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Flour Girl: Pumpkin Comfort

Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies. (James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)

Pumpkin is the king of autumn. I love it almost enough to forgive Mother Nature for the change of season. It is my lone comfort when I have to pack away the sandals, T-shirts and wrap skirts. One of the few silver linings I see in fall and winter is baking with this amazing squash. My house is always inviting and cozy when the warm scent of pumpkin is wafting from the oven.

Recipe Included

These Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies, from a Land O' Lakes recipe, are the perfect combination of caky cookie and cinnamon-cream cheese filling. Be sure to use pure canned pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling. (For other pumpkin-infused inspirations, try my family's Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie or Ev's Pumpkin Bread.)

These cookie sandwiches are a little more involved than making simple drop cookies, but not as much work as making a cake that requires more care and diligence in mixing the batter. They're especially good for packing in lunch boxes, as long as there is a chilled drink or ice pack to keep the cream cheese filling cool.

As you may know, I usually don't bake small. (Remember my Man-Catcher Brownies.) Dainty is sweet, but why bother when you're just going to eat three of the sweet wee things? You can make these bite-size, as directed in the original recipe or you can make them 2-inchers, as I did. Directions for both ways are in the following recipe.

-- Leigh Lambert

Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies
Makes 2 1/2 dozen bite-size sandwich cookies or about sixteen 2-inch sandwich cookies

Adapted from a 2009 Land O' Lakes recipe.

For perfectly round, bite-size cookies, pipe the dough in 1-inch rounds through a piping bag with no tip attached. Pipe onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, space the dough rounds 1 inch apart.

MAKE AHEAD: The cookie sandwiches be made assembled, covered and refrigerated for 3 days. Unfilled cookies can be cooled completely, individually wrapped with plastic wrap and frozen for a month. Defrost, still wrapped, for 30 minutes at room temperature before filling. The filling can be assembled and refrigerated up to to 4 days in advance. Allow it to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before using.

For the cookies
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice blend (may substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed (light or dark) brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup 100-percent pure canned pumpkin
1/4 cup whole or low-fat milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 4 cups confectioners' sugar sifted, plus more for optional dusting

For the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready 2 ungreased baking sheets.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice blend, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine the brown sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat at medium speed for 3 minutes, until creamy. Stop to add the pumpkin puree, milk, egg and vanilla extract; beat on medium-low spead for 2 minutes, until all ingredients are incorporated. Reduce the speed to low; gradually add the flour mixture, beating until just combined.

Drop level tablespoonfuls of dough onto each baking sheet, spaced about 1 inch apart (the cookies do not spread much). Bake one sheet at a time, for 9 to 12 minutes or until set; they should spring back when lightly pressed. Cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet; then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat to use all the dough, making a total of 60 cookies.

To make 2-inch cookies, drop 2-tablespoon amounts of dough on the sheets. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes, until set and springy to the touch. Cool as directed above; repeat to use all the dough, making a total of 32 cookies.

For the filling: Combine the cream cheese, butter, cinnamon and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat at medium speed 3 minutes until smooth, stopping often to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add 2 cups of the confectioners' sugar, or up to 4 cups as needed, beating well after each addition until the mixture is creamy. (More sugar means a stiffer filling.)

Turn half the cookies flat-sides up. Spread each one with 2 teaspoons of the filling, then top with the remaining cookies. If desired, dust the tops of the cookies with confectioners' sugar just before serving.

Per bite-size cookie sandwich (using 2 cups of confectioners' sugar for the filling): 147 calories, 2 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 26 mg cholesterol, 118 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 14 g sugar

By Leigh Lambert  |  October 1, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Flour Girl , Recipes  | Tags: Flour Girl, Leigh Lambert, baking, cookies, pumpkin  
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