I have to tell you something. And you might want to sit down, and also…grab your calendar (date book? what do people use these days?) and your wallet. Because you will be canceling any plans you have and going straight to the store to buy canned pumpkin and whole wheat flour. (I’m assuming your kitchen is already well-stocked with chocolate chips at all times and if it isn’t, then GO TO THE STORE ANYWAY AND BUY SOME. Life demands an emergency stash of dark chocolate chips, and if you haven’t learned that tip by now, I’m very glad you’re here to hear it from me.)
Okay here’s the thing: You must make these pumpkin cookies. You must make them even if you never, ever bake cookies. You must make them even if you’re “not that into pumpkin” or if you roll your eyes at anyone who orders a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte. You must make them even if you live somewhere warm, where you aren’t just beginning to experience the delicious thrill of the first few weeks of fall: leaves crunching underfoot, red flannel shirts, spiced apple cider at the market.
You must make them even if you don’t want cookies! Because someone, somewhere, in your life does and you can give them a few, warm from the oven, and that kind of gesture is both small and enormous at the very same time.
Did you ever have those soft-batch cookies that came in the vending machines? They were chocolate chip, usually, as I recall from middle school. They were also awful, preservative-laden, and bizarrely fake-tasting in a way that I associated with illicit behavior and rapid sugar rushes when I was about 14. So, in a word, heaven.
Realizing now that those cookies are not remotely delicious, I can nonetheless appreciate the allure of the soft-baked texture. It’s hard to achieve it at home; there’s a reason that some of those brands use lots of unpronounceable ingredients. They create flavors and textures that are difficult to replicate in home baking.
And today, just in time for fall, I’ve discovered an even better way to create soft-baked cookies: pumpkin!
At its essence, this is a classic chocolate chip cookie dough with pumpkin puree added. I had to play around with it a number of times (so many cookies!) to get it just right. At first, I had too much pumpkin, which was delicious but created an extra-soft cookie that didn’t have enough chew. Once I reduced the puree amount slightly, I liked it better, but it still felt like it could use more character.
So I ended up swapping whole wheat flour for all-purpose, and I loved it best of all. The nuttiness of the flour stands up better to (and matches better with) the flavor of the pumpkin.
Just be sure that you let your melted butter cool a bit before adding it to the dough. Also, the dough is great to make ahead if you want to portion out the dough balls and freeze them. Just bake them directly from the freezer.
**One more recipe note: These cookies tend to be a bit puffier. In order to get that lovely, rustic, rumpled appearance, I take them out about halfway through the baking time and give them a SMACK with the back of a spoon. You can also use your fingers (careful, the dough is hot! but my fingers can take it) or a spatula to just press down on the tops of them. Then return them to the oven and let them finish baking.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 20 cookies
1/2 cup (113g) melted unsalted butter, cooled for at least 10 minutes
1/4 cup (50g) packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup (76g) pumpkin puree
1 and 3/4 cups (198g) whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¾ cup dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the melted (cooled!) butter with the sugars and beat until well-combined and fluffy, at least 3 minutes at medium speed.
Add the vanilla and pumpkin and beat for another minute.
Add all the dry ingredients, except for the chocolate, and mix until just combined, scraping down the bowl as you go.
Fold in the chocolate. At this point, you can chill the dough (at least an hour is good) if you want cookies that will spread a bit less. But I’ve had success both ways! And frankly sometimes I want cookies IMMEDIATELY so, if you feel the same way, just have at it.
When you’re ready to bake, scoop the dough out (I use a cookie scoop for this, but ideally you want them about 2 tablespoons per ball) onto your prepared baking sheets.
Bake for about 10 minutes (it might take a few minutes longer) or until the cookies are set on the top but still very soft-looking. You want to take them out of the oven while they still look slightly underbaked. As I mentioned above, I recommend taking them out after 5 minutes, pressing down the tops of each to smoosh them into a flatter shape if they’re quite puffy, and then letting them finish baking.