Chocolate & Vanilla Pinwheel Cookies
For some reason, I’ve always been fascinated by checkerboard cookies. Just seeing the alternating chocolate and vanilla checkers baked into a cookie was pretty cool. Then not too long ago, I started seeing checkerboard cakes. I’ve even seen these fancy contraptions you can buy to make checkerboard cakes. I always figured that trying to get a checkerboard design into a cookie or cake had to be really difficult. I’d looked at recipes previously and given up on even giving it a try because it seemed way too precise for me.
Along the lines of checkerboard cookies, I’ve always thought that any sort of cookie that combined both chocolate and vanilla dough in any format was pretty neat. Ok, so it might not be as complicated or precise or pretty as checkerboard cookies, but the visual appeal of trying to combine two different cookie doughs was pretty intriguing to me. Last month, as I was checking my email, I saw that I had received a newsletter from Land O’ Lakes titled “Homemade Goodies” with a large picture of what they called “Chocolate Almond Swirls.” I immediately said to my husband, “I’ve always wanted to make these!” I’m sure he thought that this was another one of my crazy ideas. However, after having checked the recipe, I realized that I actually could make these and that even though they looked complicated, the steps didn’t seem all that difficult. So, I set out to make my version of these cookies, which became chocolate & vanilla pinwheel cookies.
Let’s start with the ingredients: all purpose flour, granulated white sugar, egg (not pictured), salt, baking powder, baking soda, vegetable oil, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and butter.
The first step is to put all of the dry ingredients together. Start with all purpose flour into a bowl. I didn’t sift my dry ingredients together, but if you’re afraid of lumps of flour, etc. then you should sift everything.
The next ingredient is baking powder. Baking powder is a common ingredient in a lot of baked goods such as cookies, muffins, cakes and biscuits. Essentially, baking powder is a chemical leavening agent that helps baked goods to rise and lighten in texture by releasing carbon dioxide gas when combined into a wet mixture thereby expanding and leavening the mixture. Often times, in baked goods, baking powder is used in place of yeast where fermentation flavors would be an undesirable end result.
With baking powder, baking soda is also added to the dry ingredients. Baking soda is generally used as a leavening agent, when used in cooking, much the same way baking powder is. However, the use of both baking powder and baking soda together in a recipe generally indicates that the baking soda is used more as an agent to neutralize acid within the batter. In this case, it will react with the cocoa powder that we add later to neutralize that acid. A little bit of salt is also added into the dry ingredients. The salt helps to bring out the sweetness in the cookie.
Now that the dry ingredients have been combined together, its time to start working on the wet ingredients. Begin by combining softened, room temperature butter with sugar in a stand mixer. Start the stand mixer on medium power and cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly, ensuring that the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. This step is very important. By using a stand mixer to cream together the butter and sugar, essentially what you are doing is whipping air into your butter/sugar mixture. The air you add to your batter at this stage is important because this is the only opportunity you have to get air into the cookie dough. It’s the air bubbles that are added in this step that react with the baking powder and baking soda in your dry ingredients. The baking powder and baking soda help to add volume and texture and leaven out the air bubbles in the batter, but they don’t add air to the batter. So, if you don’t add enough air to the batter during the creaming process, your cookies will never rise.
Once the butter and sugar have been creamed, it’s time to add one whole egg and some vanilla extract. Originally, the recipe I was using called for almond extract, but I’m not the biggest fan of almond extract. I didn’t want something that tasted like marzipan, so I decided to substitute for vanilla extract instead. I have also seen a different variation of this cookie made with peppermint extract and crushed candy cane pieces made during Christmas time. Essentially, it seems like you can add whatever extract flavor that floats your boat!
The wet ingredients are done now, and they are ready to be combined with the dry ingredients. Turn the stand mixer down to the lowest speed and slow incorporate the dry ingredients into the bowl of the stand mixer. You want to do this slowly, in batches, or else you’ll end up with a puff of flour all over you and not in the bowl. Add the dry ingredients a cup or so at a time, and allow them to fully incorporate before adding the next batch of dry ingredients. Keep doing this until all of the dry ingredients have been mixed together with the wet ingredients.
You’re now done with the vanilla dough for the cookie. Once all the dry ingredients have come together, the dough should form. But you’re only halfway done with this recipe since you need to make both vanilla and chocolate dough. At this point, separate out half of the dough in your stand mixer and remove it to a separate bowl.
It’s now time to work on turning the half of the dough you’ve left in the bowl of the stand mixer from vanilla dough to chocolate dough. In order to achieve that, you’ll need a little bit of vegetable oil and some unsweetened cocoa powder. Start by turning the stand mixer back on low, add about a tablespoon of vegetable oil. The vegetable oil will create a bit of moisture for the vanilla dough and will allow the unsweetened cocoa powder you’re about to add stick and form chocolate dough. We use vegetable oil because it’s basically flavorless. When the vegetable oil has been added, its time to add the unsweetened cocoa powder. You need to make sure its unsweetened or else your cookies will come out too rich and sweet as there’s already sugar in the cookie dough itself.
Mix everything together until you now have chocolate dough. Alright, almost there. Your vanilla dough is done and set aside, the chocolate dough is now done.
From here, you’ll need to take the chocolate dough you have and split it in half. Take half the chocolate dough and lay it out on a lightly floured surface. You need to work the chocolate dough into a flat rectangle about 8 inches long and 5 inches wide. I rolled mine out a little too long and wide which made the dough thin and hard to handle later on. Once the chocolate dough is rolled out, set it aside. Take the vanilla dough you set aside earlier and take half of it and roll it out to the same exact dimensions of the chocolate dough.
Take your chocolate dough and place it right on top of the vanilla dough. Press the chocolate down firmly onto of the vanilla so that they “stick” together. You can also lightly brush some water onto the vanilla dough before you put the chocolate dough on top so that it helps it stick.
Starting with the long side of the dough closest to you, start rolling the dough into a log away from you. You’ll should end up with a long log where the vanilla dough is on the outside and you don’t see the chocolate dough at all. This is where the pinwheel design will come from. You want your log to be in as nice of a circle shape as you can get it so that when you cut it and bake it later, it looks pretty. You can see what I meant earlier about rolling out the dough too thin when I made this. It made it difficult for me to roll out and keep in shape, so you can see from the picture above that some of the chocolate dough is peeking through.
Wrap your log in plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for 2-3 hours in order to allow the dough to set. You can’t just cut the slices from the log now and bake it, it’s too soft and will fall apart in the oven. You need to refrigerate it so that the butter inside your dough hardens and the dough sets. At this point, you could refrigerate the log in the plastic wrap for weeks, or even freeze the log until you want to use it in the future.
When you are ready, take the log which has set out of the refrigerator (or freezer). Start slicing your cookie dough into about 1/2″ round circles. You can see how the vanilla and chocolate pinwheel shapes have come together.
Lay the slices out on an ungreased cookie sheet with enough room for them to spread out. If I had not rolled my dough out too long , when I rolled the log, my log would have been rounder and fatter rather than being long and narrow. So, when I cut the cookie slices, I ended up with small round cookies, rather than large round cookies the way cookies should be. Next time, I’ll have to adjust when I make this again.
The cookies need to bake in a pre-heated oven for 5 to 8 minutes, no longer. As soon as you see that the bottom of the cookie has turned light brown, take it out of the oven and immediately transfer it to a cooling rack to allow it to cool. These cookies burn quickly, so keep an eye out on them. After the cookies have cooked, you’ll have delicious tasting vanilla and chocolate pinwheel cookies. Not only will they taste good, they’ll look amazing as well. It’s a bit of a time-consuming, multi-step process, but when the cookies come out of the oven, you’ll realize that all the time and effort you put into making them was well worth it!