I love a challenge in the kitchen, but sometimes I wonder if I’m just a glutton for punishment. Making familiar recipes gluten free or vegan are challenging, doing both is firmly in camp masochist. I’m still learning about gluten-free flours, but the best advice I’ve received from friends is don’t reinvent the wheel. Buy a premixed brand, because they have (likely) figured out the correct ratio of alternative flours to best replace wheat flour. It’s certainly not a straight exchange of one flour for another, as anyone who’s gone down this road can attest. Through my own trial and error, I’ve discovered that gluten-free flour blends need to bake about twice as long in order to cook out the raw flavors (at least that was the case for these cookies, we’ll figure out other baked goods another time).
Vegan baking, on the other hand, is a bit more straightforward, I think. Shortening or vegan margarine are obvious fat alternatives to butter and fruit-based products like pumpkin puree or applesauce can replace eggs in many circumstances. It was fun to have the day to toy with different ingredients and ratios; I haven’t had a proper baking day in a long time and the experimenting paid off with an end product that is a tender, chewy, flavorful cookie. These cookies are admittedly not identical to what it attempts to replicate, yet they are a wonderful alternative, especially for those averse to gluten or animal byproducts, and none of my blind taste-testers knew they were made with traditional ingredients. So go warm up some fresh apple cider, whip up a batch of these cookies, and embrace the flavors of fall no matter what diet you follow.
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 15-ounce can pumpkin purée (careful not to use pumpkin pie filling)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
2 teaspoons xanthan gum (if your brand of GF flour recommends it)
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, use a store bought blend or see below to make your own
1/4 crystallized ginger nibs, optional
Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend:
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons tap water
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the middle. Line 1-2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. I like to alternate between 2 so that one can cool while the other bakes, but 1 will work just fine.
- Cream the shortening, light brown sugar, and white sugar in a stand mixer or in large bowl with an electric beater on high speed for 3-5 minutes, until light and smooth (the longer you cream the fat and sugar, the better the end product).
- Add in the pumpkin purée and vanilla and beat until mixed.
- In a small bowl thoroughly combine the dry ingredients (flour, xanthan, baking powder, baking salt, salt, spices, and ginger nibs).
- Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until everything is combined.
- Let the dough rest about 5 minutes, then drop by rounded tablespoon onto the parchment-lined baking sheets (12-15 per sheet). I like to use a small “ice cream scoop” (disher) for this task as it makes each scoop uniform in size and appearance.
- Bake one sheet at a time for 20-25 minutes until the cookies are set. Immediately remove the baked cookies to a wire rack to cool.
- Repeat this process until all the dough is used. I reuse the parchment as many times as I can until it becomes too soiled.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the powdered sugar, water, and pumpkin spice until it makes a loose glaze. Once the cookies have completely cooled, drizzle the glaze on top and place them in the fridge for about 30-minutes until the icing has set.
- Store in an air-tight container on the counter or the fridge until ready to nosh!
Makes about 3 dozen