Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last night, I decided to toss together some pumpkin cookies. I have made them in the past but I am not sure just what recipe I had used before because I couldn't seem to find one amongst my books. So I did the usual internet search on the look out for something that looked promising. Now, the thing about a pumpkin cookie is that it is more of a mini cake than a cookie. Depending on the recipe, they can come out of the oven like a smooth muffin top, a lonely whoopie pie half or a misshapen glob of bread. They are usually pretty moist and tender. And most of the time they are yummy, even if they are not very cookie-like.

I found this recipe that was a bit different than all the others. The lady that posted the recipe noted that her in-a-rush-accident of forgetting to to cream the butter and sugar together yielded more of a chewy cookie than the typical cake-like contributions of the pumpkin cookie sphere. I was a bit skeptical, but the recipe looked essentially sound, so I gave it a try.

The results were tasty. On the chewy side, but still very bread-like if not quite cake-like. They did not rise very much, so in size they were just right for a cookie. I added some extra spices and reduced the amount of chocolate chips originally called for. Also, the original recipe called for the use of parchment paper lined baking sheets, but I found that this did not allow the bottoms to brown thus making my first batch too soft for my liking. For the second batch I did away with the parchment and this resulted a nice golden bottom that held the cookie together better.

Yeild: 40 two inch cookies

3 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Measure the flour, baking powder and all spices into a bowl. Use a wire whisk to stir it.

In a large bowl, beat the egg, then add the butter, sugar, pumpkin and vanilla. Beat until just blended together. With a wooden spoon, stir in the dry ingredients until just blended.

Add chocolate chips and fold in gently.

Use a 2 tablespoon scoop to drop cookies onto a baking sheet 1 inch apart. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until tops are starting to golden. Cool on the pan for 2 minutes then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Roasting a Fresh Pumpkin

I was at Market (the local farmers market) last week buying my weekly supply of fresh produce. Being the first part of October, nearly every vendor had various sized and varieties of pumpkins for sale. I've been eying them for a few weeks now, but I hadn't bought any just yet. My two boys were having a lengthy conversation with one of our very favorite vendors while I was busy buying some much needed grass-fed beef. On the sly, the vendor bargained with my boys and ended up giving them EACH a huge Cinderella pumpkin (or "Rouge vif D'Etampes" if you want to be correct about it.)

I had just read recently that these pumpkins make an excellent eating pumpkin. Up until now, I've only known people to decorate with them since they are so very beautiful. However, there was no way that I could let all that free pumpkin go to waste so I decided to roast one up to have my own supply of pureed pumpkin for all my baking needs.

So, it went something like this:

With the pumpkin up on the counter, I used my large chefs knife and cut it in half. Using the tip of the knife, I sliced into it up by the stem at middle and continued cutting into it, down, until I had one side cut all the way through to the bottom. Then I swung the pumpkin around and did the same thing on the other side until I had two large halves. 

With a spoon, I scraped out all the seeds from the inside. The cut side down, I placed one half onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Then into the oven at 325° for about 1 hour and 30 minutes. The flesh needs to be very soft when poked with a fork. I repeated this process for the other half.

I neglected to weigh this but it was so large that I could only roast one half at a time. 

I let the pumpkin rest about 40 minutes. This cooled the pumpkin enough for me to handle it and also allowed the excess liquid to drain off onto the baking sheet. I then cut it up into large pieces, peeled off the skin and placed the cooked flesh into a large bowl.

Now this next part goes a lot faster if you own a proper Cuisinart. I, however, only have a mini prep Cuisinart that I bought years ago to make baby food for my youngest son. Even so, this little thing got the job done (if in endless batches) so I can't really complain.

I filled up my mini prep with chunks of pumpkin and pressed "chop" until it was sufficiently pureed,  dumped it into a large clean bowl and repeated the process until I had every little bit done. It took a while, but my eight-year-old son had fun helping me with this part.

This would have been a good time to use a 12 cup Cuisinart if I had one.

In all, I processed 24+ cups of pureed pumpkin. That works out to be about 12 regular sized cans of store bought pumpkin. I divided it all up into 2 cup portions in freezer safe containers and put them away into the freezer.  I then promptly made a batch of my mother's famous pumpkin bread.

It's important to note that pureed pumpkin and pumpkin butters/jams must be refrigerated or frozen to properly store it. Pumpkin is a low acid food and you can NOT can it in a boiling water bath. Even pressure cooker canning it is not safe. Be safe and healthy--store your lovely pumpkin puree in the freezer.

Also good to know is that depending on the variety, fresh roasted pumpkin has more water content than canned pumpkin. To get it to the correct consistency you will need to allow the roasted pumpkin to drain. And after pureeing if it is still too watery, you can drain some more liquid off by using some layers of cheesecloth or a very fine sieve.

During my internet search before I actually roasted my pumpkin, I saw numerous ways that intrepid people puree their cooked pumpkin. If you don't have a blender or food processor you can use a sieve and a spoon, pressing and stirring until you've got a nice puree. Alternatively, you could put the roasted pumpkin through a ricer or even use a simple masher.

However which way you do decide to make your pureed pumpkin, make sure to plan for several hours to complete the job. This whole process took me 5 1/2 hours from start to finish. Have your children help out too. I found this to be a lot of fun and I will certainly buy a huge pumpkin next year and do this all over again.