Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Warming Up

Well, this year may not be the coldest winter on record. In fact, it's a balmy 5°C right now - on December 22! In Toronto at least, the "honour" of cold days goes to January 4, 1981 when it hit −44.7°C (−48.5°F). But it is still winter. I'm not going outside anytime soon in a T-shirt and shorts, and while I'm glad we're not digging ourselves out of mountains of snow I still get the yearning to embrace the "come in from the cold" activities of cocoa and cookies after an afternoon of tobogganing.

Thankfully cookies and cocoa are not overly dependent on sub-zero temperatures for enjoyment. I brought a bit of internal comfort to the mint-chilled stomachers of yesterday's cookies with some tiny, spicy versions of my favourite "breakfast food" - the cinnamon bun.

Taking a long-overdue page out of the LCBO's Food and Drink magazine, I changed up chef Anna Olson's shortbreads by using cream cheese in the dough (instead of making the frosting traditional on the yeasted buns), swapping buttermilk for the heavy cream, and decorating the finished slices with a tangy buttermilk drizzle so that they looked more like cinnamon rolls and less like ordinary pinwheel cookies. Since I knew the switch from a dough based on butter to the cheese would cause the dough to be a bit more delicate to handle, I bumped up the sturdiness and flakiness of the recipe with shortening and froze the rolls thoroughly before baking them off. Finally, to the filling of half the batch, I added two tablespoons of ground pecans - something for my pecan-adoring mom to discover. The end result was a sweet, slightly tangy and spicy bite of all the best things a cinnamon roll offers - and because I made them tiny, having a few with that cup of cocoa is totally A-OK!

Cinnamon Roll Cookies
Makes 75
1 cup flour
1/2 cup barley flour
1/2 cup oat flour
3 packets stevia
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4 oz cream cheese
2 oz shortening
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tbsp cinnamon
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp cornstarch
(optional - 1/4 cup ground pecans)

1/4 cup icing sugar
2 tsp buttermilk
1 tsp lemon juice

  1. Whisk together flours, stevia, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.   
  2. Cream cream cheese, shortening, sugar, buttermilk and vanilla until fluffy.  
  3. Beat in dry ingredients.   
  4. Divide in half, wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour before rolling out.
  1. Mix all ingredients until thoroughly combined.
  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of dough into a large rectangle (about 1/8 - 1/4" thick). Spread half of the filling evenly over rectangle.
  2. Roll up from the long side. Repeat with second piece of dough.
  3. Wrap each and freeze for at least 4 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Rolls into 1/4" thick slices and place 1" apart on sheets.
  6. Bake, one sheet at a time, for 15 minutes. Cookies will be just starting to turn golden.
  7. Cool completely on the sheet before removing.
  1. Whisk together all ingredients until smooth and creamy.
  2. Drizzle over baked cookies and allow to set.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 42.5
Total Fat: 1.6 g
Cholesterol: 2.5 mg
Sodium: 8.9 mg
Total Carbs: 8.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.2 g
Protein: 0.5 g

After warming the hearts and stomachs of those around me, I figured why not brighten up the visual appearance of the (currently) dreary holidays with a fun, funky nibble? I had been dying to make the scratch Red Velvet Cookies Jessica from the blog "How Sweet it Is" posted over a year ago, seeing as Red Velvet is one of my ultimately all-time favouritist flavours (yeah, can you tell?) and really, how can you go wrong with crimson cookies? The hue even fit into the rest of the "usual" christmas scheme of red, white and green, especially when I used a bit of red sanding sugar in the batter. Once baked, I did the buttermilk glaze thing again to hearken memories of the cake's tangy cream cheese frosting and dusted a tiny sprinkle of the red sugar on top for a bit of "pop". My resulting cookies weren't quite as colourful as the originals, but I'm blaming the darker cocoa powder and the shot of Godiva liqueur I used. I added a touch of vinegar to the batter as well, again to evoke the cake's standard buttermilk tang - a step that worked far better than I imagined it would judging by the smell from the oven! The finished treats made their way into a gift basket, which was eagerly accepted and hopefully soon to be enjoyed!
Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 12
¼ cup butter
¼ cup shortening
¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp red sanding sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp rice vinegar
½ tbsp red food coloring
1 cup flour
½ cup spelt flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/3 cup miniature chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Cream butter, shortening and sugars together until fluffy.
  3. Add egg white, vanilla, liqueur, vinegar and food colouring and beat smooth.
  4. Stir in flours, baking soda, salt and cocoa until just combined.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Bake for 11-12 minutes. Cool completely on the sheets.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 205.1
Total Fat: 9.6 g
Cholesterol: 10.2 mg
Sodium: 35.4 mg
Total Carbs: 29.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.8 g
Protein: 2.7 g


  1. Oooh, yum! We made some almost like this just the other day, but ours were cranberry & almond filled. Yum!

  2. 5??????? Oh my goodness!!! I'm such a cold whimp... we've been down in the 30's the last few nights and I have been absolutely freezing. (we are SO spoiled!)
    I'm sure those cookies made up for it though... love those cinnamon swirls! I don't think they would last long in our house.
    Sending warm thoughts from San Diego!


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