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The Legendary Pumpkin Cookies

pumpkin cookie

Gracious!  (Such a lovely old-fashioned expression.  I've made a rule for myself not to swear on this blog, so I'm getting creative.  In real life, I swear too much).  The exclamation is for all the sweet, curious, and encouraging comments you left on my last post.  Like I've said before, your lives are AT LEAST as interesting as mine. I'm just the one with an audience, the one crazily divulgent enough to let you in on everything.  Coming home to your sweetness makes it all worth it.  Thank you.  Oh, gracious.  Thank you a million times.

Things will unfold slowly here.  I put myself through the sort of methodical process I'd use for a client, post-its all over my retreat room, flip chart paper filled with "Themes I'm Noticing."  You would nod off five words into the explanation, but the short story is this: I figured out a lot of stuff and felt grace, discernment, and hope bestowed on me.  More than grappling with self-esteem and confidence issues (like I thought was going to happen), I heard the universe shouting, "You are loved! You are gifted!  (Now quit belly-aching!)." I've got a lot of work to do still--my "Next Steps" post-its were a little daunting, but it feels good to have direction.

st mary's

St. Mary's has a labyrinth--a sacred path for seekers.  When you get to the center, you're supposed to stand there and wait for "the gift," some awareness or realization to carry on the way out.  I stood there for several minutes, feeling the wind on my face, noticing the gathering clouds, dry leaves rattling across the labyrinth.  As has happened when I've stood there before, what I knew, what I heard, was "All will be well."  Not, "All will be easy," or "You will be in control of what happens next," but "All will be well."  Who doesn't need to hear that?  Now I need to keep believing it.

in the center of the labyrinth

These cookies will help.  Hell (that's a profanity that's not really a profanity, right?), these will help anything, anyone, anytime.  I'm a teensy bit nervous giving you this recipe because I won't have the corner on Pumpkin Cookie Popularity anymore.  Raise your hand if you've had these.  And?  And?  Thank you.  They're divine. They typify Fall for me.  My mom made them growing up, and it's her handwriting that's on my recipe card, given to me when we were first married. That recipe, on stiff rag paper, is all smeared up now, and it will make me feel better if some of you have it so mine isn't the only recorded version.

I made these yesterday when I got home from my retreat--a sort of sweet celebration, with gratitude that the seasons keep coming around and that All Will be Well.  You'll remind me, I hope.

pumpkin cookies

Pumpkin Cookies
Makes 24 cookies.  These cookies are like little cakes--very yielding and soft, not too sweet except for the crunch of icing on top.  I've included a few tips for the icing because I've messed it up so many times.  It's not hard, but just don't make a bunch of substitutions. Did you hear that guys?  It won't turn out!  You want something that spreads easily and then hardens up quickly to form a shiny glaze.  And you can leave the nuts out, of course.  If I'm making them for kids, I've often left them out (though my children like nuts, thank God).

1 c. (2 cubes) unsalted butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 c. canned pumpkin
1 egg
2 c. flour
1 ts. baking soda
1 ts. cinnamon
1/2 ts. salt
1/2 ts. pumpkin pie spice (I used 1/2 ts. freshly ground nutmeg instead)
1 c. chopped pecans (+ more for garnish)

Preheat oven to 350.

In a mixer, combine butter, sugar, and pumpkin and mix until combined.  The mixture will look lumpy.  Add egg and mix well.

Sift dry ingredients together, then add with pecans to pumpkin mixture and mix until just combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl as you go.

Drop by tablespoons onto lightly oiled (or parchment-covered) cookie sheets and bake until barely golden, 10-12 minutes. You don't want them squishy in the middle (like chocolate chip cookies) but you don't want to overbake them, either.

Let the cookies cool for a couple minutes, then ice them when they are still warm (not hot, not cold).

For icing:
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
3 Tb. butter
4 ts. milk
1/2 ts. vanilla
1 c. sifted powdered sugar

In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, and milk over low heat until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and let cool a bit.

Whisk in powdered sugar until smooth.

With a knife or spreader, spread about a teaspoon of icing over each cookie.  It should run down the sides a little bit, but not be runny. If you want to garnish with chopped pecans, do this right away while the icing is still warm, otherwise the nuts won't stick.  So I usually ice 2 or 3 cookies, sprinkle with nuts, then keep going.

If the icing stiffens up before you've had a chance to ice all the cookies, you can gently rewarm it on the stovetop for a minute or two so it's spreadable again.

Reader Comments (55)

"All will be well and all will be well and all manner of thing will be well." I sang that lovely phrase from Julian of Norwich over and over to my 4 month old niece during the weeks when her mother, my younger sister Lisa, was having and recovering from surgery for a brain tumor. I had just read an amazing book about the abbotesses of the Middle Ages and was so taken by the life and deep spiritual understanding that Julian came to over her life and with this phrase that seemed to sum it up. Lisa recovered and Nadia is now a delightful (well, mostly) Kindergartener. I think I'll make these for them for Halloween. Welcome back into our lives.

October 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynn

Yay, welcome back! And my sister will be thrilled. We were JUST talking about these this morning on the phone.


October 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEm

I am inspired daily by your wonderful family of readers/fans! What absolutely lovely, gracious people you connect with, Sarah! Thank you for the pumpkin cookie recipe! Gary and I heard recently that his 94 (almost) year old Aunt Verna died, in Trail, B.C., the dear next-in-family sister of my late mother-in-law Grace. I've made lemon curd in their honor, which we're eating on everything, and we're picturing them in their delighted reunion. It's a comforting thought and gesture, along with knowing that we got up there in August to visit all those cousins and Aunt Verna. There are SO MANY dear people in our lives, who contribute so much!

October 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynn McGlocklin

Ha Ha...how fun to open your blog to these cookies! Yes, em and I were literally JUST talking about these this morning. It's a sign...I should make them soon:)

Love the picture of your feet... in the labryinth? There was a really pretty labryinth at Frog Creek Lodge where I attended the retreat with em back in the spring.

Take Care.

October 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Oooh, how mysterious do those signs look? Hope you had a good time...

Cookies are ALWAYS a good idea.

October 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTheKitchenWitch

I just want to give a plug for these cookies without frosting. Whenever I make them I leave a few unfrosted for me and the other plain janes wherever I'm taking them.

October 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEm

They look divine! Thank you for sharing. I know it is sometimes difficult to share things that are this special. Glad you're back.

October 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEralda

i can't wait to hear more. maybe you can do a poster/post-it note campaign for my life too? i remember these cookies from when i first had them from you and have been making them ever since. what a perfect antidote to what ails. welcome home.

October 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbethany

Dudes and dudettes: I've been hearing about these cookies for months. Somebody better bring some for me and NaomiMomosis. k.thx.bye.

October 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpds

It sounds like these cookies were a perfect celebration of a successful retreat and "settling session". Congrats! And thank you for sharing the recipe; that's half the fun, right? My mom used to make her version of these when I was growing up, too, and they were always a toasty way to cheer on fall's arrival. She used a little brown sugar in addition to the white, and she added a bit of orange zest sometimes, too. But always, always toasted pecans. :) Her frosting was much thicker and never had brown sugar in it, but I am SO making your style icing when I bake a batch of these, oh ... asap! My mouth is watering...!

October 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine @ NightOwlChef

THESE ARE THE BEST FALL COOKIES EVER! Thank your mommy for loving you, and eventually all of us, so well.

October 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjackie

You are such an amazing aunt, Lynn. I love hearing you talk about Nadia. And what a beautiful story about this refrain from Julian of Norwich. I have titled this next phase of my life "Operation Norwich." Can't wait to tell you more about it :)

October 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarahmk

I'm so glad that people are starting to have pumpkin recipes on their blog. I'll have to try those cookies.

October 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHélène

Just wanted you to know I am still reading all the time, still loving every bit of your work (I have birthday barley salad in my fridge right now) and I am still exhibiting super human self-restraint with your Portland chocolates. Let me know how I can get them to you. Much love to you and yours.

October 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngie


If I had a car I would. I'm making these for a meeting tomorrow. Next summer I hope to have a scooter and then I can trade special delivery cookies for board game participation :)

October 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEm

Welcome back sweetie!,I've missed you! Sounds like you accomplished allot, and got your cup filled to the brim. I do declare these cookies, will make you definitely feel "all is well"
and lead you to believe there isn't a care in the world.
Good way to end an excellent time away, great picture of you standing in the center of the labyrinth.

October 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermfm

mmm - going to make these this weekend. We just got back from a week in E WA and I thought of you as I got a bunch of fruit and peppers. take care, Miss Sarah. :)

October 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth DeK

I found you about a month ago, and although I've loved the look of every single recipe, this was the one I had time, ingredients and energy to make before the impulse passed. And may I say - thank you. I didn't have the time to ice them, and I only baked half the batter, so tonight we go back and do it up right. But even un-iced, they are utterly. fabulous.

October 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShereen

I made cookies really similar to these the day I went in to labor with Norah...maybe I should wait a few weeks before trying your recipe. =) The recipe I used didn't call for nuts, but I think they would be a great addition!

October 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTiffany

Oh my, these look tasty! I can picture biting into their tender goodness while cozied into the couch with a knitting project and a lovely cup of Market Spice tea. Yum. I may have to try to convert these to gluten free... they look too fabulous to not try a conversion with!

October 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlecia

Board games? I <3 board games, in a big big way. For the record, I live 3 blocks away from the Columbia City light rail station. :-)

October 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpds

My girls and I have these baking in the oven right now. If the finished product tastes as good as the dough (and I'm sure it will), we're in for a treat. Thanks for another great recipe, Sarah!

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMegan Cooley

And? How'd they turn out? I love to think of you and your girls baking together. Hope I get to meet them someday...

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarahmk

That's a good memory associated with pumpkin cookies! Yes, sounds like you should wait.

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarahmk

Hi Shereen! NIce to have you here.

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarahmk

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