December 06, 2010

Chewy Pumpkin-Cranberry Cookies: Success at Last!

After a lot of work, I've finally achieved a goal I've been working on for a couple months now.   I've made a pumpkin cookie that is chewy but not cake-like, one with the texture of a proper cookie, instead of a miniature cupcake or a piece of unusually fluffy pumpkin bread.

As I noted a couple weeks ago, I thought I was on the right track when I decided to make a pumpkin oatmeal cookie.  My first try at that was promising, but still more cake-like than I wanted, so next I increased the amount of brown sugar.    That seemed a move in the right direction, but the resulting cookie still didn't have the texture I wanted.   The next step that looked promising was to increase the amount of oats while reducing the amount of flour.  That's what I finally got around to trying, and it worked like a charm.

The first sheet of cookies I made during this phase of the experiment were a bit on the plain side, as I was focusing on getting the right texture, figuring that if I could manage that, I could fine-tune the flavor later.  At first I wasn't sure the results were going to be good ones, as even after a fairly long cooking time for a batch of small cookies, the first batch was still pretty moist in the center.   As they sat and cooled, though, they firmed up quite a bit, and the result was a chewy cookie that was by far less cake-like than any pumpkin cookie I'd made or tried to date.  They even had a bit of crunch along the outer edges. 

I mixed in some basic pumpkin spices for the next batch.  These improved the flavor while maintaining the texture.  Definitely on the right track. 

I had enough dough left for a third sheet of cookies, so this time I decided to experiment with different amounts of dough, to see if I could determine the optimum amount of dough to use for each of these cookies.  I made some with about 3/4 tablespoons of dough, some with just one tablespoon (enough dough to just fill a one-tablespoon cookie scoop), some with a bit over one tablespoon, and a couple made with a heaping tablespoon of dough.   I also cooked a couple of them different amounts of time.  Taste tests - including Juli doing a blind taste test - showed that at least when it comes to these cookies, size definitely matters.  The heaping-tablespoon ones were very moist, to the point of perhaps not being all the way done in the middle.  As you reduced the amount of dough the results got better, until you hit 1 tablespoon of dough.  There wasn't any noticeable difference between the 3/4 tablespoon and full-tablespoon cookies, save that the smaller ones were a bit more crisp (leaning toward over-crisped) along the edges.

Wondering if maybe the larger ones were simply overcooked, I tried cooking them longer.   All that did was result in cookies that were burned on the bottom.  They key, clearly, was the right amount of dough.

So, this quest is complete.  It was a success, and I learned some things along the way.  But now I have to find a new quest!

Pumpkin-Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

yield = approximately three dozen cookies

1/2      cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4      cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2      cup granulated sugar
1         egg
1         teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3      cup pumpkin puree
1 1/3   cup rolled oats
2/3      cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2   teaspoon cinnamon
3/4      teaspoon baking powder
1/2      teaspoon baking soda
1/4      teaspoon ground ginger
1/4      teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
1/4      teaspoon salt
1/2      cup fresh cranberries, chopped
1/2      cup chopped, roasted walnuts

Set oven rack to medium and preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare two cookie sheets by covering them with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Add butter, brown sugar and white sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer.   In a small bowl, beat the egg and vanilla together, then mix in the pumpkin puree.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together oats, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt.

On medium-low speed, mix the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the pumpkin mixture and mix until well-blended, about 1 minute.   Turn speed to low and add the oat/flour mixture until just incorporated, then add the cranberries and walnuts and mix until they are incorporated into the batter. 

Scoop scant tablespoonfuls of the dough onto the baking sheets in three rows of four.  Slightly flatten each scoop of dough.  Bake one sheet of cookies at a time for 14 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet halfway through that time.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack and allow to rest until the cookies are at room temperature.

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