While most pumpkin cookies end up cakey and thick, these pumpkin cookies are soft and chewy–similar in texture to your favorite chocolate chip cookie and jam-packed with pistachios and white and dark chocolate chips.
If there was one thing I loathed more than math throughout my 17 years of schooling (counting Kindergarten), it was chemistry. I think it was mostly because of all of the numbers (the same reason I hated math)– I grasped the equations and formulas of the field with all of the depth and understanding with which my puppy grasps the English language. Sure, sometimes I’ll tilt my head because I recognize a term or if the equation is basic enough (2+2? Got it), but generally the processes go right over my head.
When I started baking, I had no idea the amount of chemistry that is involved (and frankly, if I had I probably never would have picked up my first measuring cup). Fortunately, it’s a much more intuitive, easily learned chemistry, but chemistry it is, and that has become increasingly evident each time I find myself in the kitchen with a cookie or other baked good that hasn’t turned out exactly the way that I wanted it to.
I spend a growing amount of time writing, trying, then re-writing and re-trying each recipe, and in order to tweak them as I go to get the desired results, it’s required a growing knowledge of the chemistry of baked goods. You, too, can benefit from having an understanding of some of the basics of cooking chemistry.
For example, it’s important to understand (in this situation, anyway. I can’t imagine another situation where this is critical knowledge) that pumpkin puree contains a significant percentage of water (90%, according to Google), and so when trying to make cookies with it, you tend to end up with very cake-y cookies. This is fine in some situations (like in the case of my Pumpkin Snickerdoodles, and even there I minimized their cakey-ness) or if you were making pumpkin whoopie pies, but I had it in my head to make soft, chewy pumpkin cookies, not far off base from the texture of a chocolate chip cookie.
And that’s where the chemistry really seemed to come in.
Since pumpkin contains so much water but I really wanted genuine pumpkin flavor in these cookies (rather than just pumpkin spice flavor), I had to cut the moisture out of the recipe in another way. My first instinct was to use a shortening or oil in place of butter (which averages about 18% water), but butter provides critical flavor to these cookies and could not be omitted.
So, the eggs (which are about 75% water) were omitted, which made a cookie that was delicious but crumbled far too easily (because eggs, particularly the yolks are a critical binding agent that holds the cookies together). Ultimately, a single egg yolk is used in the final recipe, which resulted in a cookie that didn’t crumble under pressure but still was not cakey. (There was a great deal of playing around with baking powder/baking soda as well, but I’ll spare you the details, at least for this post).
Ultimately, the tweaking and chemistry dabbling paid off for exclusively chewy cookies that shine with the soft flavors of buttter and obvious but not overwhelming pumpkin, crunchy shelled pistachios and gratuitous chunks of dark and white chocolate.
Too bad they didn’t teach chemistry like this in school.
Chewy Pumpkin Cookies
- 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup butter softened, 2 sticks
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar packed
- 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
- 1 egg yolk yolk only
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup pistachios
- Preheat oven to 375F
- In medium-sized bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
- In KitchenAid or in large bowl using an electric hand mixer cream the butter. Add sugars and beat until well-combined.
- Add in pumpkin and beat until well-combined, stopping to stir down the sides of the bowl occasionally with a spoon or spatula.
- Add egg and vanilla, stir well.
- Gradually, with mixer on medium-low speed, stir in the flour mixture until completely combined. (stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure ingredients are well-combined).
- Stir in nuts and chocolate/white chocolate chips.
- Using a 1 1/2" cookie scoop (or approximating the size), drop cookie dough by rounded spoonful onto ungreased (preferably parchment paper-lined) cookie sheat.
- Bake on 375F for 9-10 minutes.
- Allow cookies to cool on cookie sheet before removing and enjoying.
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