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Soft & Chewy Spiced White Chocolate & Pumpkin Seed Cookies

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soft. chewy. crunchy. sweet. salty. spicy. chocolatey. warm. mouthwatering. totally perfect.

These cookies are ah-mazing. Think of a cross between a ginger snap and a white chocolate macadamia nut. I tested the recipe 3-4 times over the course of a week to get it just right. Friends and family were my willing guinea pigs and they absolutely loved these cookies. There’s a bit of extra salt to counter the sweet and the spice and I think that’s what makes them so good.

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Complexity is my goal with baked goods. I always use salted butter in sweet baked goods and then add pinch or two more because it compliments the sweetness so beautifully. As far as desserts go, there are few things worse for me than cloyingly sweet desserts with nothing to balance the sweetness. Those are one note wonders. The mark of really good homemade baked goods is exactly that – they aren’t just sweet. These cookies have such amazing flavours from authentic vietnamese cinnamon, fresh ginger and spicy cayenne combined with sweet white chocolate and salty roasted pumpkin seeds.

Please just trust me and make these for your next fall get together. Everyone will love them and you.

On a related note, I picked up some Vietnamese cinnamon recently and I’m totally obsessed. It has a noticeably different flavour from conventional cinnamon. The only way I can describe it is that it tastes more like a cinnamon heart and less like apple pie (but not at all in a processed candy heart kind of way!). If you can get your hands on some it’s definitely a must-try for your fall baking.

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Ingredients

115 grams / 4 oz / 8 TBSP (one stick) salted butter (softened)

64 grams / 2.25 oz / 1/2 cup granulated sugar

32 grams / 1.12 oz / 1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

2 tsp vanilla extract (my go-to is vanilla bean paste)

1 tsp fresh grated ginger

210 grams / 7.4 oz / 1.5 cups plus 2 TBSP AP flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper

Generous pinch of salt (I used about 1/2 tsp) + more for topping (kosher is especially nice if you have it)

60 grams / 2 oz  / 1/2 cup roasted salted pumpkin seeds plus an additional 30 grams / 1 oz / 1/4 cup for topping

130 grams / 4.6 oz / 3/4 cup white chocolate chips

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Method

In a large bowl cream together the softened butter and sugars until smooth.

Add egg, vanilla and ginger and mix until incorporated.

In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cayenne and salt.

Use a spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until incorporated.

Add the pumpkin seeds and white chocolate and mix.

The dough should ideally be chilled before baking. I recommend forming balls before chilling because it’s a little easier. This recipe makes about one dozen average sized cookies or 10 large ones. Form balls and stack on a plate with parchment paper in between then place in freezer for about 15-20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F / 175 C.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until the centres of the cookies are still soft but not jiggly. For me the perfect time is 10 minutes but conditions can be different so keep an eye on them the first time you make them. For me 10 minutes makes soft and chewy cookies. If you prefer your cookies crisp bake an additional 2-3 minutes. I also like to bake a test cookie before baking all of them. If you do the same just remember that the cooking time will be different for one cookies versus an entire pan full.

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Pumpkin Spice Steel Cut Oat Brûlée

Wow. That name is a mouthful. I wasn’t sure what to call this. I’ve seen recipes for all kinds of brûléed things: oatmeal on the view from great island, rice pudding on baked bree, even savoury corn on tasty kitchen. I was excited to try my hand at brûléeing something other than custard. I wanted to make a healthier version of crème brûlée but honestly I don’t think this is that much healthier. It needs quite a lot of sugar on top in order to caramelize rather than burning. In a few spots you can see tiny black marks where the oats weren’t covered properly by the sugar and burned rather than caramelizing.

I learned through this process that there’s a simple way to minimize this effect and get a nicer sugar crust without using as much sugar: when your oats are ready and still hot spoon into ramekins, flatten with a spoon as much as possible, and let them sit for at least 30 minutes so they form a dry layer on top. The sugar is less likely to soak in liquid this way and you’ll get less char and more caramel. Also on that note, once you’ve sugared the tops move quickly to get them torched or broiled because the sugar will begin soaking in sugar very quickly.

creme brulee close up

I think I stewed my oats for about 40 minutes. I used 2.5 cups total of whole milk plus one whole cup of pumpkin puree, which resulted in really creamy and decadent tasting oats. I divided it into four ramekins for quite hearty servings. I think it would also divide nicely into six or even eight for a smaller component to go with the rest of brunch.

I tried to minimize the amount of sugar in the actual oats because there’s so much in the crust. There’s a total of 4 TBSP of brown sugar in the oats, plus about 1 TBSP of granulated sugar on top of each of my four ramekins. Bogdan said he would have liked more sugar in the oats. While the oats are cooking, taste and adjust to your preferences (keeping in mind that you don’t taste sweet as well when something is very hot). You can use less sugar on top as well just remember that anything not covered in sugar might just char.

I used a torch but you can also use your oven’s broiler setting. Moving quickly, slide your sugared ramekins (on a half sheet pan) under the broiler with the rack near the top but low enough that you can still see what’s happening. Don’t close the oven. Keep an eye on them because they’ll caramelize very quickly and can go from perfect to burnt in the blink of an eye.

Like I said above, I don’t think this is that much healthier than regular crème brûlée. I also don’t consider this a “healthified” version of crème brûlée. It’s a standalone recipe. A slightly more decadent take on a healthy breakfast or brunch.

creme brulee from above

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup / 200 grams dry steel cut oats
  • 2.5 cups / 585 ml whole milk, divided
  • 1 cup + / 235 ml + water
  • 1 cup / 250 grams pumpkin puree (unsweetened)
  • 4 TBSP / 50 grams dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 whole star anise pod (if you don’t have it it’s ok but if you do it really adds a nice flavour note)
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 – 8 TBSP granulated sugar for tops

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Method

Heat a heavy bottomed pot on the stove on high heat. Once pot has heated up, add oats and keep them moving around to evenly toast them a bit and bring out a more nutty flavour.

Once they smell toasty and nutty or they’ve browned slightly, reduce heat to medium, pour over 2 cups / 470 ml milk and add the star anise if you’re using it.

Stew uncovered until the oats have absorbed a lot of the milk (about 15-20 minutes). Stir and scrape up anything sticking to the bottom every so often. Add 1 cup / 235 ml of water, the pumpkin puree, and the cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Stew again until the oats are fully cooked (about 15-20 more minutes – taste as you go to see). Again, stir and scrape every so often. A lot of the liquid will reduce during the next stew. Feel free to add more water if the oats get really thick.

When the oats are cooked, add the remaining milk and stir until incorporated (continuing to cook for a few more minutes if it doesn’t absorb).

Spoon out into 4, 6 or 8 oven safe ramekins. Wait about 30 minutes for a skin to form on the tops then (moving quickly so the sugar doesn’t absorb liquid) sprinkle about 1 TBSP granulated sugar on the top of the oatmeal then torch (do one by one).

Alternatively, if you’re using the broiler slide your sugared ramekins (on a half sheet pan) under the broiler with the rack near the top but low enough that you can still see what’s happening. Don’t close the oven. Keep an eye on them because they’ll caramelize very quickly and can go from perfect to burnt in the blink of an eye.

Serve with fruit or crème fraîche for a cool counterpoint.

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