Pork and Pickles

These are a few of my favorite things


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Whole Wheat Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Who doesn’t love pumpkin chocolate chip muffins? Nobody in my family, that’s for sure. And for a family where only half the members like winter squash, this is impressive. I’ve been using this recipe from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking for a few years now and it’s always given me good results, unlike some of the other recipes in that book. I prefer to eat baked goods that are made with whole grains, but some things really are better with white flour (birthday cake, I’m looking at YOU).

But pumpkin and whole wheat? Match made in heaven. Add chocolate chips and well, how can it be anything but amazing? Don’t answer that. I know how.

The cast of characters

The cast of characters: whole wheat flour, leaveners, spices, salt, sugars, butter, eggs, vanilla, pureed winter squash (probably butternut, but who knows)

These muffins come together in just a few minutes, provided your butter is at room temperature. I’ve never made them with melted butter or another liquid fat, but I have substituted coconut oil (solid at room temperature) for the butter a few times. It adds a lovely coconut fragrance to the finished product, but right now the coconut oil’s just too much of a pain to dig out of the jar. And besides, I had butter out. This recipe uses a typical muffin mixing method – cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated before adding the next, add pumpkin, add dry ingredients, add chocolate chips. Portion, bake, eat.

All portioned out and ready to bake!

All portioned out and ready to bake!

An important technique note with any muffin, cake, or quick bread is to avoid overmixing. However, it’s not a big risk with whole wheat flour, since the bran and germ fragments tend to slice through the gluten strands and therefore you don’t get a whole lot of gluten development. Or at least that’s how I remember it working – it’s been a while since I read about that.

A word about portioning the batter: I like to use portion scoops for this job. Mostly because it’s easy and keeps my hands clean, but also because it helps me make sure that the muffins are all about the same size and therefore bake at the same rate. You can purchase portion scoops online or from your local restaurant supply store. You can get them in cookware shops too, but they’re generally going to be much more expensive there. Each one will have a number stamped on the sweep or handle, which tells you how many scoops of that size it’ll take to reach a quart (32 fluid ounces). I use a #40 for muffins (two scoops per muffin), a #60 or #70 for cookies, and a #90 for… well, I forget why I have that one. It was something interesting, I’m sure.

Done!

Ready to eat!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins, from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking

Makes 16-18 muffins

  • 2 cups (8oz) whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (7.5 oz) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 oz) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (9.5 oz) pumpkin puree, canned or fresh
  • 3/4 cup (4.5 oz) chocolate chips (or dried fruit if you prefer)
  • 3/4 cup (3 oz) chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375° and grease muffin tins or line with muffin papers

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In mixer bowl, cream butter with both brown and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating one before adding the next. Scrape down bowl and beater between egg additions. Add pumpkin and mix to combine. Add dry ingredients and stir until mostly incorporated, then stir in chocolate chips.

Portion into muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. A #40 portion scoop works well for this – two scoops fill the muffin cup to the right level. Bake 22-24 minutes and let cool for a few minutes before removing from pan. Store covered at room temperature.

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Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies With Cream Cheese Brown Sugar Frosting

The title’s a mouthful, I know, but luckily it’ll be hard to talk while you’ve got your mouth full of these amazing cookies.

Fall is, after all, the season where we put pumpkin in everything – beer, coffee (which I do NOT endorse), ravioli, pie – you name it! Why not put it in cookies and then, to take it completely over the top, make them into sandwiches with some complementarily-flavored frosting?

I’d been thinking about pumpkin cookies for a couple weeks before I stumbled across this recipe – I’d left my bike at my cousin’s house and when I went to retrieve it his wife sent me off with a bag of these fantastic cookies she’d made. They had pumpkin in them, naturally, and there were pecans and a nice glaze that may have had brown sugar in it. I was as amazed as anyone else when there were still cookies left after my ride home! She sent me the recipe but I was put off by the fact that it called for a whole *pound* of butter. In the end, it turned out that fantastic pumpkin cookies are worth an entire pound of butter, but one could halve the recipe and still have a gigantic amount of cookies. Scroll down to TL;DR for the recipe.

One whole pound of butter?? Worth it!

I switched up the mixing method a little bit from the recipe I was using – they added the spices, salt, and leaveners before adding the liquid ingredients, and sometimes I can be pretty firmly set in my ways when it comes to mixing. Plus I may have not been reading the instructions. So I put this together using the creaming method: beat softened butter until fluffy, then add sugar and beat until it’s even more nice and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time and don’t add the next until the first one’s been worked into the butter/sugar mixture. Add vanilla, add pumpkin, beat until everything’s combined. Scrape down the sides of your bowl frequently to make sure everything gets mixed in evenly! While your mixer’s working away, combine the dry ingredients – flour (I used half all purpose and half whole wheat because I prefer that texture), spices, leaveners, salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing until combined. I feel like you can mix these cookies a little bit more than you would with other recipes, because the pumpkin seems to tenderize them quite a bit. Plus they need a little more structure to hold up with the dense, wet pumpkin in there. But too much and they’ll turn out bready – you don’t want that!

Oh, I forgot! This is about 2/3 cup of chopped up crystallized ginger. I mixed it in with the dry ingredients – the flour helps keep the pieces from sticking to each other and ensures that they’re evenly distributed through the dough.

By this point, your oven should be turned on to preheat. Ideally you’d have started it before you started creaming the butter, but if you’re like me that part is easily forgotten. While the oven’s heating up, grab some sheet pans and either grease them thoroughly or line with parchment paper. Scoop tablespoon-sized blobs of dough on to your sheet pans, leaving about 2″ between them. I used a #70 scoop, which I highly recommend – this is a sticky dough and a scoop/disher will give you nicely-portioned dough and keep your hands pretty clean. Not that you aren’t sneaking tastes of the dough should you happen to get it on your fingers. No, of course you aren’t – raw eggs and all that. Pffft.

Blobs of tasty, tasty cookie dough, all ready for the oven.

In my oven, these little puppies needed 11 minutes at 350° to attain perfect doneness. I let them sit in the pan for 10 minutes or so and then transferred them to a cooling rack with a metal spatula. They’re pretty fragile immediately after baking, so use caution when moving them. Meanwhile, keep scooping and baking until you can’t stand it anymore, and then scoop the rest of the dough onto a lined baking sheet and freeze it. Once the dough blobs are frozen solid, transfer them to a ziploc bag and save them for your next cookie emergency.

Yep, they smell pretty incredible.

Once the cookies are cool and you’ve taste tested them (gotta make sure they’re edible, right?), mix up the frosting for the sandwich filling. I forgot to take pictures – sorry! But you can do it without pictures – it’s super simple! Beat softened butter, cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla, and a little salt until it’s all combined and fluffy, then add in powdered sugar until it’s stiff. Add a tablespoon or so of milk (or half and half, because that’s what I had in the fridge) to loosen it up, then add the rest of the powdered sugar. Adjust the consistency with more milk or more powdered sugar – you want something that’s easy to spread but stiff enough that it’ll stand up to the cookies. At this point, turn half your cookies upside down and transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a plain tip (or use a ziploc bag, from which you’ll trim a corner for piping). Poot a generous amount of frosting onto each of your upturned cookies, and if you have extra at the end either distribute it wherever it’ll fit or put it on any extra cookies (since you may have ended up with an odd number due to snacking, like I did). Or, you know, just give it to the kids on spoons and let them think you’re the best parent ever. (Substitute partner/friend/parent/neighbor as needed there)

I have mad piping skillz, yo!

Once you’re out of frosting, take all the naked cookies and match them up with frosted cookies, then shove them in your mouth. Heavenly, no? The noise that came out of my mouth when I bit into one was pretty much obscene.

Oh yes. Yes yes yes.

TL;DR 

Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes ~5 dozen. Can (and maybe should) be halved

  • 1 lb butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree (or one 15 oz can)
  • 4 cups all purpose flour (substitute whole wheat flour for half or more if you like)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated, if at all possible)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup crystallized ginger, chopped (substitute toasted pecans, if you like!) – optional 

 

Preheat oven to 350°

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then add eggs one at a time, beating until fully incorporated before adding the next. Add vanilla and pumpkin, beating until combined. Meanwhile, mix all dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then stir in crystallized ginger or nuts, if using. Scoop by the tablespoon onto greased or parchment-lined baking sheet pans and bake for 9-11 minutes, until set and very lightly browned around edges. Allow to cool on the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to rack to cool completely.

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 TB brown sugar (use dark brown sugar if you have it – the flavor really comes through!)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 2-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-2 TB milk

 

Beat butter, cream cheese, sugar, salt, and vanilla until fluffy. Add 2c of powdered sugar and beat until incorporated. Beat in milk until frosting is fairly loose, then beat in powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until you’ve got a satisfactory texture. Adjust as needed with more milk or sugar – you want this stiff but not too stiff to pipe. Transfer to piping bag or ziploc bag and apply to flat side of cookies. Top with naked cookies. Eat.