Icebox cookies are some of my favorites to make, but especially at the holidays.
The dough is typically very no-fuss with simple, classic flavors. With icebox cookies, you can make a rather large quantity at one time rather than having to space them out on a baking sheet. The texture is also usually crisp and short, so they also keep/ship very well.
For those that have never made them before, icebox cookie dough is shaped into a log, then that log is kept refrigerated (thus, the icebox part) and cookies get sliced off from the log and baked as needed/wanted. As a simple cookie, they typically also look pretty simple, but there are variations that get a little (and sometimes, a lot) creative with the presentation; this is one of my favorite preferences/approaches to take.
The simplicity and structure of ice box cookie dough allows for it to be ‘played with’ in the sense that although the texture of the cookie will remain the same, the look can be adjusted to numerous possibilities. I’ve experimented with some of them in past recipes on the blog, like here with Checkerboard Cookies, and even before at the holidays with Vanilla-Red Pinwheels.
Going into this year, I knew I wanted to take another stab at an icebox ‘shaped’ cookie, and these seemed like the perfect new variation to try. Whereas the shaped icebox cookies I made before have either been a vanilla-chocolate or a vanilla-red velvet combination, this time the flavor combo is a vanilla cookie with a pecan flavored one.
Shaped icebox cookies tend to look a lot more elaborate and difficult to make then they actually are, and that applies here too. As I said in the past, the only real ‘trick’ to pulling them off successfully is knowing the right temperature/feel of the cookie doughs when the time comes to assemble/ roll the two together into the desired shape. If it’s too cold, it will crack. Too warm, and it will be extremely difficult to handle and keep it’s shape. Once you find the happy medium dough temperature, they’re a cinch.
And I can also personally confirm that the results, both visual and taste-wise are SO worth the labor involved.
Day 8: Pecan Pinwheel Cookies
Pecan Pinwheel Cookies
- 1⅔ cups, plus 1½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon baking powder, divided
- ½ cup pecan pieces, toasted*
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened and divided
- ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs, divided
- 2½ teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup finely chopped pecans
- ¼ cup turbinado sugar
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1½ cups flour, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon baking powder. Set aside.
In the work bowl of a food processor, place pecan pieces and 2 tablespoons flour mixture; pulse until pecans are finely ground. (If you don’t have a food processor, you can do what
I did and place the pecan pieces in a resealable plastic bag and smash them with a rolling pin until they are finely ground). Add pecan mixture to remaining flour mixture, whisking to combine.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat ½ cup (113 grams) butter and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Add 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla, beating until combined. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour-pecan mixture to butter mixture, beating until combined. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, and shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Clean bowl of stand mixer and paddle attachment. Using the paddle attachment, beat granulated sugar and remaining ½ cup (113 grams) butter at medium speed until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Add 1 egg and remaining 1½ teaspoons vanilla, beating until combined.
In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 1⅔ cups flour, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and remaining ½ teaspoon baking powder. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating until combined. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, and shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Let doughs stand at room temperature until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. On a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, roll vanilla dough into a 14×10-inch rectangle (⅛ inch thick). Transfer dough on parchment to a baking sheet. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Repeat procedure with pecan dough.
Transfer vanilla dough on parchment to a flat surface. Carefully invert pecan dough on top of vanilla dough. Between sheets of parchment, gently roll over doughs a few times to press together. Peel away top sheet of parchment. Starting at one long side, roll dough into a log, using bottom sheet of parchment to help lift and roll. (If dough cracks, stop rolling, and let stand for a few minutes until pliable.) Be sure to roll doughs together as tightly as possible to avoid gaps. Trim any pecan dough if uneven after rolling. Tightly wrap in parchment paper, twisting ends of parchment to seal. Transfer to a baking sheet, seam side down. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or freeze until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 325°F (170°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, whisk remaining 1 egg (50 grams). In another small bowl, stir together chopped pecans and turbinado sugar. Pour onto a piece of parchment paper. Brush log with egg wash, and roll in pecan sugar. Roll back and forth a few times so sugar sticks to log. Using a sharp knife, cut log into ½-inch-thick slices. Place about 1 inch apart on prepared pans.
Bake until edges are just beginning to turn golden, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Let cool completely on pans. Store in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks.
Notes: *To toast pecans in the oven, preheat oven to 350°F and spread pecans in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. When the oven is ready, bake the nuts until lightly browned and fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. Remember that nuts continue to cook even after they have been removed from the oven, so don’t hesitate to pull them from the oven once they begin to change color. Once the nuts are warm but not too hot to handle, chop as desired. Nuts are still slightly soft when they’re still warm, so this will make cleaner cuts than if you wait to chop them when the nuts are cool and brittle.
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.