Last fall, my great farmer-warrior friend Liz presented me with the largest neck pumpkin ever to grace my sight. Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo, but this thing had to be close to 20 pounds of pure Pennsylvania Dutch farmwork. It sat around on the chair on my porch until I could logistically figure out how to get it all in the oven (answer: batches and multiple casserole dishes), but once I tackled the beast I had about 14 cups of pumpkin puree. Most of it went to live in the freezer in nice 2-cup baggies, and some of it went into making pumpkin rolls with neufchatel instead of cream cheese, and just a little less sugar than the original recipe called for. The end results had flavors that were way more complex than the vaguely spiced sugar- and fat-bombs that showed up at every winter gathering during my childhood in Pennsylvania, and my coworkers are still swooning at the memory of the roll I brought in to share.
I’ve slowly worked at using up the rest of my stash of pumpkin puree, taking some down here and there to mix in with my morning yogurt and oats. But now it’s mid-January, and with winter and my subsequent cravings for winter food beginning to dwindle, it’s time to get that puree moving. There are all sorts of possibilities out there, like the usual pumpkin pie or pumpkin soup. If you want something a little off the beaten path, there’s pumpkin pie ice cream with caramel sauce, spiced pumpkin-oatmeal cookies, and chocolate swirl pumpkin bread. If you’re a fan of pumpkin ravioli, then something like pumpkin gnocchi with creme fraiche-sage sauce would tickle your fancy.
Then there are the different things my mom would do to use up pumpkin, back in the day when I’d watch her carve up pumpkins late at night and make her own puree to hole up in the freezer. I have to admit, as a kid I didn’t care for her creative use of pumpkin in pancakes, muffins, and cookies. I also turned my nose up at her onion and green pepper pizza, but twenty years later, here I am ordering slices covered in onion and green pepper. And I’ve been stashing a bag of chocolate chips in the pantry just for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies like she used to make.
What emerged from my oven were craggy-looking drop cookies with light, soft, cakelike centers and, if they’re fresh from the oven, just a little crunch around the edges – a nice balance of “yes, I’m eating something healthy” and “OMG COOKIES!” Though they don’t have the same appearance as the smooth discs my mom made all those years ago, the softness and the flavors of warm spices and sweet pumpkin mixing with chocolate are spot-on, and they have that beautiful bright brownish-orange hue that I love.
Adapted from this Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookie recipe at Allrecipes.
Makes about 40 cookies
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (I used most of my 2-cup portion… I couldn’t resist saving some for my yogurt tomorrow!)
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and lightly grease your cookie sheet.
In a medium -sized bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Beat in the egg. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the vanilla extract and pumpkin puree until well-blended.
In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients except for the chocolate chips. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture. You should end up with a slightly stiff dough that’s just a smidge wetter than your typical chocolate chip cookie recipe; if it’s not stiff enough, add a little more flour. Once your dough is at the right consistency, fold in the chocolate chips.
Grab a spoon and drop rounded pieces of dough onto your prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookies start turning brown. Allow them to cool on the sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!
These are at their crunchiest right out of the oven and become all soft and cakey the next day, and they would be wonderful with a hot cup of chai tea or a pumpkin spice coffee.