Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing

Hello everyone!  I feel like I have been gone forever.  We have had a terrible cold virus taking us out one at a time.  First it was my daughter, then baby Alex got croup, then me and now my husband.   Somehow, only Jack was spared, knock on wood.

This month, my friend Eva at Eva Bakes picked pumpkin and sweet potatoes as the theme for What’s Baking.  I am so grateful for the support Eva has always given me and my blog.  Us bakers stick together!  So, if you get a chance, head over to Eva’s wonderful blog and check out her oh so fabulous looking desserts!

As I have said before, my husband is a super picky eater.  But surprisingly, at least to me, he loves sweet potatoes.  I have never baked with them before because I am not really a big fan.  So, I decided to go with pumpkin instead, since we both like it.  I made pumpkin bread a few weeks ago and it was delicious.  But, I wanted to do something different.  I came across these pumpkin cookies with brown butter icing and thought…pumpkin, spices, brown butter, frosting?  Umm..yum!

The batter of these cookies is simple to put together, but then Martha recommends piping the dough onto a cookie sheet.  Well, for 6 dozen cookies, that sounded like it would take forever.  I thought the batter was definitely thick enough to use a cookie scoop for portioning.  They may end up looking a bit nicer Martha’s way (doesn’t it always?), but I thought my way turned out just fine and was a heck of a lot faster.  Although these are called cookies, they have a cake-like texture, more like a whoopie pie.  If you have never made brown butter before, it’s really easy.  You just melt butter in a pan until, you guessed it, it is brown.  You just have to be careful to not go to far and have the bits turn black.  Then, I’m sorry, you will have to start over.  The addition of brown butter to the frosting, instead of the usual softened butter, gave it almost a butterscotch flavor that was crazy delicious!  When I was done frosting the cookies, I let Jack and Sammie eat the last bit of frosting in the bowl while I cleaned up.  All I could hear was Mmmm….Mmmmm  and when I took the bowl away it was almost clean enough to put back in the cabinet.  Sammie didn’t even want to taste the cookies because she hates pumpkin, she says.  Yet, after some convincing, she ate two before I cut her off.   Jack kept saying “These are so good mom”, baby Alex kept pointing to the container to ask for more, and all Justin could say was “Oh.My.God”.  So, yeah, I think my family liked them okay.

Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing

Yield:  6 dozen  (I got 4 dozen)

For the cookies:

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (14 ounces)   Almost a whole 15 oz can

3/4 cup evaporated milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, mix the butter and brown sugar on medium until pale and fluffy, ~3 minutes. Mix in eggs one at a time.  Reduce the speed to low.  Add the pumpkin, evaporated milk, and vanilla. Mix until well blended, ~ 2 minutes. Note:  The mixture will look curdled, don’t worry.  Add flour mixture and mix until combined.  It shouldn’t look curdled anymore.

Martha says:  Transfer 1 1/2 cups batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip (such as Ateco #806) and pipe 1 1/2-inch rounds onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 1 inch apart. I used a cookie scoop and it worked great.  Bake the cookies, rotating sheets halfway through baking.  When done, the tops should spring back, ~ 12 minutes. Cool on sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack and cool completely before frosting.

For the brown butter icing:

4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon evaporated milk    Save the remaining milk to thin the frosting out if it thickens too much while frosting all the cookies

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract     I used vanilla bean paste….I love those specks!

Measure the confectioners’ sugar and put into a large bowl.  Set aside.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Cook the butter, swirling pan occasionally, until golden brown, ~ 3 minutes. Watch carefully, you want brown bits, not black.  Immediately pour the browned butter into the bowl of confectioners’ sugar.  Make sure to scrape any browned bits from sides and bottom of pan.  Pour in the evaporated milk and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Spread about 1 teaspoon icing onto each cookie. If icing stiffens, stir in more evaporated milk, a little at a time.   Let sit for a few hours to set before packing up for storage.  Make sure to place wax paper in between each layer to prevent sticking.

Source:  Martha Stewart

Garlic, Ginger, and Scallion Shrimp

I bet you saw the picture of this recipe and you were like, what?  This is a baking blog!   Well, today I’m taking a bit of a departure from my usual brownies, cookies and bars.  I decided to join a recipe swap (my first one!) and the theme was your favorite celebrity chef recipe.  I got a Rachael Ray recipe for garlic, ginger and scallion shrimp from Jaida’s blog Sweet Beginnings.  I was very excited when I saw this recipe for a few reasons.  I love shrimp, especially when it is dressed with Asian flavors.  And, since it’s a Rachael recipe, I knew it would be quick and easy.  Finally, knowing my crazy picky family, this would be a special treat just for me.  No sharing.  True, I am a baker at heart.  It’s what I am good at.  But, one cannot live on desserts alone, as much as I wish I could.  The problem is, I am not the best cook, but that’s mostly because of lack of opportunity.  I was so up for this challenge!

I went to Whole Foods to pick up the shrimp and I don’t know what I was thinking, but I got shell on shrimp that even still had legs.  Of course, I should have gotten cleaned shrimp, but I’m sure I was distracted by one of my two children at the time.  Most likely both. 😀 When I got them home, I was thinking “Hmmm…I have never cleaned shrimp before”.  This could be interesting.  Hopefully all my Food Network watching would lead me through this.  I pulled off the legs and the shells came off pretty easily.  I then cleaned the underside of half of the shrimp and then I noticed a dark discoloration along the back of the big shrimp I had in hand.  Oh, this is the part I’m supposed to be removing.  So, I went back and correctly cleaned the shrimp I had thought I had already completed.

Another ingredient I have never worked with is real ginger root.  I’ve only used the powder in baking.  I thought I remembered seeing someone peel the root with a spoon, so that’s what I did and it worked pretty well.  I had a microplane out that I used earlier to zest some lemons for lemon pie bars (recipe soon to come) and I decided to use it to grate the garlic and ginger.  I don’t know if that is the right thing to do, but I’ve never been one for liking to bite into a chunk of garlic and I figured I would feel the same about ginger.  It worked great for me.  I went on to cut the scallions and finally my mise en place was set and I was ready to pan fry.  The shrimp cook very quickly and will be rubbery if overcooked, so make sure you have all your ingredients ready to go and within reach.  The result was delicious and if it wasn’t for the shrimp snafu, it was really a 30 minute meal.  A perfect weeknight dinner.

I was so glad to participate in this swap.  This recipe made me step outside my usual chicken finger making comfort zone and I tried some new techniques that I have only seen on television or read about in books.  I found a great new recipe and I got to share one of my favorite recipes, chocolate sugar cookies, with someone who loves food just as much as me.  And, that’s what blogging is all about.  I’m already looking forward to the next swap!

Garlic, Ginger, and Scallion Shrimp

1 large egg white

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 pounds large (26 to 30 count) shrimp, shelled and deveined

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)   I grated it

1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, scraped and finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)  I grated it

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional and adjust by taste)

1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

3 scallions, halved lengthwise, cut into 1-inch-pieces, dark green parts set aside

Steamed rice   I used boil in a bag because I cannot make good rice to save my life!

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white with the cornstarch, sugar, salt and pepper until a paste forms. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Set the shrimp aside to marinate for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes; set aside.

Heat a large, heavy skillet over high heat for 3 minutes. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add the shrimp and the white and light green scallion pieces and stir to coat with the oil. Cook, stirring and scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet, until the shrimp are almost cooked through, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic mixture and the dark green scallion pieces and cook, stirring, until the shrimp are cooked through, about 1 minute more. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the shrimp to a large platter and serve with steamed rice.

Source:  Sweet Beginnings (also seen on A Taste of Home Cooking , originally from Rachael Ray)

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