Tasters comments. 3 Pumpkin Spice Cookie recipes.

The results are in from the ZIX Cookies test kitchen for the 3 Pumpkin Spice cookies.

Here are the basic relationships between the primary ingredients for each of the three tested recipes.

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Pumpkin flavor:  All cookies used pumpkin puree from the same sugar pumpkin picked within a few blocks of the test kitchen.  The pumpkin was prepared for puree by first splitting the squash, cleaning out the seeds and then roasting it, face down, on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven.  When completely baked, the edge of the pumpkin has a nice browned caramel flavored edge.  This browned edge adds extra flavor in the pureed pumpkin that was processed in a food processor. 


Cookie #1.

The pumpkin flavor was not as pronounced in this cookie and also had the lowest percentage of pumpkin to all other key ingredients.  Some tasters said the cookie was a bit dry and cakey.  I was likely responsible for the dry texture but the cakeiness likely came from the higher percentages of butter and flour. Also Cookie #1 had a ¼ cup of milk in the recipe.

Cookie #2.

The spicing was more prominent in this cookie. Tasters liked the moisture level and rated this the best overall; a real gift box cookies.

 Cookie #3.

The texture of this cookie was the most talked about attribute; kind of rubbery or, a bit more positively, a bit chewy without being grainy. The frosting on this recipe was rated highest. Surprising in that this recipe was simply powdered sugar,  butter, heavy cream and vanilla.  Recipe #1 frosting added cream cheese and didn’t draw much attention from the tasters.

Ah Ha moment:

I’ve been puzzling over the pumpkin-ness of the cookies over the past couple weeks; how to drive more natural pumpkin flavor into the cookies and, at the same time, maintaining a great texture.

I have come up with an idea that should had that flavor and provide a bonus textural boost to the cookie; taking it from good to great.

My idea is to steam some pumpkin slices and then cover them with granulated sugar and dehydrate them until they attain a chewy texture.  I’ll then chop up these chewy and slightly sweet pumpkin slices into bits and add them to the cookie dough.  For a recipe with 2-2 ½ cups of flour, I’ll add ¾ cup of chopped candied pumpkin.

Next step: creating the new recipe!


A Great Maple Pecan shortbread cookie

Maple Pecan shortbread is a festive autumn cookie, especially when i use a maple leaf cookie cutter.  They always sold well throughout October and November and created lots of yums and smiles.  For this test i selected two gluten-free recipes. For the third recipe, I adapted my favorite gluten version.  

My ever faithful tasters have scored the three GF recipes and shared their highest scores for recipes #2 and #3. I reviewed the ingredients and the proportions of the winners and then rearranged them into a new GF Maple Pecan shortbread cookie. 

This new cookie has some of the delicate qualities of #2 and some of the caramel accent of #3. 

I would use the new recipe for any kitchen-to-table affairs such as family dinners or entertaining friends.  For postal travel i would use recipe #3.  Enjoy! 

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Tasters comments. Maple Pecan shortbread test.

   For this recipe eleven gluten-free cookie tasters jumped into the challenge. Here is a sample of taster comments from the Maple Pecan shortbread test.


Cookie 1: Dry texture, nutty flavor. The texture was a bit dry and left a gritty residue in your mouth after swallowing the cookie. It was densest of all the cookies. It had great flavor and was the most pleasing aesthetically as it had a perfectly round, smooth shape.

Cookie 2: Light, flaky, buttery and soft. The flavor was of browned butter. It had a less gritty aftertaste than cookie 1 and melted in our mouths. We loved the buttery flavor of this cookie and the light, flaky texture. This was our favorite of all three.

Cookie 3: Crispy, maple flavor. It was the dryest and tasted like a biscuit-cookie. It had a gritty aftertaste similar to Cookie 1. 

Overall, we liked cookie 2 the best by far. We enjoyed them all, but it was easy to choose cookie 2 as our favorite. I think second place would go to cookie 3. Although cookie 3 was the least pleasing to look at (kind of bumpy and a darker brown color than the others), it had a better flavor than cookie 1. 


C1 liked the pecan flavor, a bit gluey in the tooth.

C2 too short, notice the graininess more, mild pecan flavor.

C3 best crunch, not too short, didn't notice the grain as much, good flavor. Winner.

But for all 3 where is the maple? It didn't stand out, Maybe use real maple sugar and syrup for the flavor one dreams of. A premium product is worth the cost of the ingredients. For a different fat combo, a tad of coconut oil with the butter?


 #1 crisper, a little bit dry - perfect for dunking in tea, nice maple flavor

#2 light, crumbly, not too sweet, with a nice shortbread flavor, nice with tea (no dunking)

#3 nice sugar texture which disintegrated with each chew, good flavor, not too sweet, with a light caramel flavor finish.


Recipes #2 and #3 each have good and great ingredients, proportions and attributes.  I will combine the great ingredients from those recipes and create one new great Maple Pecan shortbread.


The new recipe will contain most of the proportions of recipe #2 with two exceptions; the honey will be replaced by the brown sugar of recipe #3 and the maple syrup will be replaced by the maple extract of #3.  The total liquid of recipe #2 will be decreased based on these two changes which should strength the composition of new recipe (and reduce the crumbliness as noted by the tasters.  Looking at it from the perspective of changes to recipe #3, butter is being increased slightly in the new recipe, sugar decreases (one taster noted #3 was a bit too sweet), decreases the flour a bit (adds a little shortness and butter flavor) and significantly increases the pecans.  I think we're in for a great new cookie!  Details of recipe and instructions will arrive in a new blog post soon.



Harvesting and the GF Pumpkin Spice cookie

Huge autumn energy swirls around Sonoma County and everyone’s county; from huge pumpkins gussied up for blue ribbons to crispy air at dawn, we gather our harvests.  While checking in our friends I have found it’s been a great year for tomatoes; everyone’s canning tomato sauce and pasting figs. 

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Today I paid my annual visit to the pumpkin dude down the hill near one of the local CSAs.   He’s my go-to guy for sugar and princess pumpkins.  This year he’s trying a new winter squash varietal, cream acorn squash.  My wife is planning on a risotto with the cream squash and I baked off a sugar pumpkin for this Pumpkin Spice cookie test.

The three recipes that I selected all use the same sugar pumpkin.  Two of the recipes are fairly similar, though I think the tasters will come up with some differences; while the third recipe is billed as a sandwich cookie.  I’ll be constructing cookie sandwiches and individual cookies for each recipe.

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Before baking the pumpkin, I scraped out the seeds, cleaned away the excess pulp from the seeds and then baked the seeds after mixing in a bit of olive oil and soy sauce. This is a very addicting snack and a good fall kick-off taste. 

After baking off the pumpkin, I scrapped out the meat and blended it thoroughly in a food processor.  The differences in proportions of ingredients is not as great as the with the Maple Pecan shortbread, but there are still some notable differences.

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While recipe #1 has equal percentages of butter and pumpkin recipes #2 and #3 have twice the proportion of pumpkin to butter.  As for sugar to flour proportions, recipe #1 as twice as much flour to sugar while the percentage difference decreases somewhat for recipe #2 and by quite a bit in recipe #3.


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Six more taster families received cookies today and comments are already coming in.  I baked off one test sample today to send off to a visiting friend of a friend, while all my other tasters will receive their test cookies early next week.  Stay tuned.


I sent the rest of the cookies out to seven taster families today.


Many comments have already been entered into this blog.  Tabatha's enthusiastic and festive family set up a beautiful tasting table to set the mood for some very serious palate work!


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