Cinnamon Roll Cookies

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Its funny; I’ve made hundreds of holiday cookies, but I don’t think I’ve ever participated in an actual cookie swap. Not a single one.

You guys know what those are, right? Cookie swaps are sugar overload get-togethers where each of the attendants bakes up a large batch of cookies and brings them to share & ‘swap’ everyone else who’s brought their own recipe of cookies to the party. Everyone is supposed to bring a different type so that there’s as much variety as possible. Sometimes there will be recipe exchanges along with the cookies. Sometimes people will vote on which cookie at the swap is the best tasting.

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It’s probably just in my competitive nature but if I did actually go to a cookie swap, I would want MY cookies to be the favorite. If all of the cookies were laid out together on a platter, I’d want MINE to look the prettiest. I’d definitely have to win, which means that the cookies I took with me would A) Not only have to be delicious, but B) also be just as great to look at.

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Having said all of that, I can guarantee that of all the cookies I’ve baked–and there have been many–if I had to choose one recipe to bake and bring to a cookie swap, this one right here would be it. No question.

It more than delivers in the taste department, the details of which we’ll get to in a second. But first, can we talk about the presentation?

I mean, come on. They just LOOK like the perfect Christmas cookie, right?

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What we have here is a cream cheese buttery cookie dough that gets rolled out flat, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar then rolled up in a tight cylinder, cinnamon-roll style. Individual cookies are cut from the cylinders then baked until golden brown. The cookie’s texture is tender and slightly crisp; think somewhere in between a sandie and one of those butter cookies that come out of the blue tins. The orange zest in the dough gives a slight but pleasant citrusy after-taste to them that complements the cinnamon inside beautifully.

They’re really very delicious guys. They remind me of something that the Keebler company would mass produce and sell at Christmas.

Except Keebler didn’t make them. I did. And now you can too.

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Before I even made this recipe, I knew that I was going to have a trial-error experience with it. They were just too pretty NOT to run into some technical difficulties. Fortunately for you guys, you get to find out how to make them without having to make the same mistakes I did. Following my clear and pretty straight forward instructions should make it so that there’s no reason why your cinnamon roll cookies won’t turn out exactly like the ones you see in the pictures.

I’d say that the most important step to nailing this recipe is making sure that your dough is the right temperature, especially before rolling it up into the cylinders that you cut into the individual cookies. When I first made these, my dough was still too soft; I didn’t give it enough time to chill in the freezer so it tore and broke apart AFTER I had already sprinkled with the cinnamon sugar and was attempting to roll it.

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Not pretty. Not fun.

Don’t do that.

Let your dough chill out in the freezer long enough so that it can be rolled up just as easily as cinnamon roll dough can. If you use the freezer rather than the refrigerator, it shouldn’t take too long. Roll the cylinders up as tightly as you can; loose rolls make the swirls in the cookies spread wide and cause some of the filling to spill out. Let the rolled up cylinders chill out in the freezer long enough so that when you cut them into individual cookies, the rolls don’t deflate.

If you keep this dough as chilled and firm as possible, it’ll be good to you. Promise. And, you’ll be the star of any cookie swap party, that’s for sure.

(Still more to come in our 12 Days of Christmas baking series. Stay tuned.)

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Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

 

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Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Taste of Home

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/4 cups butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 4-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Directions

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

In a  medium bowl or container, mix the flour together with the baking powder, yeast and salt.

In a large bowl of a standing mixer, use the whisk attachment to cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla extract and grated orange peel.

Gently add the flour mixture, about 1 cup at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula periodically to ensure it’s mixed thoroughly.

Divide the dough into four portions. Freeze them for about 2o-minutes, until they are relatively firm.

Sprinkle a sheet of wax or parchment paper with flour. Using a rolling pin (or your hands) roll or pat each dough portion into an 8 x 6 rectangle. Sprinkle with two heaping tablespoons of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up as tightly as you can, jelly-roll style (it was easier for me to roll it up by the short side rather than the long one). Wrap each roll in plastic wrap and place back in the freezer for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the dough crosswise in about 3/8 inch slices. Place them about 1 inch apart on greased baking sheets (or lined with parchment paper). Bake 8-10 minutes or until light brown on the bottoms. Allow to set on the baking sheet for about 60 seconds before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

(Note: No one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

Pumpkin Crunch Tart

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For the second day of our Christmas series, I thought I’d start out this post with a small confession: I had never once tried a pumpkin pie until one year ago, at Thanksgiving.

I dunno why exactly. It could be because our family has ALWAYS been sweet potato pie eaters and although the two aren’t the same, it is typically a kind of  thing that most between choose between rather than having both. Most pumpkin pie also has a different flavor profile than sweet potato pie;  not only does it have a different texture, the spices also tend to pack more of a punch.

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For a while, the latter was the reason that I never really tried or thought it was even worth my while to try pumpkin pie. For most of my life, I was used to the sweeter, less spicy flavor of my grandmother’s sweet potato pie. Although I’d been using pumpkin spice in other baked goods,  pumpkin pie remained the final frontier that I hadn’t tried. It’s not like I thought I would HATE it, I just had the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mindset and stuck to my tried and true sweet potato pie.

This year however, I was feeling a bit more adventurous.

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If I had to give one qualm I have with not only pumpkin pie, but (yes) even sweet potato pie and smooth custard/cream pies in general, it’s that they often lack a textural component to break up that ‘smoothness’ and not have it be so one note. I don’t really go for those super thick and high cream pies that make you bite through two inches of cream and still you’re not really end up ‘chewing’ anything. I could go for something crunchy or a least with a small amount of texture to contrast it. It’s really that idea of wanting to try pumpkin pie with texture that inspired this recipe. I found and used a pumpkin pie recipe that I trusted (Bobby Flay has never let me down yet) and modified it to suit my purposes.

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Altogether this a SOLID dessert guys. The crust is an easy and far less labor intensive one than typical homemade pie crust and it will taste much better than a pre-made one you bought at a store. Use a good gingersnap though; one you would want to eat all on it’s own. If gingersnaps aren’t your thing, you can definitely use graham crackers too though. The filling is what I think a good pumpkin pie should be; there’s a good balance of deep caramel flavor from the molasses and brown sugar and spiciness of the seasoning. What’s more, letting it chill in the fridge overnight gives the spices enough time to really soak into the pumpkin puree so that the flavor is as pronounced as possible. I think the thing that makes this pie really special is the addition of the cinnamon crunch topping that gets sprinkled on top just before eating. It reminds me of a crunchy, spicy oatmeal cookie and it provides the perfect textural contrast that I think these kind of pies so desperately need so that you’re not eating soft and mushy on soft and mushy.

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Another thing, I said this in the recipe itself, but I’ll go ahead and say it again here. I know that most people don’t have rectangle tart pans (or any tart pans at all) just sitting around their kitchen–not unless you’re a baking fiend with an addiction to bakeware (like someone I know). That’s fine. This recipe will absolutely work in a 9 or 10 inch pie dish, you’ll probably just have an excess of crust that you don’t have to use, and you’ll need to increase your baking time in the oven.

Look y’all, when I took my first bite of this pie warmed up with a smattering of whipped cream, I just had to sigh and give The Head Shake. You know which one I mean. The one you give when what you’re eating is almost TOO delicious. It was absurdly good.

(And yes, in case you were wondering). Just as good as sweet potato pie.

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Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Recipe Adapted from Bobby Flay

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Ingredients

For Cinnamon Crunch

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, cold

For Crust

  • 3 cups ginger snap crumbs (I used Trader Joe’s gingersnaps)
  • 10 tablespoons (1 stick, plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

For Pie Filling

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree (NOT the mix)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus more for the top
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Whipped cream, for serving

Directions

For Cinnamon Crunch: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor, and process a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until combined. Pat the mixture evenly into a 4-inch square on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and crisp, about 15-20 minutes. Remove and let cool. Transfer to a cutting board and chop into small pieces. Set aside.

For Filling: Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, both sugars, and molasses together in a medium bowl. Mix in pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Whisk in the heavy cream, milk, and vanilla extract. Either strain the mixture through a coarse strainer into a bowl, or give it a good blending in your blender, about 7-5 seconds. Whisk in the butter. Chill overnight in the refrigerator to allow flavors and spices to properly meld.

For Crust: Grease an 8 x 11 1/2 rectangular  tart pan*. combine the ginger snap crumbs, butter, and cinnamon in a bowl and mix until combined. Press evenly onto the bottom and sides of tart pan. Brush with the beaten egg. Bake until light golden brown and firm, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

For Assembly: Place the tart pan on a baking sheet, pour the pumpkin mixture into the shell, (don’t overfill, it’s ok if you have some leftover) and sprinkle additional cinnamon over the top. Bake until the filling is set around edges but the center still jiggles slightly when shaken, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Cut tart into slices and top with cinnamon crunch and whipped cream. Refrigerate leftover slices.

(*This recipe can also be made in a 9 inch and 10 inch pie dish. The tart pan was just my preference. Also, using a tart pan will almost definitely guarantee you’ll have leftover filling.)

 

Stuffing Bread

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Goodness. Has it been a year already since we did this? Time flies.

If you’re a new follower and are wondering what ‘this’ is, then allow me to fill you in. ‘This’ is the day that we’ll be starting the annual 12 Days of Christmas series on Cooking is My Sport: a series of 12 days of 12 recipes of Christmas themed goodies that I dump on you guys in rapid succession that are specifically designed to make you hungry for carbs/sugar/Christmas cheer. Because I find that is in one of my especially strong skill sets.

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There will (of course) be plenty of cookies and other sweets to come in the following days, but I also wanted to try and incorporate some other types of baked goods into the series as well. Yummy Christmas food comes in sweet AND savory packages. Case in point,  today’s recipe.

We’re coming right off the heels of Thanksgiving where a lot of people cook/eat abundant amounts of stuffing and/or dressing. Our family makes dressing (the stuff you cook all on its own in a separate baking dish, a very safe distance away from the raw, uncooked bird), and we like to eat it at both Thanksgiving AND Christmas. It just wouldn’t be the holidays without it.

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Whether you’re on Team Dressing or Team Stuffing, chances are you’re fond of at least a core set of flavors and ingredients that can be found in both (if they’re any go0d anyway). A lot of times, bread is crumbled and these ingredients and flavors are added TO it along with some egg and chicken broth to moisten it before it gets baked into a kind of casserole.

But what would happen if those flavors and ingredients were mixed together to MAKE a scratch made yeast bread?

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This. This is what would happen. And now that I’ve got your attention, I’ll elaborate. What you’re looking at is a whole wheat loaf of bread that I flavored with poultry seasoning, then rolled up with ingredients meant to remind you of the taste of stuffing and/or dressing: sage, celery, onion, browned sausage and cranberries.

I initially saw this bread on King Arthur Flour as a pull apart bread, similar to Monkey Bread where people can tear off chunks. However, in my rendition, I decided to go a little bit of a different route as I thought there could be some problems with the overall construction of the dough and keeping the filling from just collecting in pools between balls of dough–which could get particularly icky when it comes to baking sausage that will probably leak excess grease (even after you drain it)

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So, my idea of ensuring that I had a loaf that would still rise and bake without falling apart was to see if I could take a similar shaping method that was done for the Pane Bianco I did a while ago and apply it here. The dough is rolled out into a large rectangle, the filling is spread out, then the dough is tightly rolled up into a log. That log is split open, then turned inside out to reveal the layers created by the rolling–which, creates a very pretty presentation if I may say so myself. You’ll get huge kudos and props for a process that is actually fairly simple.

Oh, and I mentioned how delicious this stuff is, didn’t I? No? Oh, well yeah: it’s amazing. Using whole wheat flour as the base creates a nutty flavor of the dough that’s nicely complimented by the herbs from the sage, the savory meaty flavor of the sausage and the sweetness of the cranberries. They all balance one another so well. We ate this loaf both for Thanksgiving and warmed up for a few seconds in the microwave for breakfast in the days that followed and were VERY happy campers. I think that you and your wolfpack will be too should you choose to bake them a loaf.

Linking up this recipe to Fiesta Friday #148, cohosted this week by  Linda @ La Petite Paniere and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Stay tuned for more recipes to come in the 12 Days of Christmas; we’re just getting started!

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Stuffing Bread

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour 

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Ingredients

For Dough

  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

For Filling

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups celery, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onion
  • 3/4 cup cooked pork breakfast sausage
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer, sprinkle the instant yeast on top of the milk. Sprinkle sugar on top of yeast and allow to sit for about 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the onion powder, dried thyme, poultry seasoning, salt and flour. Set aside.

Using the dough hook attachment, add the flour mixture alternately with the butter in the standing mixer. Knead for about 8-10 minutes until you have a smooth dough that no longer sticks to sides of bowl.

Grease bowl with cooking spray or oil, place dough back inside, cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel and allow to rise until doubled in size about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, make filling: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and onions, and cook until the vegetables are softened. Remove from the heat and add the sausage, chopped sage, poultry seasoning, and cranberries. Cool to lukewarm, then stir in the eggs. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble: Gently deflate the dough. Flatten and pat it into an about 22 x 8 1/2 rectangle.  Sprinkle sausage/cranberry filling over dough, leaving about 1 inch of a border clear the top.

Starting with one long edge, roll the dough into a log the long way, away from you. Pinch the edges to seal. Place the log seam-side down on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

Using kitchen shears, start 1/2 inch from one end and cut the log lengthwise down the center about 1 inch deep, to within 1/2 inch of the other end. Keeping the cut side up, form an “S” shape. Tuck both ends under the center of the “S” to form a “figure 8;” pinch the ends together to seal.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, 45 to 60 minutes. While the loaf is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Uncover the bread, and bake it for 30 to 35 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 to 25 minutes to prevent over-browning.

Remove the bread from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Store, well-wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days; refrigerate or freeze for longer storage.