A pinwheel appetizer is a first course or hors d'oevure made from a thin slice of meat or bread which layered with other ingredients, rolled up and then cut into slices. These sliced appetizers often have a most attractive appearance, as the layers of different ingredients form a spiral pattern, typically consisting of different colors and textures. This type of appetizer varies in size, according to the recipe and type of wrap used in its preparation. In some cases, a pinwheel appetizer may be eaten with the hands, though other recipes make the use of a toothpick or fork necessary. The pinwheel appetizer may be served hot or cold.
In some places, such as the United States, "pinwheels" are a common fixture on an appetizer platter. A pinwheel appetizer is typically relatively easy to make and in many cases can be prepared some hours before an event, reducing pressure on the cook or cooks. These appetizers are also quite customizable, allowing cooks to add and subtract ingredients according to the personal taste and dietary requirements of their guests.
A common type of pinwheel appetizer uses a tortilla or other type of soft flat bread as a base. The cook then prepares a spread which will serve to add flavor and texture while also holding the pinwheel together. In many cases, the spread is made from cream cheese to which other ingredients, such as salsa, seasonings or chopped olives, have been added. After the cook spreads the cream cheese mixture onto the bread, he or she then layers additional ingredients onto the spread. Ingredients may include lettuces, meats, or cheeses, depending on the recipe. After the ingredients are in place, the cook then rolls the bread up lengthwise, creating the appearance of a long roll. The cook then slices the roll crosswise, and arranges the pinwheels for serving.
Other variations on this appetizer use a wrap of uncooked dough. After the ingredients are rolled up, the pinwheel roll is then baked in the oven. For those who prefer to avoid bread, another type of pinwheel appetizer uses thinly sliced meats, such as roast beef or ham, as a base. These appetizers are typically much smaller than bread-based pinwheels, as the meat cannot hold large quantities of ingredients as well as bread can. Instead, this type of pinwheel appetizer is typically rolled to bite-size pieces and then served with toothpicks for easy eating.