So far, so good for my little corner of cyber-space, we’re still up and running, albeit tentatively. Over 10,000 calls per 30 minutes to 911 at one point yesterday according to the Mayor as the blackout rolled through, not to mention the fires, flooding, wind damage, and so on. Sandy’s been more than a bitch so far, but I have the utmost faith we’ll get it together, pull through and be the stronger for it. We got through worse, we’ll get through this.
Today, we’ve opened our doors to anyone who needs hot water, hot coffee, electricity and the interwebs, but we’re much a little island of up that no one can get to unfortunately. We decided to bake in the mean time, to have a treat for anyone that makes it in and to keep our All Hallow’s Eve spirits up with something quite festive for the holiday, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. When I was first introduced to these it was via a vegan recipe, this one is more-or-less vegetarian friendly and damned good because it require little that we don’t have readily available since you know, perishables like eggs and milk are the first things off the shelves in a crisis even though they last like what, less than a day without refrigeration.
Typically you can find margarine vegan friendly since it’s mostly oil anyhow, but you can substitute oil instead if you’d like, or, use butter as we usually do. My preference with this recipe is to use unrefined sugar and brown sugar combined in a 2:1 ratio. Unrefined sugar are crystals with a brown huge due to the molasses still entrapped inside as opposed to fully refined white sugar which has that snowy color to it most people are accustomed to. Brown sugar is semi or fully refined sugar and then as the molasses as a syrup re-added to it. If you don’t have brown you can use any other sugar hand mixed with molasses. Molasses comes in different grades from slightly bitter (black or bootstrap) to sweet (light) if you are mixing your own. The cookies work best with an element of that bootstrap molasses bitterness somewhere in your sugar profile. PS in all of these scenarios sulpher is NOT preferred, if you can find the ‘raw’ or ‘unsulphered’ version that’s the way to go. In a real pinch, start with maple and related tree sap syrups, then honey, then agave as molassas replacements.
The pumpkin is just canned puree, it’s usually low sodium anyhow, but check in case, the lower the better if you have a choice. The puree is what gives the cookies both binding to stay together as dough (like using banana or or other squashes like zuchs) and makes it take on that wonderful cakey flavor that is spongy but still light (when not overworked, if you beat up any dough it becomes rubbery). You can use fresh, roasted pumpkin, but it’s probably more work then it’s worth for flavor and the moisture levels will be way more inconsistent so you’ll have to hand feel the tackiness to the dough with the flour more often.
As for the flour, we used ‘unrefined’ ‘soft’ ‘all purpose’ wheat. If you wanted to sub out with another flour it’s all about the texture of the dough, and most will require adjustments to the moisture level, the way you’ll tell is in the dough consistency, or tackiness. I did it with sprouted brown rice flour back in the day, so it’s totally possible when you know the consistency you’re looking for. Always note most ‘all purpose’ flours have ‘self-leavening’ agents in their mixture, if you don’t have an AP blend you’ll need to compensate in in leavening for some volume. Soft means the refining process produces less gluten which also means you can beat the piss out of it more before it becomes a rubber band (makes it more forgiving as a dough) but that’s also because gluten isn’t as much part of the binder. Unrefined (it’s also sold as ‘unbleached’) means we weren’t using bleach, or a whitening process, so it’s not snowy white, it has this slightly coarser feel to the hand and a grey-brown look to it meaning more of the vits-and-mins weren’t stripped out in the grinding process (so you don’t need to have it re-enriched later).
The seasoning was originally given to me as “prepackaged pumpkin pie spice” which the one suggested i hated. The basic idea using fresh spices is provided below, but to experiment further you can use any other number of winter spices like ginger, cloves, paprika, cumin, sage, etc. as “secret weapons” in putting your own spin to the basic recipe too (wink wink, homemade candied ginger used to be mine).
Finally, chocolate chips may, or may not, be vegetarian or vegan friendly. More brands are vegan friendly than you think which is why I always tell people not to be afraid of a vegan friendly recipe such as this, but I digress… Get the chocolate you love, in chip, brick or whatever form you can make chip size by bashing, smashing, crushing or whatever. If you want more texture, walnuts would be the standard go-to. I did it once with roasted chestnuts, mmmmmm, even better with seasoned roasted, shelled and coarse chopped pumpkin (and/or butternut squash) seeds. Peanuts for the lazy, hazelnuts for the daring or pecan for that southerner in you, but we did these (and like ours) plain.
I don’t bake a lot so you’ll have to follow along as best you can… even with all that preface
2 cups sugar
1 cup margarine
15.5 oz pumpkin (1 small can)
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp of pumpkin pie seasoning (2:1:1 cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice as a substitute)
dash of salt
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
two mixing bowls
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cream the sugar, butter, pumpkin and vanilla
Sift the flour, baking soda and pumpkin pie seasoning together
Fold the dry mixture into the wet
Fold the chips into the dough, do not overwork
Drop by table spoon onto the baking sheet (we do grease ours…parchment, or other non sticks can work too)
On a middle rack bake for 12-15 minutes