinwheels

Cover of The Complete Book of Cookies, edited by Deborah Gray

I baked these for two reasons. One, we’re pretty far behind on our ratio of “recipes cooked” to “days into the challenge” to “number of recipes needed before I can buy another cookbook”. At the time of writing (not of baking), for those who are interested, the ratio is 32:79:2531.

I’m never buying another cookbook, am I?

Well, futile though this quest may feel at this time, I might as well keep working at it. Also, if I keep working at it, I get a lot of new and delicious recipes to try. Well, and some flops. Such is the nature of the beast.

This recipe was neither delicious nor a flop, at least with regards to taste. Overall, however, I would call it a flop. It was mediocre in taste, and the directions did not result in the expected cookies.

But, there was good chocolate involved. So that’s a plus.

h2. Ingredients

0.5 c butter, softened
0.33 c superfine sugar

1 egg, beaten (I used one large egg, since that is the norm for baking.)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1.25 c all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

1 oz semi-sweet chocolate

h2. Instructions

Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add the egg and vanilla, and beat until blended. Sift flour and salt into the mixture, and mix briefly until combined.

Divide the dough in half. Wrap or cover one half and place in fridge until firm enough to roll.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or a small bowl over a saucepan of water. Allow to cool slightly, then mix into the remaining dough until completely combined. Wrap or cover this half and chill until firm enough to roll.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the vanilla dough into a rectangle. Repeat with the chocolate dough, making it the same size. Place the chocolate rectangle on top of the vanilla rectangle, then roll the two together into a log from the small end as tightly as possible. Chill until “very firm”.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease two baking sheets. Cut the dough roll into 0.25″ slices with a sharp knife, and place on the cookie sheet. Leave some room to spread out. Bake for 7 – 10 minutes, until the edges start to change color. Cool immediately on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container.

h2. Cooking and Consumption Notes

h3. Cooking

The book calls for “slightly salted” butter. In general, I find this an impossible quality of butter to gauge. Use what you’re comfortable with.

The cookie dough in this recipe was nearly impossible to roll. I am still trying to decide what aspect of the cookie chemistry is likely to be at fault here. I see two contenders – the butter and the flour. I’ll explain why both are on my “list” below, but I’ll state up front that I strongly suspect the flour over the butter.

The butter I used seems to have a rather different butter:water ratio than most supermarket butters. I honestly suspect it’s that it’s much higher in fat than typical butters, but I’m not sure. Unfortunately, for all that Pioneer Woman is my cooking idol, I just don’t know that much about butter. On the one hand, this stuff melts much more easily and quickly than just about any other butter I have, leading me to believe it’s higher in fat than typical butter. However, this stuff doesn’t go rancid as easily as other butters, and it’s the fat that goes rancid, so I wonder if it has more water than most butters1. Thinking on it, though, the greater time to rancidity may simply be the result of the butter being fresher, as it has traveled significantly less distance to my freezer than just about any other butter out there (pricey or not).

The flour is, in and of itself, unremarkable. The major reason I suspect the flour is that I suspect there isn’t nearly enough of it. Most doughs for rolling are quite stiff, and tend to call for a solid amount of flour. Indeed, a good rolling cookie can be hard to get right, because you want the stiffness of the gluten in the flour, but not the resulting toughness after the cookies have been baked. I am not sure, but I think this is why most rolling cookies call for chilling in the middle. Chilling the dough allows the baker to use less flour, as the butter should be solid coming out of the fridge (does this sound a bit like biscuits to anyone else?). Thus, the relative low amount of flour in this dough (especially for two dough balls) probably doesn’t result in a stiff enough dough.

If you combine the probable higher fat content of my butter with the surprisingly low flour content of the recipe, you get no pinwheels, because rolling the dough is NOT going to happen.

So, instead, I tore off equal sized chunks of each dough ball, and rolled them in my hands to get a swirled cookie. Because I figured these cookies would spread a good deal (based on the author’s request for 3″ between cookies), and are supposed to go from the fridge (roughly) to the oven, I then chilled the rolled cookies for a bit in the fridge. When I pulled them out, I put them on a cookie sheet and then flattened them (with my hand – I should have used the bottom of a glass) somewhat, to try to get back to the shape that the recipe baking time called for.

The cookies didn’t spread at all. So, that part above where it says to leave some room to spread out? In my (limited) experience, you don’t need to worry much about that. Furthermore, I did not notice the edges of these cookies changing color in any particular manner, so I would advise you to fall back on pulling the cookies out at the lowest amount of time required, then letting them cool on the cookie sheet for 2 – 5 minutes, then transfering to a wire rack.

h3. Consumption

In reality, though, I’d just tell you to give these cookies a pass. I am likely to make them again, in an attempt to solve some of the baking mysteries they present, but if you don’t like experimenting with baking (and I don’t think I know anyone personally who does), skip them.

Not only were they persnickety to cook, they just tasted bland in the “vanilla” parts of the cookie. The chocolate parts were quite nice, but I attribute that to buying rather good chocolate to melt into them.

Bill liked these cookies okay, but agreed that the vanilla part was lacking. Our friend Corrine spent the night at our house the day after I made these. She quite liked them at first, but when I asked about the vanilla part specifically, she agreed that it didn’t have much to it. Her 5-year-old son, however, liked them just fine.

So, in closing, ditch these cookies. They had the worst problem a cookie can have. They were boring!

fn1. Interestingly, everything I said in the “fat or water” debate up there results in the butter I used for this recipe being generally more awesome than supermarket butter. I think I’ll have to stock up more seriously. For people living in Chi-town, this butter was from the Amish (I believe) or Mennonite bakers who sell at the Daley Plaza Farmers’ Market. They’ve got a huge spread, and also sell cheeses that are fabulous. I can’t remember my Daley Plaza geography right now, but their stall is always on a street side, facing the street. I believe on LaSalle. The butter, when I bought it, is $8.75 for 2 lbs or $16 for 4 lbs. This is on par with the expensive cow’s butters at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or Dominick’s. I have not seen pricey butter elsewhere, so I cannot compare further. For reference, a pound of Kerrygold Irish Butter (not on sale) is $6 at Whole Foods, $3 at Trader Joe’s and $4 at Dominick’s. I don’t know the “regular” prices on store-brand butter, because I never bought it for full price. A freezer and a willingness to stock up allowed me to never buy store-brand butter for more than $2/lb, which is a substantial savings over farmers’ market butter, but is much less delicious.

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