Autumn Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Flush with the flavors of autumn these cookies get a dose of warmth from the combination of cinnamon, browned butter and candied walnuts.

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I'll admit it, I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin pie. I make it, of course, for those I love on Thanksgiving, I even take a few obligatory bites (although my heart - and fork - is with the gooey, decadent pecan pies out there).

So, when this pumpkin patch-burnished leaves-hot apple cider-time of year rolls around and pumpkin puree seems to be everywhere, I think, not of pie, but of cookies. Pumpkin spice cookies with browned butter frosting and candied pecans to be exact. Sure these bite-sized treats take a few more steps to make but the end result makes it all worth it. Their texture is soft and cake-like, their frosting rich, creamy and soul-warming and the garnish of crunchy candied walnuts is the perfect combination of sweet and spice. Adding to their appeal, I don't have to wait till Thanksgiving to whip out the pumpkin puree, and I certainly have no need to muster up obligatory bites.

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Pumpkin Spice Cookies

makes about 3 dozen cookies

For the Cookies:
2 1/4 cup bleached cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

For the pumpkin-browned butter frosting:
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
4 1/2 Tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

For the Candied Cinnamon Walnuts:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup whole walnuts
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Reserve a bit of the flour mixture and toss with walnuts, set aside.

Combine sugars and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until fluffy and lightened in color. Add the pumpkin puree and beat until completely combined. Add in eggs one at a time; allowing each to fully incorporate before adding the next. Stir in vanilla extract.

Add in the flour mixture alternating with sour cream leaving the mixture streaky after each addition. Gently fold in nuts.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until the edges are golden. Cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the frosting:
Heat the butter in a saucepan until lightly browned but not burned, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and whisk in milk and vanilla. Add a bit of confectioners’ sugar to make a paste then add the rest in slowing, whisking until fully combined. Fold pumpkin in completely.

To make the candied walnuts:
Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat until dissolved. Stir in walnuts and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occassionally until the liquid reduced and the walnuts are glazed. Stir in cinnamon and pour nuts on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper to cool completely.

To finish:
Frost cooled cookies with creamy browned butter frosting and garnish with candied walnuts.

Related: Basic Techniques: How to Brown Butter

(Images: Rebekah Peppler)

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