I discovered one of my now-favorite Christmas cookies in the 2010 edition of America’s Test Kitchen Holiday Cookies. I tried many of the recipes in that edition, some failures and some successes, but this one stood out. I could make the dough ahead of time, something that really helps when making a large number of cookies.
Some of the cookies I make for Christmas are elaborate — chocolate cookies with homemade caramel, carefully decorated sugar cookies, chocolate-dipped mint cookies — so I need a couple that are less involved. These Cinnamon Swirls were exactly what I wanted. They’re simple, beautiful and tasty, what you might call a triple threat in the world of baking. They’re like a sweet shortbread, one with cream cheese mixed into the dough; and the cinnamon not only adds a bit of spice, but a nice design as well.
One thing to note when making these is to make sure to roll them tight enough. On my first attempt a couple years ago, the rolls were too loose, so there were gaps in the baked cookies. Be sure to refrigerate the dough for the proper amount of time, too, because they’ll spread out too much if the dough is at room temperature before it goes in the oven.
I really do love this recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup super-fine sugar, plus 3 tablespoons for filling
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened
2 tablespoons cream cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
With electric mixer on low speed, combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt, and butter, and mix until crumbly and slightly wet, 2 minutes. Add cream cheese and vanilla and mix until dough just begins to form. Finish kneading dough by hand to form large cohesive mass. Divide into 2 disks of dough, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Whisk remaining sugar and cinnamon together. Roll one disk between two large sheets of parchment paper to a 12-by-7-inch rectangle. Remove the top layer of parchment and sprinkle dough with half of the cinnamon-sugar, leaving a 1/4-inch border along the edges. Spritz the filling with water, and roll dough into a 7-inch log, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about two hours. Repeat with remaining dough and cinnamon-sugar.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place rack in the middle position. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Trim the edges of each log, then cut each log crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart. Bake until edges are golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes, switching baking sheets halfway through baking time. Cool 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.