The only thing that is getting me through this week is the knowledge that this Sunday is the Cookie Confab, where the dedicated bakers in our group close ranks and decided what delectables to make for the coming holidays. This year, it will be Debbie, Gail, and I plus a new convert, Rick. Rick recently left the company we all work for and took a position as a bank manager (traitor!), but we decided he could play with us anyway.
The plan looks like this so far:
1) We will all pack up our recipe books
2) We will meet at a Chinese buffet so we can eat. This way no one has to cook!
3) We will plot out the amount of resources needed to mount the attack
4) and lastly, we will set dates for the baking days
In recent discussions around the figurative water cooler, several points have already been brought up. Gail has said she wants to make rolled decorated cookies this year. We have not done so in the past, so that will be something new. Also, I found out that two of the ladies that have joined our firm since last year have severe allergies. One, Lisa, is allergic to peanuts, but is fine with all other nuts. Laura, on the other hand, is allergic to all tree nuts, but has no problem with peanuts. We are planning to discuss how we should approach the baking and packaging of the cookies so we can avoid any unpleasant accidents.
Another concern is that we made too many cookies last year, both in total number of cookies and in variety. I know, I know… how can anyone have TOO MANY cookies…but trust me, there were a few types that seemed to linger on for days after the initial glut.
In preparation for this season, I experimented with a pumpkin cookie recipe from the All-American Cookie Book by Nancy Baggett. While I loved the cookie, I thought the icing was too sweet and overpowered the spices in the cookie. Gail says she has a good cream cheese icing that she has been using for years, so we will see if a marriage is in order. I also like that these will keep up to a week, so that I can make them a couple days in advance if necessary. The spices seemed to meld with the pumpkin after sitting for a couple of days, plus they stayed very moist. My daughter took a dozen to school with her, and it received rave reviews from the lunch table as well. So this looks like a keeper provided I get the icing the way I want it.
I decided to risk the wrath of the copyright police and post the recipe for the pumpkin cookies here. If anyone has any suggestions for an alternative to the icing, drop me a line. I am always open to suggestions, especially when it comes to cookies.
Makes 30 to 35 (2 3/4-inch) cookies.
1 cup (5 ounces) raisins
3 cups all-purpose white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup (1 stick plus 2 2/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup corn oil or other flavorless vegetable oil
1/4 cup light molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin (not seasoned pumpkin filling)
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 3-ounce package cream cheese, slightly softened and cut into chunks
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease several baking sheets or coat with nonstick spray. In a small bowl, cover the raisins with hot water. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain well and set aside.
In a medium bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, cloves, nutmeg, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the sugar and butter until very well blended and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the oil, molasses, vanilla, and pumpkin until evenly incorporated. Beat or stir in the flour mixture, then the raisins, until evenly incorporated.
Drop the dough onto the baking sheets in golf-ball-sized mounds, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, in the upper third of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned all over and slightly darker at the edges. Reverse the sheet from front to back halfway through baking to ensure even browning.
Transfer the sheet to a wire rack and let stand until the cookies firm up slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to wire racks. Let stand until completely cooled.
For the frosting
In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on low, then medium, speed, beat together the powdered sugar, cream cheese, and vanilla until well blended and very smooth. Add the orange juice and beat until evenly incorporated. If the frosting is very stiff, add enough water to thin it to a spreadable but still firm consistency. Set the wire racks with the cookies over wax paper to catch drips. Using a table knife, swirl about 1 teaspoon frosting over the center of each cookie top. Let stand until the frosting completely sets, at least 1 hour. Store in a single layer or layered with wax paper in an airtight container for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month.