November 06, 2010

Pumpkin-Cranberry Cookies, v. 1.0

I've been working on a new cookie recipe for a couple weeks now.  I finally made a trial batch - three pans of cookies - last Monday night.  After tinkering with things a bit, I was able to make a couple pans of really, really tasty cookies, but I'm still not entirely satisfied, so I'm planning to tinker with the recipe a bit further sometime over the next few days, to see if I can make it even better.

My goal:  a cookie incorporating pumpkin and fresh cranberries, in which the flavors of each stood out with neither completely overwhelming the other.  In designing the cookie, I realized that due to all the moisture in pumpkin puree, I'd need to use a fair amount of flour, and that between the flour and the moisture, the cookies would most likely end up a bit more cake-like than most cookies, and more so than I tend to prefer.  So, I thought it would be good to give them a bit of a topping, to provide a bit of crunch and help make them a bit less cake-like.  

My initial idea was to do a sort of cinnamon-sugar.  We'd recently picked up some coarse sugar, so I decided also to give that a try, and I mixed up some of that with a bit of cinnamon and used that mixture to top the first pan of cookies.   That did not turn out so well.  The coarse sugar and the cinnamon did not blend at all, so instead of the warm, familiar, sweetness of sugar and cinnamon together, the cinnamon ended up tasting dusty and a bit bitter on top of the cookie.  So much for that idea.

For the second pan, I decided to skip the topping entirely, to see how the cookie tasted with no topping.   As it turns out, it tasted really, really good.  Without the distraction of the fairly vile topping of the first batch, the flavors of the pumpkin, the cranberries and the orange zest were each distinct, yet worked together well with the warmth of the spices to produce a really nice flavor blend.   Juli and I both liked them, and I ended up bringing some of these to work and giving them to a couple of my co-workers to taste-test.   They both liked them a lot, too (and one requested to be included in future taste testing, which made me happy). 

Still, Juli thought the cookies might be even better with the right topping.  I agreed, so I sprinkled the last pan of cookies with just a bit of the coarse sugar, no cinnamon this time.  These were also quite good, but while the cookies benefited from the extra bit of sweetness, the sugar topping didn't really hold its own against the bolder flavors of the rest of the cookie.

That third pan of cookies finished off my first batch of dough, and I haven't had time to make another, but as I said above, I am planning to do that sometime over the next few days.  I have another topping idea - namely, to go back to the cinnamon-sugar idea, but this time use regular granulated sugar instead of the coarse stuff.  It works on cinnamon toast, so it might also work on the cookies.   I have some other ideas as well, and I am still giving thought to how to keep the nice pumpkin flavor while making the cookies more crisp and flat (as I prefer my cookies) and less cake-like.  So, while the recipe below will result in a very nice batch of cookies, it is still something of a work in progress.

Stay tuned!

A plate full of Pumpkin-Cranberry Cookies.
The four on the bottom are topped with the coarse sugar; the ones at the top of the picture are not.

Pumpkin-Cranberry Cookies

yield = approx. 24 cookies

1/2      cup softened butter
1/2      cup granulated sugar
1/2      cup packed light brown sugar
1         teaspoon vanilla extract
1         egg
1         cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
2         cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2         teaspoons baking powder
1         teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2   teaspoons cinnamon
1/2      teaspoon ground ginger
1/4      teaspoon salt
1         cup fresh cranberries, chopped
1/2      cup chopped walnuts
1          tablespoon orange zest
3          teaspoons coarse sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare two cookie sheets (by greasing, or covering with parchment paper or silicone non-stick baking mats).

Using a stand mixer, mix butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and egg; mix until smooth, then blend in pumpkin.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt, then add to the butter-sugar mixture, mixing until well-blended.  Stir in cranberries, walnuts and orange zest.

Place heaping teaspoonfuls of the dough onto the prepared cookie sheet, flattening each just a bit.  (Option:  sprinkle a bit of coarse sugar atop each piece of dough).  Bake 10-12 minutes, until the cookies have just started to brown around the edges.   Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a couple minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

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