November 24, 2010

Chewy Pumpkin-Cranberry Cookies: The Quest Continues

I've previously written about my Pumpkin-Cranberry Cookies, and the effort I've put into making a version I'm happy with.  As I've also mentioned, though I am pleased with the flavor of those Pumpkin-Cranberry Cookies at this I've made to this point, I'm still not 100% satisfied with them due to their texture.  Those cookies are very light and cake-like, almost more like mini-cupcakes than cookies, whereas I prefer cookies that are more solid, either crunchy or chewy.  Thus, I continue on my quest, attempting to make a pumpkin cookie that isn't cake-like.

I've spent some time on and off researching pumpkin cookie recipes, in hopes they would point me in the right direction.  Mostly, that's gotten me nowhere, because the vast majority of pumpkin cookie recipes out there make cake-like cookies much like mine.  The couple potential exceptions I located just don't sound very good at all.   A recipe on a vegan site that uses no fat whatsoever and very little sugar, for example.  No thanks. 

So, with the recipes not getting me anywhere, I decided the best course of action would be for me to just experiment.

In deciding how to start my experiment, I gave some thought to the core problem and some potential solutions.   The core problem is pretty simple, really:  The pumpkin cookies I already make, and those made by most other people, are more like cake than a proper cookie.   Since the problem is cookies with cake texture, the most likely solution would be to reduce or eliminate ingredients that contribute to a cakelike texture. 

The primary offender, I realized right away, was probably flour, so the solution might lie in reducing the amount of flour, or the proportion of flour to other ingredients.  Still, with something as moist as pureed pumpkin, I'd need a fairly substantial amount of dry ingredients just to make the cookie hold together.  Considering my options, I went with something that is already used in lots of cookies anyhow:  Rolled oats.  I'd try to make a pumpkin-cranberry oatmeal cookie.

With that in mind, I started out with a basic oatmeal cookie recipe, then tried to customize it to incorporate the pumpkin and cranberries.  I knew that I'd have to use a fairly large amount of pumpkin, because ounce for ounce pumpkin puree isn't very flavorful.  I decided to start with 2/3 cup of pumpkin to 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of oats. 

These cookies tasted pretty good, but they were still quite cake-like.  I put them onto the cookie sheet as little balls of sticky dough, and when they were done, they were little mounds of fluffy cake, and hadn't really spread at all. 

That result having been gained, I thought about what makes cookies spread out, rather than maintaining the shape of the dough.   One important factor is sugar:  as the dough heats up, the sugar first dissolves, making the dough lose cohesion, before hardening again. 

With that idea in mind, I added some extra brown sugar, going from 1/2 cup of light sugar to 3/4 cup, along with 1/2 cup granulated sugar.  This was definitely a move in the right direction:  the cookies weren't that much sweeter, and they spread a bit more and ended up with a texture somewhat less like cake (though still more cake-like than I'd prefer). 

The quest isn't over yet, but I think I have some direction now.   Next time around I plan to bump up the amount of oatmeal while reducing the amount of flour.   I've also got to figure out a way to incorporate a bit more pumpkin, because while the current cookies taste pretty good, the pumpkin flavor isn't particularly strong at this point.  The key there will be how to do that without ending up with a runny mess, and that is going to be a challenge, because the dough is pretty sticky as is. 

Anyway, that's where things stand at the moment... but the quest continues.

The latest experiments.  The cookies on the right were from the first batch of
Pumpkin-Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies.  The ones on the right are the ones
made with extra brown sugar.  Notice they are flatter and spread more.

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