Recipe: Cinnamon sugar pie dough twists are light and tender
Vail CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
Did your mother make pie dough twists? Mine did. It was a popular way to use up left-over pie dough when I was growing up … sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar, cut it into strips and bake it. The results are a down-home, pleasing little pastry.
This is probably my favorite recipe for duplicating my mother’s trick with extra pie crust. It starts with a cream cheese dough, gives it an egg wash to hold on the flavorings, and then tops that with a mixture of finely-chopped walnuts, sugar and cinnamon. It’s prettied up by twisting the dough strips before baking them, creating an attractive pattern alternating the dough and the topping.
The cookie is light, tender and not overly sweet (there is no sugar in the dough itself, only in the topping). It’s a perfect accompaniment to fruit, berries, sorbet, or ice cream and can be served any time of day, with coffee in the morning or as the evening’s dessert. It’s also a nice addition to a cookie tray. Keep a dozen in your freezer; you’ll find numerous ways to use them.
Since the cookie has so few ingredients it’s important to use high quality ones. Be sure you use real butter and fresh nuts. If either is old, your cookies will suffer.
1 1/4 cups of flour
4 ounces of cream cheese
1/2 cup of unsalted butter (one stick)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of walnuts
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
To make in a food processor: Place the flour in the bowl of the processor. Cut the cream cheese into four pieces, the unsalted butter (cold) into eight pieces and add them. Pulse JUST until the dough forms large, moist clumps. It should remain shaggy, not smooth. To make with an electric mixer: Soften both the cream cheese and the butter to room temperature. Cut the butter into eight pieces and the cream cheese into four pieces, place in a bowl, and beat with a mixer at low speed until they are blended. Gradually add about half of the flour, mixing at low speed. Stir in the rest of the flour with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula until the dough is smooth.
Turn the dough out on a sheet of plastic wrap and gently form it into a square about nine inches by nine inches. Wrap it in the plastic wrap and refrigerate it until it is firm enough to roll (about two hours).
While the dough chills, make the topping: Pulse the walnuts and one fourth cup of the sugar in a food processor until the walnuts are finely ground. Add the other fourth cup of sugar and the cinnamon and pulse until they are well blended. Set the topping aside. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or non-stick Reynold’s Release aluminum foil or grease it lightly. (Cookies tend to spread more on a greased cookie sheet, I prefer parchment paper or non-stick foil.)
Remove the dough from the refrigerator, place it on a sheet of waxed paper, top it with another sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap and roll it into a rectangle about six inches across and 10 and a half inches long. Beat the egg in a small bowl until well combined and brush some of it all over the dough. Sprinkle half of the topping over the dough (the egg will help it adhere), covering it completely. Gently roll your rolling pin over the topping to press it into the dough. Flip the dough rectangle over, nut side down, onto another sheet of waxed paper and repeat the process: Brush with some of the egg, sprinkle with the remainder of the topping and gently roll it in. You won’t use all the egg; save the rest for another use or throw it away.
Cut the dough lengthwise into half-inch strips. Cut each half inch strip into three sections of equal length. Twist the sections once or twice (whichever look you like) and place them on the lined baking sheet, about an inch apart. Brush off any of the topping that falls onto the cookie sheet; it might burn in the oven. Bake the cookies until they are golden and set. Start checking after they’ve been in the oven about 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely.
Makes about two dozen.
This is a variation of a recipe in Good Housekeeping’s “Best Loved Desserts.”
Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.