Lifestyle & Culture

Kitchen Detail: The Joy of Joy’s Pumpkin Cookies

October 13, 2022

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By Nancy Pollard

After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years—La Cuisine in Alexandria, Virginia—Nancy Pollard writes Kitchen Detail, a blog about food in all its aspects—recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food-related issues.

Pumpkin Cookies Are All Treat And No Trick

Joys Pumpkin Cookies in Kitchen Detail LabToday we give you one of the most sought-after recipes from our Cuisinette files: Joy’s Pumpkin Cookies via our star baking Cuisinette, Stephanie Gorenflo.  Stephanie trained in the professional pastry program at the now defunct L’Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda, Maryland. (We mortal Cuisinettes were sure a baking angel had sent her to us). When she drove in from Mount Airy, Maryland, to work at La Cuisine, she often had something delicious for us to eat—always of the non-salad variety.

Why This Is My Husband’s Favorite Cookie

retro photo from Heckers FlourNielsen Massey Madegascar Vanilla Bean PasteOne of Stephanie’s heaven-sent treats was her Pumpkin Cookie, the  recipe for which came from her good friend Joy. Stephanie and Joy have been  baking besties for years. Tradition had it that Stephanie would bring trays loaded with this special cookie  to La Cuisine once a year, or maybe even two crops from the end of October through Thanksgiving. Then she would go into her Christmas Cookie Mode, which always was delicious, but pumpkin cookies would never be on the tray. If you came to our Saturday Tastings when Stephanie was working, and it was one of those two months in the Fall, we would always include these cookies with the star ingredients from our shop–India Tree Caster Sugar and Light Muscovado Sugar, Heckers Flour, Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Paste. Even after the shop closed and I was developing my plans for sharing our accumulated knowledge of almost half a century, I received plaintive emails requesting that Joy’s Pumpkin Cookies be unearthed from La Cuisine’s recipe archives. There are several versions of this cookie wandering around the ether of Pinterest, but in our minds Joy’s version is the best, not only for technique but also for the ingredients . . . they matter too.

It’s Almost Always About the Ingredients

India Tree Harvest Mix sparkling SugarYou can make your own pumpkin purée from a Sugar Pie Pumpkin or the Italian Marina di Chioggia, and there are readily available canned organic India Tree Baking Sugarspumpkin purées. Do not use your Jack O’Lantern pumpkin! Or canned pumpkin pie filling! I discovered Heckers Flour through Ina Garten. It is an excellent American flour that is non-GMO and proud of it. We and our customers found that it baked better than many other mainstream American flours.

If you have access to Maple Sugar (I get mine from India Tree because it is finely milled), use half maple sugar and half India Tree Light Muscovado Sugar for the cookie batter and the frosting. The variation takes this yummy cookie to a celestial  level. We found (and so did our customers) that the Nielsen-Massey Madagascar or Tahitian Vanilla Bean Paste was an excellent substitute for the hassle of finding good-quality vanilla beans. You use it on a one-for-one basis. In other words, 1 vanilla bean would equal 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste. The Madagascar paste is less fruity and floral than the Tahitian version.

Stephanie always decorated her cookies with chopped toasted pecans and a sprinkling of large-grained orange decorating sugar, also from India Tree. Orange sprinkles would give a nice Halloween or Fall look, too. A little mise-en-place advice: Get your decors ready and pecans chopped and toasted before you bake. The frosting can stiffen when applied, but you can keep it in a bain-marie (or set your bowl over another bowl filled with hot water) so that it stays soft while you apply the “penuche” (the fudge-like layer) and then your decors.

So take this beloved recipe, check your cupboard for ingredients and decors, and make this cookie like the Cuisinettes do as the weather turns crisp and the leaves fall. This cookie has the Cuisinette Guarantee as the best in show!

Joy’s Pumpkin Cookies

Yields 24 to 30 cookies
Probably the most famous Cuisinette cookie ever. Stephanie got the recipe from her friend Joy.
Recipe adapted by Stephanie Gorenflo.
  1. 1 cup (200gr) cane sugar, preferably caster sugar
  2. 1 cup (225gr) unsalted butter
  3. 1 cup (225gr) pumpkin purée (organic if possible, but not pumpkin pie filling)
  4. 1 large egg at room temperature (65gr in the shell)
  5. 1 teaspoon (5gr) Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste (failing that, a good-quality vanilla extract)
  6. 2 cups (240gr) all-purpose flour (unbleached, unbromated Heckers Flour is a good example)
  7. 1 teaspoon (4gr) Bakewell Cream Baking Powder
  8. 1 teaspoon (3gr) baking soda
  9. 1 teaspoon (2.3gr) cinnamon
  10. ½ teaspoon (12gr) fine sea salt
For the frosting:
  1. Toasted, chopped pecans and other decors (sparkles, sprinkles, etc.)
  2. 6 tablespoons (85gr) unsalted butter
  3. 1 cup (200gr) Light Muscovado Sugar (using ½ cup fine maple sugar and ½ cup Light Muscovado Sugar kicks the frosting up a notch or two)
  4. ½ cup (119gr) heavy cream
  5. 2 cups (240gr) powdered sugar
  6. 1 teaspoon (5gr) Madagascar or Tahitian Vanilla Bean Paste
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. If using decors and chopped toasted pecans, prep them now so they can be applied quickly to the frosting while it is soft.
  3. Cream together sugar and butter until smooth and creamy. Cream in the pumpkin purée, egg, and vanilla . It’s fine if the mixture looks a bit curdled.
  4. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and sea salt. This can be done with a pastry blender in a bowl instead of sifting.
  5. Add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.
  6. Drop by 1¼-inch scoop onto a Silpat or baking parchment, placed on a cookie sheet, or you can pipe with a pastry bag and a large plain tube.
  7. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the top springs back to the touch.
  8. For the frosting, mix the butter, Muscovado Sugar (or the Muscovado-maple sugar mix), and heavy cream in a saucepan, over low heat, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
  9. Remove from the heat and gradually add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat with a hand mixer until the frosting reaches a smooth spreading consistency.
  10. Cookies should be frosted while warm. The frosting (which is like a fudge-like penuche) will set as the cookies cool.
  11. Add the roughly chopped pecans and add with sparkling sugar or decors, or Demerara sugar, onto warm but not hot frosting.
  1. Warning: Make a double batch!
  2. Cookies freeze beautifully, even when frosted.
  3. Decorate with India Tree Orange sparkling sugar, or their Natural Orange Sprinkles and crushed pecans for added appeal.
  4. I recommend India Tree sugars and a European-style butter (less moisture) to make this the superior cookie it deserves to be.
  5. Heckers Flour, while not organic, is a superior domestic all-purpose flour
  6. If you are making this batter into bars (like brownies to be frosted later with the penuche icing), omit the baking powder and soda so that the base is not too cake-like.
  7. If you make the frosting first, apply to the warm cookie and it will melt a bit.
  8. If you make the frosting while the cookie bakes, frosting can be hot on cool cookies or cold on warm cookies.

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