I was working at Sur la Table one night recently, and the manager had set up a demo. He had put some mulling spices in a pot with water and set the pot on an induction burner, so that as the water heated, the smell of the spices permeated the store. Smelling those spices made me crave pumpkin spice creations – cakes and pies. But for some reason what popped into my head was, wouldn’t it be fun to create a pumpkin spice cookie – with chocolate chips of course – to go with the fall season?
I’ve never made a pumpkin cookie before, but I had an idea how to do it. Then a second idea came to me – what about matching up my own new recipe with some recipes from experienced vegan bakers from the Internet, in a kind of throwdown? Shortly thereafter came the third idea: that it would be ideal to have a group of people to taste the cookies and give their impressions. And it didn’t take me long before I figured out who that could be: Therese’s brother Sam, sister-in-law Cyndi (aka author of Butter Both Sides Blog), son Dan and daughter Hope (author of the Too Travelled blog), who are in town. They are great foodies and great travelers, and would no doubt be able to give me their honest opinions about what they liked and disliked about each of the 3 recipes, and then vote on which one was the best.
Who would I match up against in the throwdown? The first choice was an easy one: vegan baker and cookbook author Hannah Kaminsky, one of my Dairy Free Heroes on Pinterest and someone whose work I have admired (and tasted!) for quite a while now. When I wrote to her, she told me that she didn’t have a pumpkin cookie recipe, but she did have a persimmon cookie recipe that I could adapt simply by substituting pumpkin for persimmon. That sounded like that would work great.
For the second choice, I left it up to old Google to give me some ideas. I chose a recipe from the Detoxinista, for a couple of reasons. First, her recipe came up pretty high on Google’s search, which tells me that not only does she have good skills for pushing herself up the ranking list, but also that she probably puts out some consistently high quality content. Second, her recipe for a Pumpkin Pie Cookie was the most unusual one I found, being grain-free and using nut butter and pumpkin and maple syrup. I found the idea of making 3 recipes that contrasted from each other a very attractive one – if all 3 tasted too similar, there might be little for anyone to say!
I designated Hannah’s recipe as A, mine as B, and the Detoxinista’s as C, and went to work, starting with A. I had originally hoped to bake all 3 cookies at once, splitting up each dozen into four of each recipe, but their baking temperatures and times were varied, so I had to do one at a time.
In assembling the dough for cookie A, I was careful to follow Hannah’s instruction not to mix the wet and dry ingredients together too thoroughly, and to fold in the nuts and chocolate chips (Hannah had suggested I add “a handful” of chips – I thought having the same amount of chocolate and nuts would be good, so I went with 1/4 cup).
While cookie A was baking, I began assembling cookie B, my recipe. Here is the recipe I used (keep in mind that for the throwdown, I cut the recipe in half):
2 sticks, Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks, softened (not melted)
1/2 cup white sugar
1-1/4 cup brown sugar
2 “eggs” (i.e., 3 tsp Egg Replacer mixed with 4 tbsp water)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin (I used Fig Food Pumpkin Puree)
1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 package chocolate chips (12 ounce) (I used Guittard Super Cookie Chips)
1 cup chopped walnuts
In a large bowl, mix the two sugars. Add the Earth Balance, and mix thoroughly. Add the vanilla, Egg Replacer and pumpkin and mix thoroughly once again. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients together (flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon), then add the dry to the bowl, and mix thoroughly once again. Last, add chips and nuts, and toss to make sure they are well-incorporated into the dough.
Lay out large tablespoon-sized scoops of dough on a cookie sheet with parchment paper on it, leaving a lot of space in between cookies – they will spread while baking. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, until lightly crispy around the edges.
So yes, my recipe had oats and walnuts and so forth just like Hannah’s. But as will be seen below, they nevertheless varied considerably.
As cookie B baked, I prepared cookie C, then while cookie B cooled, I baked cookie C. As soon as cookie C was cool enough to handle, we started the tasting – my tasters had been so patient up until then, but I did not feel it would be polite to make them wait, after having been smelling scrumptious cookie smells for an hour or so, until the last cookie was completely cooled to room temperature.
Without any further ado, here are the three cookies that were tasted:
What was the consensus from my group of foodies? That A had the best taste, B had the best texture (a classic cookie texture, one person said) and C was unusual, and thus hard to compare with the others.
I used peanut butter instead of almond butter for cookie C, and the consensus was that the peanut butter overwhelmed the pumpkin flavor. But for what it was – a peanut butter/pumpkin pie in cookie form – we enjoyed it.
We ate our way through the first batch of cookies, accompanied by pots of a couple of hot chai teas prepared by Therese, with milk and sugar (almond milk for me, of course). Then when we had eaten all that I had baked, someone – it may have been Sam – asked if there was any cookie dough left. I did have dough from cookies A and B left, so I fired up the oven again, and started laying out some of cookie A to bake.
Then Sam had a brilliant idea. Since cookie A had the best flavor, and B had the best texture, why not mix the two doughs together, and see if we might thereby make the best cookie of the day? I was doubtful for a moment – mixing two cookie doughs together seemed at worst sacrilegious and at best, a violation of the throwdown concept. But as I pondered it for a minute, I thought, why not? No rule is so important that it cannot be broken in the service of making a better cookie!
And you know what? Sam was right. The hybrid, which we called D, was the best cookie of the day. Good flavor, good texture.