I’m not usually one for impulse buys at the grocery store (I will flip through that US Weekly and I will look longingly at that Snickers bar, but my resolve is firm), but next to the discounted Halloween candy this week is an eight-foot display of fall baking supplies. Brown sugars, ten-pound sacks of flour, cookie cutters, coconut, baking chocolates, chopped nuts by the bagful.
And oh, the possibilities. The cakes and cookies and confections to be made, the holiday and hostess gifts! The marathon baking sessions! And all those supplies are on sale.
As it is, I am fairly well stocked right now, so all I picked up (resolve: firm) was fresh cinnamon and new containers of baking soda and baking powder. Chemical leaveners degrade over time and do lose their rising power, so I’ve gotten into the habit of swapping out my baking soda & powder every six months or so. (Do this, and somewhere a choir of home ec teachers will burst into song, a soaring hymn dedicated to your rigorous domesticity.)
Thankfully leaveners are also cheap, so if it’s been a long while since you last baked, you might also consider buying a fresh batch. Mark the date on top with a permanent marker and move the old box of soda to the fridge or keep for odd cleaning jobs around the house. (You can also test your leaveners to see if they’re still active. Science is fun!)
Now, cookies. I should say that I’m not usually a pumpkin person. (I fail to understand you pumpkin pie lovers. There’s perfectly good apple or pecan pie at your disposal and you opt for a custard made out of squash?) I will, however, make an exception for these babies: pillow-soft with a springy, cake-like texture and all the requisite fall spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger). They’re iced with a sweet brown butter glaze, which I’ve slathered on apple spice cakes and oatmeal raisin cookies and may or may not have licked straight off the spoon. These are winners, these cookies, and they can carry you all the way through Thanksgiving and beyond.
Soft Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing
adapted from Martha Stewart; makes 6 dozen 2″ cookies
for the cookies:
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (14 ounces)
- 3/4 cup evaporated milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
for the icing:
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon evaporated milk,
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift dry ingredients in a medium bowl: flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg. In a medium bowl, whisk pumpkin pureé, vanilla and 3/4 C evaporated milk. Set both aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and brown sugar on medium until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl with a spatula in between. On low, add pumpkin mixture (the batter will look curdled). Add the dry mixture and mix until combined.
Line baking sheets with parchment. Transfer some of the batter to a pastry bag (I used an Ateco 805 round tip, but anything around 1/2″ will work) or to a gallon zip-top bag. (Clip off one bottom corner to use as a makeshift pastry bag.) Pipe rounds of batter about 1 1/2″ in diameter about 1″ apart (cookies will spread slightly during baking). Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through, until tops of cookies feel springy to the touch. Let cool 5 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For icing, sift the powdered sugar in a medium bowl and set aside. Heat butter in a small saucepan or sauté pan over medium heat, swirling every so often to cook evenly, until the milk solids turn a nutty golden brown and smell fragrant and toasty, about 3 minutes. Mix sugar with the butter (scrape down the browned bits clinging to the bottom of the pan), evaporated milk and vanilla. Add more milk to thin out as needed. Frost each cookie with a teaspoon or so of icing.
Note: Cookies can be made ahead. Wrap well, unfrosted and in a single layer, up to three days at room temperature. Cookies will stick if stacked.