Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Stars - Pinwheels

Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without these tender little fruit-filled pastries.

Traditionally, these Austrian pastries were made without any sugar at all.  Our family recipe was altered years ago, and today, each cookie is encased in a coating of crispy caramelized sugar.  Cut into the shape of pinwheels, my children always referred to them as Christmas-stars, as they made an appearance in our house only once a year, to celebrate the birth of Christ.

7 cups flour
4 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup Crisco shortening
1 package dry yeast
1 cup very warm (not hot) milk
4 eggs
3 cans Solo (or Bakers brand) apricot, plum, raspberry or strawberry pastry filling
lots and lots and lots of sugar
ground pecans

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder.  Cut in the butter and shortening with a pastry blender (see Gadgets page) until mixture resembles meal (if you have a heavy-duty Kitchen-Aid Stand-Mixer, use it).

Heat milk until very warm "to the touch" but, not hot (liquid must be hot enough to activate the yeast, but not too hot, or it will kill it).   Add yeast, and stir until it is dissolved.

Pour yeast mixture into a small bowl, and add eggs, one at a time, beating after each.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and pour the yeast-egg mixture into the center of the well.  Using a wooden spoon, or dough hook on a stand mixer, beat thoroughly until a heavy dough forms.

Coat a 13 x 9 glass dish with butter or shortening.  Pack the pastry dough into the dish and smooth over the top, so all is even.  Cover well with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  When ready to use, cut the dough into even slices about two inches wide.  Remove a single slice for each batch of pastries, and return remaining dough to the refrigerator.

Line several large cookie trays with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cover a large pastry cloth with about 2 cups of sugar (dough will stick if you don't use enough).  Place a slice of dough in center and pat it into a rough rectangle.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough (start from the center and roll outward, toward the ends) into a very thin sheet of pastry, maintaining the rectangular shape.

With a sharp knife or pastry cutter, cut away the jagged ends (throw these back into the casserole and refrigerate for later use) so you have a full rectangle. Carefully cut dough into 1 or 1 1/2 inch squares, by scoring in one direction, and then the other (forming a grid).

Put one dollop of pastry filling in the center of each little dough square.  Pull a fruit filled square from the rectangle, toward yourself, into a small mound of additional sugar (replenish sugar-mound as needed).  From the corners, cut into each square, towards the center of the filling - but not through the center.  Fold alternating corners into the center, pressing with the tip of the knife to seal (if you don't do this correctly, the points will pop up from the center while baking).

Place each little pinwheel on a parchment lined cookie sheet about 1/2 inch apart (cookies will rise slightly when baking).  Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes (depending upon size).  These burn easily, so watch and adjust time as needed.  Carefully remove individual cookies from parchment, to a cooling station, or carefully slide the parchment off of the cookie sheet (best accomplished with an extra set of hands) to the cooling station.

These delicate little pastries can be frozen.  Its best to place waxed paper between pastry layers.

From the scraps:  combine the scraps into one big sugary ball.  Roll out in more sugar (to prevent sticking), to form a rectangle.  Do not cut into squares.

Mix pecans, a little sugar and enough milk to form a paste.  Spread the pecan mixture over the rectangle.  Carefully roll the rectangle into a cylinder (from the long side).  Pinch open seam to seal.  Cut the cylinder into very thin slices (1/8 to 1/4 inch wide).  Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  Watch carefully so they don't burn.

1 comment:

  1. Oh i was so HOPING you'd post these! Not sure I'll get to making them, but I'm salivating just looking at them!