Always chewy pumpkin cookies flavored with pumpkin spice and pumpkin butter. These cookies make the impossible true: there’s not a trace of cakiness in the texture. Pure autumn bliss wrapped up in a pumpkin spice & sugar dusted, bendy, ultra chewy cookie. The best pumpkin cookies ever.
Uhm okay. I am so gosh darn happy with this pumpkin cookie recipe. For years and years I’ve tried baking cookies with pumpkin puree (both canned and fresh homemade) and I’d never gotten the right cookie texture; they’re always cakey because of the high water content. Some recipes will try to circumvent this by removing the water from the puree by squeezing it, but in my experience these still have a high risk of getting a cakey texture (how do you know when you’ve absorbed enough water??), and in my case they weren’t what I wanted, because I wanted the texture of a super chewy cookie (like how a molasses cookie is so chewy and bendy!) but with the flavors of pumpkin and pumpkin spice.
So for this recipe, I decided I’d approach adding the pumpkin to cookie dough and take out as much water as I possibly could, in the way that we might add sourdough starter or discard to a cookie recipe (this recipe is a great example): I use only the egg yolk, I brown the butter to remove the extra moisture, I don’t use baking powder because it tends to make things rise ‘up’ which can give a cakey texture, I balance my sugars appropriately (we often forget that sugar is a wet ingredient!) so that I would have a little bit of chew from the molasses in the brown sugar but not too much it would stop a good cookie spread, and finally…
This year I said, let’s try pumpkin butter instead of canned puree. And oh boy… These are just as chewy as a ginger molasses cookie!! But the flavor is all pumpkin: pumpkin spice and pumpkin butter in the dough, rolled in more pumpkin spice sugar mix for a slightly crisp. They’re the best pumpkin cookies ever. I said it. YOU HAVE TO MAKE THEM!
Butter: I think you will get roughly the same results with american style butter (~80% butterfat) and european style butter (~83% butterfat). There might be a slight more spread with the latter which will mean thinner edges.
Pumpkin pie spice: If you have the ‘pumpkin spice mix’ store bought, use that. If not, you can make your own: combine together 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of ginger, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, and (if you want) ¼ tsp each cloves and allspice.
Salt & Vanilla: Fine sea salt – if you’re using table salt, halve the amount; and pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste. If you’d like, you can use a fresh vanilla bean: split it and add it to the butter while it browns. Once the butter is done browning most of the lovely vanilla caviar will be swimming with the brown butter bits (this is one of my favorite baking tricks!). Discard the vanilla pod afterwards.
Sugar: Both brown sugar, which makes the cookies moist and chewy, and adds notes of caramel, (it can be light or dark brown) and fine granulated.
Egg yolk: From one large egg. Just the yolk!
Flour: All purpose flour. I generally use king arthur baking co. all purpose. If you aim to make these gluten-free opt for a 1 to 1 GF substitute flour that has the appropriate added starches and xanthan gum.
Leavening: Just baking soda. Be sure yours is fresh (less than 5 months old from the open date) and not clumpy. Always level out the spoon, never heaped.
Pumpkin Butter: I buy this from Trader Joes or I make my own! Recipe below.
*If you’re making the pumpkin butter yourself, do it an hour before you will make the cookie dough.
Start by measuring out the butter, then set it over medium low heat. Cook as it melts, stirring as needed. Keep cooking as the butter sputters and spits, and you’ll see the milk solids starting to separate (they kind of look like bits of panko).
After some time, those cream colored bits will begin to turn brown. Keep cooking the butter, stirring as needed with a rubber spatula, until all the bits are a medium brown. Immediately pour the butter, scraping off the brown bits from the pan, into a heatproof bowl.
While the butter is hot, add the salt, pumpkin spice and vanilla. Gently stir it then let it cool for about 5 minutes.
Add both the granulated and brown sugar to the butter and whisk very well, the sugar will begin to melt or dissolve as you whisk, and once it starts to look more cohesive you can stop.
Add the egg yolk and the pumpkin butter then whisk very very well for about 2 minutes. The mix will become thick and shiny.
Measure the flour over a scale or by fluffing it up with a fork, then shaking it over the measuring cup and leveling the cup (do not pack it in). Add it and the baking soda to the mixture and use a rubber spatula to stir the dough until you can’t spot any more unmixed flour.
Leave the dough uncovered and set it in the fridge for at least half an hour but up to a full hour.
If you’re using the sugar topping, whisk the spice with the sugar.
Preheat the oven and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. I usually grease my cookie sheets so the parchment and cookies don’t slide around (the back of the butter wrapper is great for this, just set the oily part of the wrapper on the pan and rub it all over).
Scoop two tablespoons of dough per cookie. If using the sugar topping, roll the cookie dough balls in the sugar, coating all over.
Bake the cookies until you can see a dark amber color on the edges and the cookies have cracked (or crinkled) all over.
If you will be glazing the cookies, wait until they are completely cool before you make the glaze.
So if you can’t find a store bought pumpkin butter, or you just prefer things from scratch, the good (GREAT) news is you can make your own! The texture you get is a little different, homemade is thicker and less sweet and it makes for cookies that spread just a bit less but are still wonderfully chewy.
(note this will make more than you need for the cookies, you could probably make two batches of cookies with it!)
In a pot combine 425g or 1 can pumpkin puree, two tablespoons of honey, 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ tsp each nutmeg and ginger), 100g or ½ cup brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar. Cook on medium heat, stirring often, for about 30-45 minutes until the mix has reduced quite a bit and is shiny and thick. Store in a mason jar for 1 week in the fridge or in the freezer for up to 5 months.
Pumpkin spice sugar: Combine ¼ cup granulated sugar (organic sugar is great for toppings because of its bigger granules) and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Roll the cookies in the sugar before baking.
Pumpkin glaze: whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar plus 2 tablespoons pumpkin butter. You can add some additional pumpkin spice, salt and vanilla to the mix. If it’s overly runny add more powdered sugar. If it’s too thick, add some milk. Always add less liquid than you think, powdered sugar has a tendency to disappear as you stir.
Pumpkin spice glaze: Skip the pumpkin butter and the brown butter and just whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, a pinch of salt, a dash of vanilla and about 2-3 tablespoons milk.
Brown butter glaze: Brown butter gives a lovely nutty, deep flavor to any glaze. If you’d like to use some in the glaze brown 160g butter (instead of 140 listed below), then measure out 113 g of butter for the cookie dough. Use the remainder to make a glaze, adding 1 cup powdered sugar, a pinch of salt, dash of vanilla and however much milk you need (probably 1-2 tablespoons) to give it the consistency of elmer’s glue.
If you haven’t glazed them, you can store these in an airtight container at room temperature where they’ll keep for a few days. If you’d like to keep them longer, freeze them.
If you have glazed them, keep them on an open try so as not to destroy the glaze. They’ll keep for a day or two. If you want to keep them longer after glazing, set them in a single layer on a tray and freeze until completely solid. Then you can transfer them to an airtight container and keep them longer in the freezer.
Make the cookies to the point of scooping on the tray (if you’re doing the sugar coating do it now). Set the tray in the freezer and freeze the dough balls until the dough is solid and hard. Transfer to a ziplock bag and freeze for up to 2 months.
If baking from frozen, add an additional 2-3 minutes of bake time. Remember, the cookies are done baking when the edges have an amber golden hue to them and have cracked quite a bit all over.
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