Baking is one of my passions, and I am always looking for an excuse to don my apron, heat up my oven and put my mixer to work. And when that excuse comes in the form of helping others, it's a win-win in my book.
My friend, Sandra (nee Barker) Jaeger, recently shared a request on Facebook seeking baked goods for a fundraising event later this month. The benefit will be held on Thursday, Oct. 26 at Holy Cross Catholic Church in West Fargo, in support of Michelle Donarski, a local woman who was diagnosed earlier this year with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS. The money raised will help Michelle and her family pay for medical expenses and equipment not covered by insurance.
I've never met Michelle but since signing on to bake, I've learned that she is a wife to Mark, mother of Cloe and Brady, and a passionate home cook who is always there to help out others in need. I look forward to meeting her and her family at the event.
I plan to bring several goodies for the bake sale, including some old favorites featured in previous columns like Candy Corn Scones, Monster Cookies and Hot Cocoa Mix with Homemade Marshmallows. I'm also using this event as an opportunity to explore new recipes, and at the top of my list is my sister-in-law Sarah's fabulous Pumpkin Cookies.
Sarah has been making these cookies for her family, and mine, for several years and each fall we await their arrival, eagerly asking her once October hits, "Is it pumpkin cookie time, yet?" I'd never considered myself a fan of pumpkin cookies, but these are so delicious that I've been known to sneak a second, and even a third when no one's looking.
These cookies are easy to make and filled with autumn flavors, including pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Be sure to use pure pumpkin puree and not the pumpkin pie filling - they're often right next to each other in the grocery aisle and it's easy to buy the wrong one by mistake.
When making the batter, take time to properly cream the butter and sugar together. This means mixing the butter and sugar together on medium speed for at least three to five minutes, until smooth and fluffy. This technique creates the lovely little air bubbles that make these cookies so wonderfully soft and moist, and it's is worth the extra effort.
Sarah makes her pumpkin cookies with a traditional vanilla glaze, but for this occasion I've decided to showcase fall flavors so I've opted for a rich maple glaze, instead. This might be one my best culinary decisions, ever. The glaze consists of pure maple syrup, butter, cream or milk, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and salt, and it is out-of-this-world delicious.
Maple-Glazed Pumpkin Cookies
Makes: about 3 dozen
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups white sugar
1 cup canned pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, use a whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the pumpkin, egg and vanilla and continue beating on medium speed until well combined and creamy. Add the dry ingredients and stir on lowest setting just until combined. (For a variation, add a half-cup of mini chocolate chips at the same time as the dry ingredients.)
Use an ice cream scoop or spoon to drop batter onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake cookies for 15 to 18 minutes, until the edges are slightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cookie comes out clean.
Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.
Dip top of cookies in glaze or use a brush glaze in several layers, then return to rack and let set at room temperature.
To Store: Glazed cookies may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days. Unglazed cookies may be frozen for several months, and thawed before adding glaze.
Out-Of-This-World Maple Glaze
¼ cup cream or milk
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
In a small saucepan, bring the cream (or milk), butter and maple syrup to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Continue cooking for 2 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool completely.
Once cooled, whisk in the powdered sugar, vanilla and salt until creamy. Use immediately.
Sarah's Tip: Glazes tend to thicken quickly and will turn into more of a frosting as they set, so either work fast if you want a shiny, glazed finish, or just enjoy a thicker schmear of frosting on each cookie.
"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 13-year-old son, Giovanni.