Pumpkin Madness

It’s official, I’ve gone pumpkin crazy. My co-worker informs me that an intervention will only become necessary if I turn orange, but she’s not in my kitchen watching me put pumpkin into almost everything.

To start, it is the season. Pumpkins and other winter squash are here in abundance, and it’s a relief after the endless procession of zucchini and summer squash. Thanksgiving is also around the corner and I am already reveling in the use of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, my personal triumverate of winter spices. But beyond that, pumpkin is so good! It’s chock full of Vitamin A and kiddos as young as 6 months old can have it. Pumpkin is one of the most versatile foods this time of year. You can stew or mash it like mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes. You can take smaller pumpkins and stuff them like acorn squash. You can cube it and steam or roast it for bean tacos.

But the addiction really kicks in when you simply bake it in large chunks to get the puree and then you start slipping that puree into everything. I made pumpkin cream sauce for leftover pasta the other night. I had a bit of leftover breakfast millet and pumpkin puree in my fridge — pumpkin millet bread with cream cheese and maple syrup topping. Making waffles or pancakes? Pumpkin waffles! Pumpkin pancakes! And I’m including here my two new favorite pumpkin cookie recipes. One is more of a sugar cookie that can be rolled out and cookie-cut (and if you have a pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter like I do then you get to make the cutest cookies in the world) and the other is a pumpkin chocolate chip drop cookie.

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies (original recipe here, or read the amended version below):

  • 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 c maple sugar
  • 1/2 c pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Cream together the above ingredients, then mix together the dry ingredients below, adding that mixture gradually until you have a stiff dough. Chill for an hour then roll out on a floured surface and cut away!
  • 4 c flour (I used 3 c whole wheat and 1 c all-purpose)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp clove
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Crack of freshly grated nutmeg
  • And for the frosting I mixed Greek yogurt, maple syrup, and arrowroot powder until it was a texture I liked. I’ve had reasonable success using arrowroot powder in place of cornstarch or confectioner’s sugar in frosting (see here for a previous post on this), but stay tuned for holiday baking recipes that use cooked frostings. I’m over the chalky taste that all powdered thickeners add to frosting. Over it! Done!

This was a great cookie. The dough was not that tasty, which is for the best. The cookie itself is not too crisp, not too sweet, and great with the frosting or plain and dunked into coffee. Yum.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies (original recipe here, or read my slightly amended version below):

  • 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted (so important – melt melt melt!)
  • 3/4 c maple sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6(ish) T pumpkin puree. Not from a can. Seriously guys.
  • Combine the above ingredients well. Mix together the dry ingredients below and add the mixture in two to three batches.
  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Ground nutmeg, using freshly ground I just crank it out until it smells amazing
  • 1/4 tsp clove
  • 1/2 bag of chocolate chips, preferably dark or semi-sweet – I think this is 3/4 c or so – stir in after the wet and dry ingredients are combined.

I really liked this cookie but it is definitely still on the cake-y end of the cookie spectrum and I did not find that they crisped up much overnight. I upped the chocolate chip content from the original recipe in part because I hate having 1/4 c leftover of anything, but also because I have this peculiar Darwinian belief that combining two awesome ingredients such as pumpkin and chocolate will force them to step up their flavor profile in an attempt to compete with each other. Silly thought, but there it is.

And for good measure, here is my standard, not quite measured but sort of, go-to pumpkin pie recipe.

  • Pie crust. If you don’t have your own recipe, find one and own it. Everyone should have a signature (basic or spruced up, doesn’t matter) pie crust.
  • Pumpkin puree – 2 c? This varies depending on how much I would have leftover (only 1/4 c? Use it!) and on whether or not I’m using the small cast iron skillet or the large one. One day I’ll get a pie pan. And then I’ll standardize my recipes…. (insert my friend Melissa’s snicker and “yeah right”). But seriously, this is a matter of taste! More pumpkin and you get a more savory, stiffer pie.
  • Maple syrup – 1/2 c or so.
  • Eggs – 2
  • Milk – 3/4 c. Ish. See above at the pumpkin bullet. More milk and eggs and you get a more custardy, desserty style pie.
  • Spices.
  • 1/4 c whole wheat flour, maybe a little more if I used extra milk or pumpkin.

I know, I make it sound easy to play with pumpkin. But there are tricks here In order, here is what my experimenting with pumpkin baking has brought me:

  • Choose the right pumpkin. Not all pumpkins are created equal. Long pie pumpkins are far and away my favorite, they have a smooth pureed consistency without having to whip out the immersion blender, and their thin skin means they cook quickly in the oven. Good flavor, big thumbs up! A pie pumpkin will do if necessary, but large jack o’lantern pumpkins are really not great for eating. Butternut squash will actually do in a pinch as well, although I have not tried it in the cookies. Yet. And sweet potatoes will also substitute well where pumpkin is called for.
  • Pumpkin is moist and heavy. My biggest complaint with pumpkin baking is that I have to dial back the maple syrup or leave it out entirely and use cane or maple sugar instead.
  • Pumpkin is moist and heavy. If you are a recipe follower you can modify any banana bread, zucchini bread, or applecake recipe to accommodate it easily. If you are just mixing it in to a batter for waffles and pancakes, add some more flour or dry good to stiffen it up (flax meal, almond meal, and corn meal are fun variations to use), consider upping your leavener a bit, and count on a slightly heavier waffle or pancake.
  • Eggs are not necessary. You can of course use them, but pumpkin puree makes a decent egg substitute.
  • Dial back the fat, and if you’re use butter consider melting it – this will keep it all from getting too soggy when the item cooks and the water in the butter evaporates.
  • Experiment with spices! Find your favorite combo!

Join my pumpkin madness! And if you turn orange, don’t say I didn’t warn you. And send a picture please.

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