My track record with cookie-making started and stopped, at least for a time, a few holiday seasons ago. The epic fail? A melted cookie cake that was originally meant to be a dozen chewy chocolate chip cookies. One of my friends tried to analyze where I’d gone wrong; the butter wasn’t room temperature and I didn’t refrigerate the dough. Cookie-making was a little intimidating, so I looked for a recipe for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011 that would take me out of my cookie comfort zone a little — Pinwheel Cookies.

The ingredient list for Wilton’s Pinwheel Cookies wasn’t long, and the approximate five-dozen cookie yield was perfect, but the preparation was tricky. There were a few steps that I accidentally skipped, like mixing the chocolate into the vanilla dough before the first refrigeration and rolling the cookie dough logs in sugar before the second refrigeration, but the cookies were tasty despite these little misses.

A few big tips that I learned along the way are cut the sticks of butter into little squares and set them in a bowl. The butter squares will reach room temperature faster than large sticks of butter, and the squares will also give any mixer an easier time when combining with the sugar until light and fluffy. I also didn’t have the recommended unsweetened chocolate on-hand to be melted and cooled, but I did have Hershey’s Cocoa Natural Unsweetened powder. The instructions on the Hershey’s canister worked like a charm; I beat six tablespoons of cocoa together with two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a separate bowl until smooth. Then, I mixed the chocolate into the half of vanilla dough I wanted to turn into chocolaty goodness! Tempering chocolate is a delicate process in itself that I’ve done before over a pot of hot water with a metal bowl, so I was thankful the cocoa powder substitution simplified the recipe a bit.

My final big tip? Lots of non-stick spray! Any difference, like extra flour, would be trapped between the vanilla and chocolate layer of these pinwheel cookies, so I didn’t want to use flour to prevent the dough for sticking everywhere. I had dough sticking to my parchment paper, rolling pin — it was a mess! But one quick Google Search later, I sprayed everything evenly with Pam Canola Oil Spray and was able to roll out my dough in peace.

There were a few extra tools I also used for this cookie escapade; tape, a protractor, and a permanent marker. I used the protractor and marker to put little tick marks on the underside of my parchment paper to indicate how large an area I needed cover with dough. Then, I covered my biggest kitchen counter in the parchment paper and taped all the ends down. Non-stick spray-and-parchment-paper Slip ‘N Slide avoided!

Adam and my first cookie-swapping pal both loved these pinwheel cookies, so I’ll definitely make more for the holiday season. The finished cookies look pretty striking with their light and dark swirls, and the colored sugar combinations are endless. My novice’s cookie confidence is higher than ever! I definitely recommend this pinwheel cookie recipe to anyone who doesn’t mind taking breaks while dough refrigerates, and someone who loves covering their baked goodies colorful sugar. If inspiration has hit, sign up for next year’s Great Food Blogger Cook Swap!

Update 12/15/2011: Visit The Little Kitchen to see a list of recipes with photos used for this year’s cookie swap!

*The Pinwheel Cookies recipe I used was adapted from Wilton’s Pinwheel Cookies. Visit their site for the original recipe and more information.