Soft Pumpkin Cookies

“To plow is to pray–to plant is to prophesy, and the harvest answers and fulfills.” – Robert G. Ingersoll

I might not agree with Ingersoll’s beliefs, but I like his quote about this harvest time of year. Whether you farm or simply have a garden with a few tomatoes, what is expressed is faith when that seed or plant goes into the ground. Having gardened this summer for the first time in years I felt like the backyard was a large, generous canvas. No more relegated to what herbs I could cram into pots in a small downtown Chicago balcony, I quickly planned for far more than even tightly-packed garden rows could hold. Even with good planning, it was a yard, after all. There was no room for sprawling vines.

Melons, squash and pumpkins were unfortunately relegated to the “get it at the farmer’s market” list. Yet I store squash in the basement and just like in a root cellar, it is a bounty for later. I like the taste of pumpkin, but hate cooking it. No matter what kind or size you buy, a pumpkin ends up being a difficult mess. I don’t even like carving them for Halloween.

I cheated with pumpkin recipes by using canned pumpkin after a simple discovery. I was reading the list of ingredients on a can of pumpkin and noticed it was a single word: pumpkin! What? No carrageenan? No BHT or BHA? No red or yellow number 5 or whatever number it is?

Imagine my shock when the Thanksgiving 2013 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine made this shocking statement: “The cooked fresh pumpkin still couldn’t hold a candle to the smooth, dense puree from the can.” This is breaking news to us foodies. I’m not sure the mighty Martha Stewart–or her test kitchen minions–have ever admitted any kind of canned food is better.

But it’s true. If nothing else, the consistency of canned pumpkin is always reliable. With the real thing, unfortunately, it’s not. And you don’t have to deal with the pumpkin guts that have all the appeal of a slaughterhouse floor.

Other than pumpkin pie, many pumpkin recipes seem to immediately disappear the day after Halloween. Pumpkin is still a holiday treat, but not everyone likes pumpkin pie.

So for a Thanksgiving treat, I tried pumpkin cookies. Many of the existing recipes have a bit of pumpkin and then a lot of other fattening cookie ingredients. I wanted more pumpkin. After different attempts, I was able to create a cookie that used half the butter and double the pumpkin. The trade-off is that since the cookie batter is somewhat like thick pancake dough, you can “drop” it onto the baking sheet like a drop cookie, but must press it down to a certain height because it will not settle on its own. This is a slightly sweet, satisfying cookie. You can frost these if you want sweet cookies.

The Great Pumpkin Patch, Boone County, IL

The Great Pumpkin Patch, Boone County, IL

Soft Pumpkin Cookies
Makes approximately 1 1/2 dozen

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg white
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
Optional: Sanding or coarse sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine sugars and butter. Beat until well-mixed. Add pumpkin, vanilla and egg. Blend fully. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Mix thoroughly. Add flour mixture to wet mixture. Combine fully, add walnuts, and stir.

Spray a cookie sheet with baking spray. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonsful (about the size of a walnut, or ping-pong ball) on the cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Press each of them down until they are about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Optional: sprinkle each cookie with sanding or coarse sugar. Bake at 350 F for 12-14 min. Immediately remove from cookie sheets and place on cooling racks. Cookies will be soft.

All-Morning Muffins

All-Morning Muffins

Grandma Mallory would have scoffed at my idea of making protein-packed muffins that could serve as a breakfast by itself. After all, in her day, breakfast had to be more than a couple of muffins–the men worked all day in the fields and women cooked, cleaned, laundered and gardened. For her, muffins were something to make out of white flour and white sugar as an alternative to the usual biscuits, and served alongside country ham or bacon, fried eggs, and fried potatoes (hash browns would have been “too fancy”).

But those folk didn’t have to rush out to the fields or the garden by a specific time, like us modern workers who have to punch in or be there on the computer by 8:30 or whatever. Breakfast is a challenge for me–I don’t want to eat early but I don’t want to skip it. Some days instant oatmeal will work, and even I get tired of one of my favorite foods, Kellogg’s brand Pop-Tarts (there goes my reputation).

So I decided to make a single-meal muffin that would have protein, fiber, flavor and enough sweetness to keep me out of the Pop-Tart box. One thing I learned long ago that if you’re a food blogger, you have to get used to wasting food. This was a hard lesson for me. I come from people who do not waste anything. Even Grandma Mallory would break an egg and then run her finger around the inside of the shell to get every bit of albumen. Then the shells were crushed and fed to the chickens–a strange, cannibalistic cycle I can’t explain.

I’ve thrown out enough muffins to tell you this is the right recipe. It’s not your typical easy-muffin recipe, but they are very good. They’re not a “dessert” or “snack” to me–they’re a complete breakfast.

 

muffins butter

 

 

 

 

 

 

ALL-MORNING MUFFINS
Makes 12 medium-size muffins

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup soy flour*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup flaxseed*
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup finely chopped dried fruit

(I used dried cherries from Door County, WI, but chopped raisins also work well)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. With an electric mixer, blend sugar, honey and butter until smooth. Add eggs and mix well.
In a separate container, dissolve the baking soda in the cream.

In a large bowl, put in both flours, salt, and wheat germ. Stir to mix. Add to this in about thirds, alternating, the sugar/honey/butter mixture and the cream mixture. Stir just until moistened each time.

Add flaxseed, walnuts and fruit and stir just enough to mix. Spoon into muffin tins about 3/4 full.

Bake on top rack for about 16 minutes, until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out without batter. Serve warm, or when fully cooled, store in a tightly-covered container.

Cooking notes:
Unfortunately, substitutions, such as milk instead of cream, margarine instead of butter, or egg whites instead of whole eggs, do not work well in this recipe. The chopped fruit can be any type, but needs to be a dried fruit, like raisins.

Soy flour tends to make the sides and bottom of the muffins look almost burned because it browns deeper than all-purpose flour, so do not be alarmed if you look through the oven window and they seem too dark.

*I used Bob’s Red Mill Soy Flour and Bob’s Red Mill Organic Raw Whole Brown Flaxseed, which is found at most stores, but any brand will do.

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