Sunday, January 25, 2015

Frosted Pumpkin Cookies, Two Ways

I came across two pumpkin cookie recipes last fall and ended up trying them both in December. To tell you the truth, I was hoping to keep just one, but the Engineer and I have different opinions as to which is the best one, so it looks like I’m keeping both!

The first, from Minimalist Baker, is a sugar cookie with frosting. I don’t usually make those types of cookies, so I decided to halve the batch of frosting and use it only on half the cookies (it’s optional anyway), but I had enough for all of them! It should be said, though, that my cookies came out WAY smaller than the ones from the original post, so that might have something to do with it. I had a total of 34 cookies. They were a little soft, which was nice, and the spices complemented the pumpkin nicely. I ended up giving about a dozen to our neighbors, who’d had a rough morning the day before, and the comment I got was, “This is the best pumpkin *anything* I’ve ever had!” These are by far my favorite, perhaps because I found them delicate and not too sweet (which made the frosting welcome). Note that the frosting hardens enough that you can transport the cookies without smearing anything after a few hours.

For the cookies
½ cup (1 stick) vegan margarine (such as Earth Balance), softened
½ cup organic cane sugar + more for topping (optional)
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
¼ cup pumpkin purée
1 ½ cups + 1 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour (sub up to 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour)
½ Tbsp. cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground allspice
1 Tbsp. unsweetened almond milk (or other non-dairy milk or lactose-free milk)

For the frosting (optional; this is the halved amount that was sufficient for me)
¼ cup (½ stick) vegan margarine, softened
¼ tsp. cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. pumpkin purée (optional)
¼ tsp. vanilla extract (optional)
1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
splash non-dairy milk (or lactose-free milk)

For the cookies
Put softened margarine in a large mixing bowl and cream with a mixer for 1 minute.

Add sugar, brown sugar and vanilla and beat for 1 more minute. Add pumpkin and mix once more.

Set your sifter over a medium mixing bowl. Sift dry ingredients and whisk together.

Add the dry ingredients to the margarine and sugar mixture and stir to combine, being careful not to overmix. Then add almond milk and mix until a soft dough is formed. Freeze dough for 15 minutes, or refrigerate for 30 minutes (or chill overnight).

Preheat your oven to 350 °F and position a rack in the center of the oven.

Scoop out heaping 1 Tbsp. amounts of dough and roll into balls. Place on a clean baking sheet 2 inches apart to allow for spreading. Dip a glass into cane sugar and then gently smash the cookie ball down into a disc (I flattened the cookies, but did not use sugar, since I thought it would be too much with the frosting).

Bake on the center rack for 10-12 minutes, or until very slightly golden brown. Let rest on pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Prepare frosting in the meantime.

For the frosting
Put the softened margarine in a mixing bowl. Beat until light and fluffy. Then add spices, pumpkin and vanilla, and mix once more.

Add powdered sugar ½ cup at a time and continue mixing until thick and creamy. Drizzle in a little non-dairy milk to thin. You want this frosting to be pretty thick so it will hold its shape once on the cookies, so only add a little milk and add more powdered sugar if it gets too thin.

Once cooled, frost cookies and top with a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon. Store leftovers covered at room temperature for up to a few days. Freeze for longer-term storage.

The other cookie recipe is slightly adapted from The Kitchn. It’s a large, soft cookie with a chocolate frosting, and personally, even though those flavors go well together, I thought that the chocolate was a bit overwhelming and too sweet. They were the Engineer’s favorite, though! I didn’t bother cutting out Jack-o’-Lantern faces in them, but please do so if you feel so inclined. I also ran out of eggs making them and ended up using a flax egg along with 2 actual eggs.

For the cookies
9 Tbsp. unsalted butter or vegan margarine, softened
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup pumpkin purée
3 large eggs
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin spice mix (I used ¼ tsp. of each of the five spices instead)
orange food coloring (or a mix of red and yellow), optional

For the frosting
¼ cup unsalted butter or vegan margarine
3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
¼ cup lactose-free milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer), cream together the butter and sugars until they're smooth. Mix in the pumpkin purée. Mix in the eggs one at a time.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice, then slowly stir the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture. Mix just enough to combine the ingredients. Add a few drops of orange food coloring if you'd like a deeper orange color (I didn’t bother).

Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 °F. Place one rack in the top third of the oven and another rack in the bottom third. Line two baking sheets with parchment or nonstick baking mats.

Portion the cookie dough onto the baking sheets: Scoop up about 2 tablespoons of dough and transfer to the baking sheet. Continue with the remaining dough, positioning the cookies a few inches apart. You should have about 24 cookies. Dip your fingers in water and use them to flatten each mound of dough to about ¼-inch thick.

Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the pans and swapping shelves once during baking. The cookies are done when they're slightly puffed and just starting to turn a darker shade of golden around the edges. Cool completely.

While the cookies cool, make the frosting. Melt the butter in the microwave, then whisk in the cocoa powder. Add the milk and vanilla, and whisk until frothy. Make sure the cocoa powder has completely dissolved. In a stand mixer with a beater attachment, with a hand mixer, or by hand with a whisk (and a strong arm!), work the powdered sugar into the liquids a little at a time until fully incorporated. The frosting should be thick but spreadable. If runny, add more powdered sugar; if too stiff, work in a teaspoon of milk.
If you wish to make Jack-o’-Lantern faces, follow these steps. Set aside half of the cookies as the "bottoms". With the remaining cookies, use a sharp paring knife to cut a notch from the top of the cookie for the pumpkin stem and then to cut out Jack-o'-Lantern faces. (Optional: To make “pumpkin lines”, you can use a paring knife to score a few lines down the cookie, but be warned that this makes it a bit fragile. The dull edge of a butter knife works well for this too, pressing the lines rather than breaking the surface of the cookie.)

Spread a thick layer of frosting over the "bottom" cookies. Top with Jack-o'-Lantern cookies. Add an extra dollop of frosting in the notch at the top for the stem. (If, like me, you didn’t bother making Jack-o’-Lantern faces, you can just frost all the cookies instead of making sandwich cookies. I had enough frosting for all of them.)

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