Fall in our house means pumpkins. Carved pumpkins for Halloween. Baked goods with pumpkin. Roasting pumpkin seeds. Watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". And last but not least, decorating with pumpkins. The season would just not be the same without the round, orange squash. Autumn also brings cravings for more comfort foods throughout the day and with that, my kids start asking for more cookies, especially around snack time.
Being the sneaky mom that I am (even though I'm pretty sure my two older ones are on to me) I like to "trick" my kids into thinking they are getting a real treat, when in reality this snack is pretty healthy for them. Pumpkin dip falls right into this category, especially when served with plenty of fruit and a couple of cookies on the side. The fruit to cookie ratio is of course much higher, but they don't complain since it is presented in a fun way. The dip is nothing fancy, and can be found all over the internet. I happened to find a version on AllRecipes.com and made a few changes. Instead of regular cream cheese I used a low-fat version (you can't taste the difference in this dip) and also replaced the confectioner's sugar with brown sugar to add a little more flavor depth. Instead of pre-made pumpkin spice seasoning, I just added my own spices until I was happy with the end result.
While apples and pears are ideal for dipping, nothing beats these homemade gingersnap cookies. If your experience with these cookies has been like mine (I've only tried them years ago out of a box), I encourage you to try this homemade version. Believe me when I say, you will be hooked and never be able to return to the "break-your-teeth" store bought cookie again. The recipe for these cookies comes courtesy of David Lebovitz who is not just an ice cream genius, but also knows a thing or two about baking. I found the recipe on his website and was intrigued by the use of black pepper in the batter. The cookie dough is made quickly with every day ingredients before rolling the dough into logs and chilling it in the refrigerator. After that, the logs are sliced thinly, dipped in additional sugar (if desired) and then baked. The result was a perfectly, well rounded, subtly spiced cookie, that had crunch but at the same time melted in your mouth.
The dip, along with fruit and the cookies are pretty much the ultimate after school snack for my kids who absolutely fell in love with the dip and these cookies. Both of these recipes will be making repeat appearances throughout the season and as far as the cookies are concerned, they have earned a permanent spot as one of my favorites on my cookie list. I hope you'll give either one of these recipes a try, I'm sure there are plenty of opportunities throughout the season!
(adapted from AllRecipes.com)
8 oz. cream cheese (I used low-fat)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup solid pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash of ground cloves
Dash of allspice
Apples and Pears, for serving
Gingersnaps, for serving (Recipe to follow)
In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese and brown sugar until smooth. Gradually mix in the pumpkin. Stir in the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and allspice until smooth and well blended. Chill until serving! Serve with assorted fruit and gingersnaps!
(adapted from David Lebovitz, who in turn adapted it from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters)
(Makes 40-50 cookies)
2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
11 tablespoons (150 g) butter, unsalted, at room temperature
2/3 cup (130 g) sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup (80 g) mild-flavored molasses (sometimes called ‘light’ molasses)
1 large egg, at room temperature
Coarse sugar crystals for coating the cookies (optional)
Stir together the dry ingredients.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter just until soft and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue to beat until smooth, stopping the mixer to scrape down any butter clinging to the sides of the bowl.
Stir in the vanilla, molasses and egg.
Mix in the dry ingredients gradually until the dough is smooth.
Divide the dough in two equal portions and roll each on a lightly-floured surface until each is about 2-inches (5cm) around. Don’t worry if they’re not perfect; you can neaten them up in a second.
Wrap each in plastic wrap then roll them lightly on the counter to smooth them out. Refrigerate, or better yet, freeze the cookie logs until firm.
To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180C) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Slice cookie dough into 1/4-inch (a scant 1 cm) rounds with a sharp knife. Dip one side and press firmly in a bowl of coarse sugar if you want (you can also use granulated sugar instead), and place sugar-side up on a baking sheet, evenly-spaced apart. Leave a couple of inches, about 5 cm, between cookies since they’ll spread while baking.
Bake for 10-14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway during baking, until deep-golden brown. The cookies will puff up a bit while baking, then settle down when they’re done. Bake on the lower end of the range for softer cookies, and more for snappier ones, depending on your oven.
Let the cookies cool two minutes, then remove them with a spatula and transfer them to a cooling rack.