Cinnamon, cloves, orange, and chocolate – flavors and aromas that float us into winter holiday cookie nirvana. These plump Spice Pillows have it all plus they may be the best looking nibbles on your dessert tray.
In areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, olive oil, instead of butter, is often the choice in baked sweets, as it is in this southern Italian recipe adapted from Irvin Lin’s Eat The Love. Warm spices, orange, dark chocolate, and olive oil have been used in unison for centuries especially in yeasted breads, biscotti and moist single-layer cakes.
The cookies take a day or overnight to finish but most of the time is spent drying between steps – this way you can catch up on your fave holiday movies in while the cookies set up or better yet, invite your friends over to help you make more cookies.
You’ll feel like an experienced Old World baker as you use your hands to bring together the ingredients and then rolling the dough into long ropes with your palms before cutting the pillows. After a short stint in the oven and cool-down, the cookies are coated with icing, left to dry (movie time), and finally dipped into melted chocolate. If you like, adorn the pillows with snipped candied orange zest or other cookie décor such as silver dragees or sugar snowflakes.
Gin’s Kitchen participated in the 4th Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, sharing the Spice Pillows with Julie of White Lights on Wednesday, Nancy of The Bitter Side of Sweet, and Rachel of A Southern Fairy Tale. Arriving on Gin’s Kitchen doorsteps were cookies from Doree of Top Notch Mom, Annie of Annie One Can Cook, and Prudy of butter, basil and breadcrumbs.
Recipe: Spice Pillows
Coated with sugar icing and chocolate, these spice cookies can be decorated with candied zest, chopped nuts or cookie decorations.
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 Tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- pinch ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup light olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons whole milk
- finely grated zest from 1 very large or 2 medium oranges
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2-3 Tablespoons (or more) orange juice or whole milk
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips (milk, semi-sweet, or dark)
- generous 1/2 teaspoon non-hydrogenated shortening
- candied orange zest, or other cookie decorations (optional)
- Make dough: in a medium mixing bowl combine and mix together flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, salt and baking powder. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add olive oil, milk and orange zest. Mix dry and wet ingredients together with a wooden spoon and then use your hands to knead the ingredients together into a ball. Cover dough with plastic wrap and rest dough for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. About 20 minutes into the rest period, preheat oven to 350º F.
- Make cookies: after the dough has rested, lightly flour working surface and divide dough into 4 pieces. With the palm of your hands, roll each rope out to 1/2 to 3/4″ thickness. Slightly flatten tops of ropes with your palms so that the rope is about 1″ wide. With a sharp knife or bench knife, cut rope into 1 to 1 1/4″ pieces. Place cut pieces onto the lined baking sheets spacing about 1 1/2″ apart.
- Bake at 350º F: bake cookies in a preheated oven in the middle of the oven until tops are set (cookie doesn’t keep a finger indent when pushed gently with a finger), about 9-11 minutes. If baking both sheets simultaneously, halfway through baking, rotate sheets top to bottom and front to back. When done, remove sheets from oven and rest cookies for 5 minutes on sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
- Ice cookies: when cookies are completely cool, line the surface under the wire racks with wax paper or place the wire racks into a rimmed baking sheets lined with wax paper. In a small bowl (cereal bowl is a good size) mix powdered sugar and orange juice or milk together to make glaze. Give the sugar a couple of minutes to absorb the liquid, adding more liquid a teaspoon at a time to thin if necessary. Test glaze consistency by gently coating a test cookie in the glaze and set on wire rack to dry. Assess glaze consistency after a couple of minutes and adjust glaze thickness if necessary. When satisfied with consistency, ice remaining cookies and place cookies, non-touching, on wire racks to dry. Most of the glaze will drip off.
- Finish cookies with chocolate: when icing is totally dry (may take overnight), place fresh wax paper on a baking sheet where the chocolate-dipped cookies will be placed to dry. Combine chocolate chips and shortening in a small bowl and melt for 30-45 minutes on high in a microwave oven. If chips don’t completely melt when stirred, continue melting in microwave in 15 second intervals. Mix together shortening and chips well. Dip part of cookie in chocolate holding the undipped part with your fingers. Using a spoon, scrape excess chocolate from bottom side of cookie before placing cookie on wax paper to dry. Decorate cookies while chocolate is still melted.
Dry completely before storing in airtight tins separated with wax paper between layers. Makes 40-50 pillows. Cookies keep for 5 days.