A Different Kind of Stuffing...

Home cooks the nation over are spending this week in a mad dash to prepare what is arguably the most important meal of the year -- Thanksgiving dinner. Luckily for me, because our family travels for the holiday, I am always largely off the hook for the preparation of the turkey and its requisite side dishes. However, with my reputation as a baker comes the assignment of bringing baked goods to the Dad's family's annual potluck dinner. Last year, I brought an assortment of family and personal favorites, but this year I felt like bringing something unexpected to the Thanksgiving table.

Given their popularity among those I shared them with, I whipped up a another batch of lemon poppy seed cookies, but I also wanted to capture some of the flavors of the season. Anything with pumpkin or traditional fall spices seemed like overkill in light of all the pie that would be on offer at the gathering, so I turned to a recipe I'd run across in a Better Homes and Gardens cookie anthology I'd impulse-purchased from the check-out line at the grocery store. The allure of these cookies was two-fold: they featured cranberry and orange, the classic combination found in cranberry relish, and they were pinwheel cookies -- a genre with which I had not yet experimented. Plus, I had cranberries hiding away in the freezer, and nothing beats the convenience of a recipe for which you already have all the necessary ingredients.

Amazingly, despite having to make a filling, roll out dough, and chill it overnight, it seemed like the cookies came together with relative ease. Although I don't make them often (in fact, I don't think I've made any since I started blogging over a year and a half ago), I really appreciate the slice-and-bake ease of icebox cookies, and being able to prepare these cookies in advance and bake them at my leisure greatly eased some of the stress of what has been a busy, over-scheduled week. I think they're perfect for any harried holiday baker, and the flavors of the finished product were spot on. They were reminiscent of the season without being a cliche. If you're looking for something a bit unexpected this Christmas, I would seriously consider baking a batch of these.

Cranberry Orange Pinwheels
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

1 c. cranberries
1 c. pecans
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
zest of one orange
3 c. all-purpose flour

1. For filling, in a food processor combine cranberries, pecans, and brown sugar. Cover and process until cranberries and nuts are finely chopped. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter on medium high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined, scrapping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs and orange peel until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can. Stir in any remaining flour by hand. Divide dough in half. Cover and chill dough about 1 hour until easy to handle.
3. Roll half of the dough between two pieces of wax paper into a 10-inch square. Spread half of the filling over dough, leaving a half-inch border around the edges. Roll up dough. Moisten edges and pinch to seal. Wrap log in plastic wrap or wax paper. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Chill about 4 hours, until firm.
4. Preheat oven to 375. Using a sharp knife, cut logs into 1/4 inch rounds. Place slices 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are light brown. Let stand for 1 minute on cookie sheet, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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