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Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Story of Pumpkin Pillows

I love when I have the opportunity to design a particular recipe for special people in my life. Last fall a friend of mine, Travis L, who actually is the pickiest adult eater I have ever encountered, asked me to bake pumpkin cookies for him.
I thought how simple, till he informed me he will only eat cookies that are soft, and by the way, he HATES pumpkin. Obviously I asked, "why would you ask me to bake pumpkin cookies if you dislike pumpkin?" He replied somebody had given him soft pumpkin cookies as a child (he is now 30 years old). He claimed" the cookies were the most amazing thing he had ever tasted, and has yet been able to duplicate the flavor." The pressure is on: not only do I need to compose a new recipe, but one that brings back a childhood memory!

I started by questioning Travis on the flavors he might remember, all he could recall is the cookies were soft. I already knew that much. So now I had to duplicate a cookie, that I had no idea of the taste or aroma. I went home that night perplexed and challenged.

Later in the evening Sydney and I discussed ideas, ingredients, and of course softness. We decided on Whoopie Pie Cookies, I was actually trying to have a cake-like texture in a cookie, which would make the cookies soft. Now the softness issue was taken care of HOORAY!  The flavors and spices were the next item to tackle, normally I would have thought of pumpkin pie, but Travis hates pumpkin. I settled on using ginger and cinnamon for the spices, I still had fall flavors without going too far into a typical  pumpkin dessert. The remaining ingredients were fairly simple, they are in most cookies and cakes.
Since whoopie pie cookies are "drop" cookies I pulled out my teaspoon ice cream scoop, I wanted them to be bite size and this was the perfect solution. A 1-inch to 1.5-inch (1.5 is an actually teaspoon). They make about 64 to 72 mini Pumpkin Cookies.
                      Mini Ice Cream Scoop

Pumpkin Whoopies Pies of course are not a new concept, I needed to design a recipe that didn't taste like a pumpkin cookie. I knew I had the correct taste when Sydney and my nephew fell in love with the cookies, they actually began eating the cookies prior to being filled. Sydney had never enjoyed any pumpkin dessert before these treats! I furthermore hoped pumpkin lovers would enjoy the cookies too, my husband became the "guinea pig" (he loves everything pumpkin).. Eureka.. he loved them!
 To hot move

As Sydney waited for the cookies to cool down, I realized neither Sydney nor Travis cared for the flavor of cream cheese. Mascarpone cheese was what we decided to use for the filling, this wonderful cheese from the Lombardy region of Italy, has a silky taste without the tang of American cream cheese.

The cookies were created, now they needed a name. It was actually my husband who gave their name. He declared the cookies were like biting into a cloud. As we were sitting at the table looking at these cookies I realized they resembled tiny pillows. Pillows? Clouds? pretty close, now we had the name pumpkin pillows! 

This is the recipe and filling, I hope you enjoy!

Pumpkin Pillow Cookies

120 grams/1-cup all-purpose flour, sifted
119 gams1-cup, plus 2 Tablespoons cake flour, sifted
5 grams/1-teaspoon baking powder
2 grams/1/2 -teaspoon baking soda
3 grams/1-teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 grams/½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
113 grams/½ cup butter, softened
150 grams/ ¾ cups granulated sugar
147 grams/ ¾ cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
425 grams/15 ounces 100% Pure Pumpkin, 1 small can
1-teaspoon vanilla extract

Mascarpone Cheese Filling:

57 grams/ 4-Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
116 grams/ ½-cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
28 grams/2-Tablespoons heavy cream
120 grams/1-cup icing sugar
½-teaspoon vanilla extract
1-teaspoon orange zest

For cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat mats.

Sift flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt in medium bowl and set aside.  

In a standing mixer with paddle attachment beat butter for 1 minute. Add granulated sugar, beat on medium speed for 2 minutes and then add the brown sugar continue to beat until the mixture is a creamy consistency. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition. Add pumpkin and vanilla extract; beat until smooth. Stir in flour mixture until combined. 

Drop by a scant measuring mini ice cream scoop or teaspoon onto prepared baking sheets. 

Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes or until springy to the touch. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

For Mascarpone filling: 

Beat mascarpone cheese, butter, orange zest, and vanilla extract in a small mixer bowl on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cream and continue to beat till desired constancy.

Spread a heaping teaspoon or fill a bag with an open star tip and pipe the filling onto the flat side of one cookie; top with flat side of second cookie to make a sandwich. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling. Store in covered container in refrigerator.

Once the Pumpkin Pillows were completely composed and ready to be packaged for Travis L panic set in..What if he hated them? What if they had not brought long ago memories from childhood? Sydney grabbed me with respect yet sternly and proclaimed "GET A GRIP!" 

As I relaxed, put the cookies in a box, put the box in the car, Sydney and I drove them to Travis. With an immense amount of new born confidence I proudly handed Travis his box of cookies.

About three hours later, I received a charming and gracious text not only thanking me, but pleasantly surprised the flavor and aroma of a Pumpkin Pillow could recall blissful childhood memories. The prodigious fact I could bring forth happy memories caused me to be grateful! Now these Pumpkin Pillows are a growing tradition, every fall I bake these cookies and bring some to Travis L and some stay home so my family can enjoy a few! Happy Fall!

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