Date Pinwheel Cookies
Oh, how I love a good date at Christmastime! Snowy walks under holiday lights, candlelight dinners and even cheesy romance movies warm my heart. But today, I am talking about dried fruit! More specifically, these mesmerizingly beautiful Date Pinwheel Cookies.
Brown sugar dough is layered with a rich, date filling and rolled to create a stunning spiral cookie. The most difficult thing about this recipe is timing. Patience is required AND rewarded!
What Do Dates Taste Like?
If you have never had a date (not getting personal here … still referring to the dried fruit), I would describe it as a caramel-molasses flavor with a chewy, velvety texture. High in fiber, magnesium and antioxidants, these super sweet fruits provide a low glycemic impact on your diet. Delicious on their own, dates have a wide appeal in sweet and savory dishes. To read more about dates, click here for an interesting and informative article.
Tips For Perfect Date Pinwheel Cookies
There are two ingredients in this recipe that may be a bit unfamiliar to you: dates and lard. Both are readily available in some form at most grocery stores. Shelf-stable lard can be found with the baking/cooking oils and shortenings. I have found a meat locker in our area that sells rendered lard in small buckets, which I keep in my freezer (removing only as much as I need for a particular recipe).
Dates will be near the dried fruits, like raisins. For best results, choose the whole, pitted dates over the chopped variety. If you can find Medjool dates, they are worth the extra money. I have found them to be softer and have less of their sugars crystalized which helps them to dissolve more easily when making the cookie filling.
More important than the type of date you use is setting aside the time to make these cookies in stages. Here is an ideal schedule for success:
Day 1 (morning): cook filling, cool to room temperature and chill for at least 4 hours
Day 1 (morning): mix up cookie dough and chill for at least 4 hours
Day 1 (evening): roll out dough, spread with filling, roll into logs and freeze overnight
Day 2: slice and bake cookies
Although this may seem tedious, it is actually quite convenient. Working in stages allows life to go on between steps. If you make the filling and the dough but don’t have time to move on to rolling them into logs, they can wait another day in the refrigerator. If you make and freeze the rolls but don’t have time to bake the cookies, they will be waiting for you in the freezer until you do have time. In fact, the rolls can stay in the freezer and you can slice and bake a pan or two whenever you want fresh, warm cookies!
Grandma Would Be Proud
Like most kids, when choosing a cookie or two from a tray filled with a variety of Christmas cookies, I was not likely to choose the ones with dried fruit, nuts or spices. Give my young self the chocolate, frosted and/or sprinkled cookies every time. I still love all of those but I find I am also drawn to the earthy, warm flavors of the cookies my German grandmothers made. Raisins, pecans, cinnamon, ginger, walnuts … what I like to call the “browns” of Christmas.
When I first started baking Christmas cookies on my own, it was important to me to be able to make the recipes of my grandmothers. After many phone conversations with my mom and notes taken, I am confident enough in making these recipes that I can share them. These Date Pinwheel Cookies took some practice but I think I have added some valuable details and tips to the recipe to bring you success.
Another reason I love making these pinwheels is to make my mom happy. Every single time I share some with her, she gets very excited, tells me how beautiful they are and that my grandma would be so proud. Worth it every single time!
Other Christmastime “Brown” Cookie Recipes
If you are interested in browsing more “brown” cookie recipes for Christmas, here are a few of my favorites:
Does fudge fall into the warm, earthy flavors? Maybe not. But chocolate IS technically brown. I know you’ll love it.
Date Pinwheel Cookies
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 1/4 cups chopped pitted dates
- 1/2 cup margarine softened
- 1/2 cup lard softened
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 4 cups flour
- Combine water and sugar in saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until sugar is dissolved.
- Stir in chopped dates and return to a simmer. Continue stirring until filling thickens. Remove from heat when most of the date pieces have broken down.
- Allow filling to cool, stirring occasionally. When filling has reached room temperature, cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours.
- Cream margarine, lard and brown sugar with a mixer.
- Add eggs, one at a time, incorporating into creamed mixture after each addition.
- Sprinkle salt, baking soda and one cup of flour over batter and mix until fully incorporated. Add remaining flour, one cup at a time until well mixed.
- Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours.
- Divide cookie dough in two equal parts. Return one half to the refrigerator and place the other half on a lightly floured surface and shape into an oval. Lift from the surface, brush a little more flour underneath and turn dough over.
- Using a rolling pin, roll dough into a 9"x13"x1/2" rectangle.
- Spread half of the filing on the dough, stopping 1" away from one long side.
- Starting on the opposite long side, gently lift and roll the dough into a spiral. Use the edge without filing to create a seal.
- Wrap the roll in plastic wrap and place in the freezer.
- Repeat with second half of dough and filling.
- Freeze rolls overnight.
Cutting and Baking
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Remove one roll from the freezer. Cut in half and return one half to the freezer. Cut the remaining half into slices about 1/3" to 1/2" thick. Place on cookie sheets that have been lined with parchment paper, leaving at least one inch between cookies. Gently reshape into circles if necessary.
- Bake for 15-17 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.