As much as I’d like to, I can never generate enough enthusiasm among my local friends to have a cookie swap. You know, the kind where you have a party, and each guest brings cookies, usually one dozen for each other guest, and everyone shares and brings home a variety of home-baked goodness. I’d really love to host one, but everyone is always too busy this time of year.
As a consolation, for the past two years, I’ve attended the Boston Food Swap’s annual cookie swap. For that event, you bring as many cookies as you want, which get set out on tables with a tag telling you what kind of cookie it is. Every gets a large container and when it’s time, you can fill your container. In addition, this swap benefits Cookies for Kids Cancer because a donation is made for every cookie swapped. These swaps were fun, but I felt sort of old for the crowd.
This year, I’m trying something new. As recommended by my French Friday friend Christy, the Culinary Diva, I joined The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. This swap also benefits Cookies for Kids Cancer. It’s like a mini-house party, but by mail.
I decided to bake Winter Fruit and Nut Swirls. These start with a sweet and sticky filling made with a variety of dried fruits and nuts. Mixing up holidays, it’s actually my great-grandmother’s recipe for Hamentashen filling, but it’s good for so many different things. Here, I make a cream cheese dough, spread it with the filling, roll it into logs, and slice and bake. The pinwheel shape along with the dried fruit filling make these cookies feel festive to me. I also really like how light and flaky the dough turns out once baked.
Creamed butter, cream cheese and sugar
Dough spread with filling, ready to roll
Logs Rolled in Sugar
Baked and Ready to Send
Winter Fruit and Nut Swirls
Makes 6 dozen
Adapted from this recipe from the gone-but-still-missed Gourmet magazine
2 cups Winter Fruit and Nut Filling (see below)
3½ cups flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature (light cream cheese is fine)
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
Raw sugar (such as turbinado or demerara) to coat cookie logs, about ½ cup
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl. In a stand mixer, using the paddle, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and egg and combine well. Add dry ingredient mixture, and mix at low speed until just combined.
Divide the dough into four pieces. Flatten each into a rectangle, wrap in plastic, and chill until firm, at least an hour.
Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll out the dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper into a rectangle about 7×9-inches, about 1/3-inch thick. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper and trim the edges of the rectangle so the sides are straight. Using ½ cup of filling, drop it in spoonfuls onto the dough then use an offset spatula to spread it evenly, leaving a ¼-inch border on all sides. Starting from the long side, roll up the dough like a jelly roll into a log. Roll the log in raw sugar to coat well. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. Wrap each log in waxed paper, and chill until firm, at least 4 hours.
When logs are firm, preheat the oven to 350F. Cut logs into 1/3-inch slices and arrange them 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake until pale golden, about 18 to 20 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through baking.
Winter Fruit and Nut Filling
1 navel orange
½ lb pitted prunes
¼ lb golden raisins
¼ lb dried apricots
¼ lb walnuts
¼ lb pecans
¼ lb almonds
½ cup honey
To remove the wax from the citrus, boil some water and pour it over the fruit, then scrub with a clean brush. Juice half of the lemon and half of the orange. Measure the juice and add water to make ½ cup of liquid. Transfer the liquid to a medium saucepan. Add the prunes, raisins, and apricots to the saucepan. Heat gently and stew the fruit for about 5 minutes. Drain the fruit, but reserve the liquid in case the filling is too thick.
Coarsely chop the remaining lemon half and orange half. Remove any seeds. Transfer chopped lemon and orange and the drained dried fruit to a large bowl. Add the nuts and honey. Toss to combine. Now, in batches, transfer the mixture to a food processor, and pulse until the mixture is not completely smooth, but not chunky either. (My grandmother said it should be the texture of chopped liver, if that doesn’t gross you out.)
This makes more than you need for one batch of cookies. It freezes well for another time.
A few tips:
- The dough, even after it’s chilled, can be quite sticky. Definitely use the waxed paper. I tried less successfully with parchment paper and plastic wrap.
- It seems fussy, but I after rolling out the dough into a rough rectangle, I trim it so all the sides are straight. Doing this results in a rolled up log with a more uniform shape.
- If you like the dough, you can make a different sort of cookie by using a thick jam or preserves instead. Just don’t spread it too close to the edges or it will ooze out and make a mess. Leave a border closer to ½ inch.
- If you like the filling, it’s great in these buckwheat scones.
- If you halve the dough recipe, use an egg yolk in place of ½ of an egg.
I sent my cookies to Ruthie at the tasty tRuth, Jamie at Jamie’s Recipes, and Mindy at Cheater Chef. I hope you all enjoyed my version of holiday cheer.
In my mailbox (well, outside my front door), I was happy to receive three different kinds of delicious cookies. First to arrive was a tin of Cashew-Cashew Cookies from my French Friday friend Guyla at Clementines and Cocktails. The next day, I received gluten-free Tahini Nutterbutters from Melissa at Corbin in the Dell and gluten and refined sugar-free Gingerdoodles from Andrea (Dre) at Delicious by Dre. I can’t wait for their posts to get the recipes so I can make more cookies for myself.
If you are interested in participating in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap next year, you can sign up for notifications here. Many thanks to Lindsay at Love & Olive Oil and Julie at The Little Kitchen for putting together this fun virtual party! Let the cookie season continue!