Saturday, October 24

Pumpkin Cookies

At this time of year, as we revel in the Golden Encore, the world around us echoes the colours of autumn gourds—think deep-hued orange pumpkins, tawny butternut and bright yellow spaghetti squash.

These delicious seasonal vegetables frequently star at our dinner table, but they are also wonderfully suited to baked treats.

This recipe for Pumpkin Cookies is one of my childhood favourites, copied from the well-worn card in my mom's recipe box. I love them as they are, fresh from the oven and still a little warm, but you can also turn them into Pumpkin Whoopie Pies by sandwiching them with a tangy-sweet cream cheese filling.

Using canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumkin pie filling!), these are quick and easy to whip together. You can make them at any time of year, but with Halloween around the corner, is there a better time than now?

Pumpkin Cookies
These cookies have a fine crumb and moist, cake-like texture. I like them best on the same day they are baked, but they will keep at room temperature in an air-tight container for a few days.
Makes about 30 cookies

2 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups pure pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup pecans, walnuts, raisins, crystallized ginger, or chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, spices and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using handheld electric beater) cream together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy and pale in colour, about 3-5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the pumpkin puree and vanilla extract.

Add about half the dry ingredients, mixing on low speed until almost combined. Switch to a wooden spoon or rubber spatula and gently stir in the remaining dry ingredients. Stir in nuts, fruit or chocolate chips if using. For the cookies pictured here, I divided the dough into two bowls and added pecans & raisins to one and chocolate chips to the other. Crystallized ginger and white chocolate chips would've been a great combination, too.

Drop the batter by heaping tablespoon onto the prepared cookie sheets, spacing about 1 1/2" apart. Bake until the top looks dry and springy to the touch. A toothpick inserted in the top should come out clean or with moist crumbs attached. About 12-14 minutes.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Make the pumpkin cookies as above, but use the back of the spoon to smooth out and slightly flatten the dough mounds after dropping onto the cookie sheet. Bake and cool.

Make filling: With an electric mixer, beat together 16 oz (450g or two bricks) of cream cheese, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1 cup of icing sugar until smooth. Taste and add more sugar if you like it sweeter or to thicken. If the consistency is too thick for spreading, beat in a bit of cream.

Slather a thick layer of filling on the bottom of a cookie, then sandwich with another cookie. Repeat until you use up all the filling or all the cookies. Take a bite and say "whoopie!".

Wednesday, October 14

Country Roads

Nothing beckons quite like a country road in Autumn.

Some of our guests on the recent Thanksgiving weekend brought their bicycles and rode 'around the block'—which, here, is a good 32 km trip. They had a great time and came back raving about the colours, the road, the route. So much so that Jim and I took a little break and took a drive up our road for a little eye candy.

We were treated to some sunny spells and patches of blue sky, which always sets off the fall foliage so nicely, but even under clouds, the view was spellbounding.

Round Lake is just a few clicks up from us on Fern Glen Road. The auburn hills with their green conifer skirts cut a colourful swathe between the water and sky. There are not a lot of houses and not much activity on this lake, which makes it a great choice for a short paddle if you bring your canoe or kayak.

These winding country roads, though, offer a wonderful way to see the season. Whether on a bike, in a car, or strolling on foot, the colour surrounds you. The curves and surface of the road make you take your time, take it all in. In places, the crowns of the trees overhead stitch together to form a canopy of colour and light. And every now and then, where the road widens a bit, you just have to pull over, get out, and say Wow.