Friday, May 7, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies


I haven’t posted for a very long while. Hopefully I haven’t disappointed any avid readers. (Though I doubt I have any.) My only excuse is that I’ve been overwhelmed with the craziness of my senior year: choosing a college, AP tests, etc. Thankfully, all of that is done, or at least is on its way towards being done, and I can focus once more on the most important things: reading and baking.

I’ve been doing a lot of both in the past week. I recently went on a book-reserving binge on the New York Public Library website, and all the books I’ve put on hold have started coming in. Though I know that I still have work to do and scholarships to seek out, it’s hard to keep my nose out of new books once they’re in the house, perched tantalizingly in precarious piles atop my bedside table or scattered on the kitchen counter. I’ve particularly fallen in love with Andrea Barrett. She writes fiction about science and scientists, which may sound dubious but is actually wonderful. I especially loved her collections of short stories: Ship Fever and Servants of the Map. Each of the stories is so different and intricate, but when read together they weave themselves into a kind of treatise on humanity. On the ways science and knowledge affect us, the ways that searching for truths about nature leads us to truths about ourselves. I love it when writers—or anyone, really—can find that intersection between science and philosophy and art, and use it to tell a story that isn’t only thoughtful and beautiful but so engrossing that you can’t tear your eyes from the page, even when it’s past midnight and you have a calculus test the next morning.

I think that that mixture—science, philosophy, and art—is also part of why I love baking. Baking is unquestionably a science. Anyone who has tried a recipe fifteen different times, painstakingly noting each variation in baking time or the type of pan used can vouch for that. But it also requires an artistic flair—that dash of cinnamon added to your strawberry shortcake recipe based on what could either be the faintest whim or the most fundamental gut instinct. I even like to think that baking has a touch of philosophy to it—baking is, after all, about assembling a collection of diverse ingredients that alone mean nothing but together can make a masterpiece. How much more metaphysical can you get than that?

These cookies are like a collection of Andrea Barrett’s short stories. Each aspect of the cookie, like each story a collection, is delicious on its own but even better when consumed together. You take a bite and realize how well white chocolate and cinnamon work together, how the rich bitterness of the dark chocolate plays off of the sweetness of the pumpkin. There are scientific elements involved: the batter seemed to wet, but I didn't want to add more flour and make the cookies super heavy, so I decided to toss in hald a cup of oats on a whim. They have an aspect of logic and thought to them: if you're overly analytical, like me, you'll wonder about the spicy yet homey flavor hidden beneath the chocolate, about it's role in the batter, about what it means for cookie as a whole. Then you'll realize that it's nutmeg and laugh at yourself. Plus they're delicious. They even look cozy and inviting, like something you'd want to curl up in a chair by the fire with, along with a cup of tea and a good book. It’s a scientific experiment, a philosophical mind-game, and a work of art all in one recipe. Pretty impressive for a Wednesday afternoon.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (heavily adapted from Joy the Baker)

These cookies are a funny sort of mixture between a muffin, a scone, and a cookie. They’re much softer than a regular oatmeal cookie and have a denseness similar to some scones. I’m going to keep toying with the recipe—I’d like for them to crisp on the outsides a bit more—but these are delicious (and healthy! Only 3 tbsp of butter!) even now.

½ cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup old fashioned rolled oats
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp allspice
1 egg
½ cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons of butter, melted
½ cup pumpkin puree
½ tsp vanilla
¾ cup chocolate chips (I used a mixture of half dark chocolate and half white chocolate)

1.Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2.In a large bowl, whisk together flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
3.In another large bowl, beat egg and sugar until smooth and light yellow-brown in color. Beat in butter, pumpkin, and vanilla until blended. Add the flour mixture and stir until incorporated (be careful not to overmix). Add chocolate chips.
4.Place ice cream-scoop sized balls of dough onto baking sheets, spacing cookies at least 2 inches apart.
5.Bake about 15 minutes or until tops begin to brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry.

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