Monday, October 31, 2011

A Halloween Riddle

So, my sister makes these amazing sugar cookies...amazing cookies in general, actually. This past weekend she brought some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies to a friend's house. They were delicious! And you know how I love pumpkin... So it got me thinking: could you substitute pumpkin for the butter in your classic chocolate chip recipe, and still get a yummy cookie? I decided to give it a go. Using the classic chocolate chip recipe (the Toll House recipe you'll find on nearly every bag of chocolate chips), I replaced the 1 cup of butter with 1 cup of pumpkin puree. I knew I'd likely have to compensate for what was likely to be a "runny" texture, so started with one egg instead of two. Then I added in the dry ingredients. With the default 2 1/4 cups of flour, the batter still seemed a bit thin. I added one more 1/4 cup of flour, and that seemed to do the trick.

The other substitutions / additions I made are as follows:

  • Replace brown sugar with sucanat (raw, raw sugar with retained molasses content)

  • Replace white sugar with evaporated cane juice (less processing)

  • Replace white flour with whole wheat pastry flour

  • Add 1 t. cinnamon and 1/2 t. ginger
(PS I'm handing these out to grown-ups that come trick-or-treating with their kids, but only those who are friends of mine ;-). I'll let you know what they think!)

The dough wasn't like a typical chocolate chip cookie dough, it was a bit sticky. So the tip I have for you is to use parchment paper on the cookie sheets, or spray with cooking spray before putting the dough on the cookie sheets. The cookies baked at 350 for 12-14 minutes and have a nice cake-y texture. As Gram would say, "the taste is there," and they have passed E's taste test (though he's hardly picky...). So I would say that to answer the Halloween Riddle, "YES you can substitute pumpkin for butter in chocolate chip cookies. But you can't call them proper chocolate chip cookies anymore, they are their own thing."

Enjoy...and happy Halloween!!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
(makes 36-48 cookies, depending on how stingy you are with the dough)

1 c. pumpkin puree
3/4 c. sucanat or brown sugar
3/4 c. evaporated cane juice
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
2 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
9 oz. chocolate chips (semi-sweet, dark, or milk chocolate... up to you!)

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine pumpkin puree, both sugars, egg, and vanilla, and mix on low to medium speed until well blended.

  3. Add baking soda, salt, spices, and flour and mix until combined.

  4. Add the chocolate chips and mix just until incorporated.

  5. Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets - depending on how big or small you make them, you should get 36-48 cookies. (Nutrition information is provided based on a 36-cookie batch)

  6. Bake for 12-14 minutes; cookies won't spread out much, but they will rise and get golden brown around the edges. Let cool slightly on the cookie sheet before moving to a cooling rack.
Nutrition information (per cookie, 36 cookies per batch): 98 calories, 2 g fat, 20 g carbs, 2 g protein, 1 g fiber, 2 g sodium

Monday, October 24, 2011

Got maple?

OK, so anybody who's not completely tuned me out when I've talked about my fall cooking and baking escapades knows that maple syrup (yes, the real stuff) is a big part of my ingredient go-to list. Maple syrup is sooo good for you, and you don't need a lot of it. You really add fewer calories cooking with maple syrup than when you add sugar. So there.

So here's a recipe that was inspired by a Cook's Illustrated recipe for perfecting pan-roasted chicken, together with my love of maple syrup.

Maple Dijon Pork Tenderloin (or chicken breasts)

1 pork tenderloin or boneless, skinless chicken breasts (between 1-1.5 pounds)
Olive oil (around 1T. or so)
1 T. dijon mustard
2-3 T. pure maple syrup
1 -2 t. bouquet garni or poultry seasoning (if you don't have either, then use some combination of sage, thyme, marjoram and similar herbs)
1 medium apple, sliced

1. Heat the oven to 400F. Remove the pork (or chicken) from its packaging and place on a plate or paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and herbs, ensuring to cover all sides.
2. Heat a cast iron skillet, or another similarly stove-to-oven appropriate pan, and when hot add the olive oil and swirl to coat.
3. When the oil has heated up just a smidge, place the pork (or chicken) in the pan - watch the heat and dial it back if it seems that the pan is too hot. After 5 minutes, turn over (in the case of pork you will make 3 rotations to cover the whole surface). The side that just cooked should be a bit golden - if it's darker then cook the other side using less time. (This step is searing the meat, all the better to keep the juices inside...)
4. While the pork (or chicken) is cooking, combine the Dijon mustard and maple syrup in a small bowl. After you've turned the pork (or chicken) the first time, baste the cooked side with the mustard-maple syrup mixture. Repeat after you turn the meat over again.
5. Once all sides of the meat have seen the "hot" side of the pan, throw the apple slices into the pan, turn off your burner, and place the pan into the oven. Make sure that you have basted the pork (or chicken) one last time before placing into the oven.
6. Cook for an additional 15-25 minutes (will really depend on the thickness of the meat) until cooked - use a meat thermometer to test for doneness (pork should be 160-165 degrees and chicken should be 165 degrees)
7. Let it rest so the juices can redistribute. Serve with mashed potatoes, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, Sauerkraut, applesauce, etc. Slice and enjoy!