If pumpkin is out I don’t want to be in. I’m sorry, (read: not sorry) but there is something just so splendid about picking out pumpkins at the farmer’s market and having them grace the table until the time is right to bake them into a spiced, sweet or savory quintessential harvest time meal or treat. Cookies, cake, chili, soup, pie, pasta, lattes, my pumpkin love knows no bounds and if it’s cliché well… so what?
Getting these cookies to you has been no easy feat. Now I know the soft pumpkin cookie has been done but I don’t even care. Just make these cookies and tell me to my face you don’t love them… I dare you. Not only did I recipe test several spice combinations and baking times but I had such a debacle with ingredients that I just can’t even… The end result however is a cookie that is basically a cupcake top – fluffy, cake like, and lathered in frosting. Remember that Seinfeld episode in which Elaine embarks on the business of selling just the tops of muffins but is faced with the heap of muffin bottoms aka “stumps” not even homeless want to eat? Everyone knows how delicious the top of a muffin, or cupcake for that matter, is but I mean seriously who wants just the stump of anything? This cookie is the muffin top if you will, minus the headache of pawning off the “stumps”. What more could you possibly want from a cake like cookie?
This past summer a good friend moved away from Dillingham and when he left he gave to us, among various other items, a giant box of food stuffs. Now I keep all of my dry ingredients in large glass canisters and mason jars, admittedly without labels but clearly one can tell flour from sugar etc…right? Bulk items are in an outside storage until the jars need refilling to accommodate for our small kitchen space. I tapped several of these jars in the baking of these cookies and once I had my definite recipe lined out it was time to bake one of my few prized local Alaska Grown pie pumpkins for the final trial before sharing with you the recipe. I let my two year old, Gretchen, eagerly scoop pulp and seeds from the pumpkin’s shell, which I baked it until soft in a skim of water, skinning and smashing it smooth before the cookie making commenced with the aid of Ethan and Bronwyn.
Measuring, stirring, cookie forming, we were on a roll and the house smelled amazing. Cookies were frosted, and garnished with freshly candied seeds from the pumpkin whose flesh flavored the treats. Photos were snapped and even a few to share were handed off to a neighbor. Then after all this I finally sat to eat one of my much anticipated treats and it was… salty. I was mortified but not entirely convinced it was as salty as I suspected (basically I live in denial when baking doesn’t work out), thinking sometimes I’m over sensitive to salt. So I did what anyone in denial does, I roped in some to friends who had stopped by for a visit that afternoon to taste test, they all agreed too salty. Defeated I threw all the remaining 4 dozen cookies in the garbage chocking the result up to too many hands in the mixing bowl.
Two days later with several cups of pumpkin leftover I attempted the cookies again and made a pumpkin pie for good measure because it is Bronson’s favorite. The pie was gorgeous, with a golden crust, a perfect un-cracked burnt orange filling reminiscent of sunsets and turning leaves. The house again smelled amazing, as the first half dozen cookies were cooling on a wire rack I snagged one to taste my glory – salty as f*** ! I nearly burst into tears as I dumped the whole pie also a salty catastrophe, the remaining cookie batter and the baked cookies all into the trash. What the hell was going on? I tasted the pumpkin remanents left in the bowl – they were fine, my cane sugar was cane sugar, my flour was fresh I knew as I had just made bread the day before. The only thing I could think was maybe the baking soda was mislabeled, could it have been alum? Could my butter have been a bad batch? I dumped the baking soda to be safe, the butter was gone so that solved that, and went to bed tormented.
Two days after this, still nursing my bruised baking ego, I mixed up 6 dozen chocolate chip cookies for a Fall potluck party, kids adding in chocolate chips, helping shape dough balls for baking, failures behind us. Until it was time for us all to have a cookie. The first dozen out of the oven, milk cups in hand… the cookies – SALTY. Enraged I began tasting ingredient after ingredient – 3 lbs of butter in total – THREE POUNDS – wasted. I had no words. Flour – fine. Butter – fine. Cane sugar – fine. Salt – normally salty. Baking powder – fine. Brown Sugar – what the hell is….
My brown sugar, or what I had assumed I had put into my brown sugar canister out of the bag clearly labeled brown sugar from factory packaging generously given to us from our friend Matt who had moved away was actually a homemade fish cure. Half salt, half brown sugar, and what I suspect was a bit of garlic powder. Fish cure. Who the heck leaves fish cure in a bag labeled brown sugar?!!
Three pounds of butter (I’m clearly not over that part), 1 pie pumpkin, 3 cups of good quality chocolate chips, 8 ounces of cream cheese, 1-9 inch sour cream butter pie crust, 14 dozen cookies and one pie later only to find I had been baking with fish cure. I was now laugh/crying like a psycho in my kitchen as my children watched me hysterically throwing cookies and cookie dough into the garbage ranting about what on earth we would have to take to the party now. Crazy-town in the form of me had arrived on the scene, not my best moment.
After a few days more of nursing my ego yet again I posted on Instagram and Facebook my debacle only to have the most hilarious mix-ups shared by friends: one lamented shredded frozen hash browns can look just like frozen mozzarella but are not nearly as good on pizza, cumin in place of cinnamon in oatmeal just isn’t the same, fry flour does not acceptably replace powdered sugar in frosting and ultimately leads to the mistrust of children in your care, mayonnaise does not replace cream of mushroom soup in green bean casserole despite the consistency being similar, and last but not least Icy Hot tubes look just like toothpaste in the dark. It was the best.
All leading me here to this saga of a post but hey, yesterday when I finally worked up the nerve to bake a second pumpkin, candy the seeds yet again, make and bake the cookies for a third “final” time. Finally coating them with frosting, garnishing them with a flourish, and enjoying these dynamite cookies in their delicious intended form was worth it.
Soft Pumpkin Cookies with Candied Pumpkin Seeds + Maple Cream Cheese Frosting (makes 2 dozen cookies)
for the candied pumpkin seed brittle
- 1 – 1 1/2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds, rinsed well
- 2 Tablespoons melted butter
- 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon flaked sea salt (for sprinkling)
for the cookies
- 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) salted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup fresh baked pumpkin, soft and mashed smooth
- 1 large egg
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
for the frosting
- 4 Tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3 Tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 3 Tablespoons maple syrup
- dash or two of nutmeg
- splash of Half and Half
the candied pumpkin seed brittle – Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and line a small cookie sheet with tinfoil. Mix pumpkin seeds, melted butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar until seeds are evenly coated. Spread onto cookie sheet in one layer with seeds touching to create a brittle like product once baked. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool on pan. Once cool carefully peel tinfoil away from the brittle and break into pieces for topping the cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to one week on the counter.
the cookies – Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. For these cookies I prefer to use an aerated cookie sheet if you have on one hand, this prevents the bottoms from becoming browned, if you do not have an aerated pan a standard cookie sheet works just fine.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the butter and sugars until smooth. Mix in the pumpkin to evenly combine, crack in the egg and mix until evenly distributed. In a medium bowl sift together the dry ingredients and add them to the bowl of the stand mixer. On medium speed beat until all dry ingredients have been incorporated and the batter is homogenous.
Using a tablespoon or small melon baller scoop even balls of batter onto the prepared cookie sheet, the batter will be very sticky. DO NOT FLATTEN.
Bake for 13 minutes. I baked 6 cookies at a time, spaced at least 2 inches apart to allow for cookies to bake evenly without sticking to each other. Cookies are done when they are no longer shiny and when gently depressed with you finger they spring back leaving no indent. Transfer immediately to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. Batter with make approximately 24 large cookies.
the frosting – In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment beat cream cheese and butter until smooth and evenly combined. Add in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time whisking over medium speed until combined. Once all sugar has been incorporated add a splash of Half & Half and beat for at least 2-3 minutes on medium speed to allow for the development of a smooth fluffy texture. Add in the maple syrup and the nutmeg to taste and continue to beat until well mixed.
Frost the cookies generously and top with a crisp of the candied pumpkin seed brittle. Cookie will keep on the counter ,covered with plastic wrap for several days. Avoid storing cookies in airtight containers due to high moisture content.