Many of my blogs go back to Romania, and this one does too. There were often shortages of food in Romania, and either we had to stand in line or do without because there just wasn’t enough of the food we wanted. That is what gave birth to these cookies. It was actually Christmas time, and the Romanians love Christmas just like many places in the world love Christmas, and the women in Romania bake like American women do, but with their own unique recipes. I went shopping for the things I needed to make Christmas cookies, but there were no eggs. I ran all over the town looking for eggs, but they were all sold out everywhere! I learned an important lesson that year beyond making these cookies. I learned to shop early for baking supplies in Romania because there is competition to get them just as I have learned to buy extra Coca Cola Zero a week or so before a holiday here in Korea because the stores always run out of it just before a holiday. I also figured out how to make cookies without eggs that year because my kids had to have Christmas cookies.
I searched and searched every recipe I could find, and all the recipes took eggs. I couldn’t let my kids do without cookies for Christmas. I finally ran across a recipe called Squash Cookies. It didn’t take eggs, but we had no squash in Romania, but we did have… pumpkins! I thought pumpkins were a kind of squash, so I decided to substitute the pumpkin for the squash, and the results were wonderful!! Everyone was thrilled!! I decorated some of them with the traditional icing my mother always put on sugar cookies, and they were even more wonderful! Some adults preferred them without icing, but some liked them with icing, and the kids loved them with icing. I tried putting nuts in them too, but even though the adults like them with nuts, my kids were never very good with nuts, so I have stopped putting nuts in them.
The original recipe calls for lard, and I used to make lard to use in my cooking in Romania, so there was not problem there. However, there is no lard in the stores here, so here in Korea, I substitute a mixture of cooking butter and cooking oil for the lard.
First, I have to cook the pumpkin. If you are living in America, you can find canned pumpkin, but I couldn’t get canned pumpkin in Romania or here in Korea either one, so I have to begin with cooking my pumpkin. I use cooking pumpkins, but if you want to use the big pumpkins we use for Jack-O-Lanterns, those pumpkins work too. This is something you can do with those Jack-O-Lanterns after Halloween or I make the cookies now not only on Christmas, but I also make them for Halloween since they are pumpkin and go along with the holiday.
I turn the oven on the highest temperature. I cut the pumpkin in half, and I lay the open part down on a cookie sheet or roasting pan. I put them in the oven and wait until I can put a fork in them easily, and they are done. If you accidentally pull them out a little early or if your pumpkin isn’t done all the way around, you can put that part in the microwave to finish making it soft. First let the pumpkin cool until you can easily pick it up with your hands.
When you can pick the pumpkin up, take a spoon and scoop the seeds out. You can either use these for roasting or throw them away. It is up to you. We used to always roast our pumpkin seeds in butter and then salt them. They are good, but it was my oldest daughter who really loved them, and she isn’t at home anymore, so I just throw the seeds out now. Next, scoop the insides of the pumpkin out leaving just the peeling, and throw the peelings away. When all your pumpkins are scooped out, they are ready to use. I usually do this a day ahead of time so I won’t have so much work when I actually begin making the cookies. I cover the soft cooked pumpkin with plastic and put it in the fridge until I am ready to use it.
Next, I set the oven for 350 degrees Fahrenheit (130 degrees Celsius). I take out a large mixing bowl. I mix part cooking butter and part cooking oil in a cup to make one cup or 225 grams. I put it in the mixing bowl. Next, I add 2 cups (450 grams) of cooked pumpkin and mix the two together. Next, I put in 2 cups (450 grams of sugar) and mix everything together.
I put 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon on top of the flour.
I put the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, and the cinnamon on top of the pumpkin mixture, and I mix them together first before I mix them into the pumpkin, butter, oil, and sugar mixture.
After that, I put 4 1/4 cups (1,000 grams of flour) on top of the pumpkin, oil, and sugar mixture without mixing it in yet. I put 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon on the flour, and I mix them into the flour before I mix it all together. Lastly, I mix it all together, and I end up with a very stiff golden colored dough.
I take the dough by heaping tablespoons and scoop it onto a cookie sheet or baking sheet. I place each scoop slightly apart because the cookies will grow up and out a bit. If you are making Christmas cookies with this dough, the dough is perfect for cut out cookies. After my cookies are on the baking sheet, I put it in the already heated oven for about 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, I take them out and use a spatula to take them off the pan and put them on a dish to cool. I keep filling up the pan and baking the cookies on pan after another in the same way until all the dough is gone.
I have two different kinds of food coloring that my oldest daughter sent me from America.
The cookies must be cool before you decorate them. When the cookies are cool, I get out my powdered sugar. In Romania, we couldn’t always get powdered sugar, but if you don’t have powdered sugar, you can make it. Just take granulated sugar and put it in a coffee grinder, and it will come out as powdered sugar. I get out my food coloring. I don’t use my food coloring much because we can’t buy it here in Korea. My oldest daughter lives in the States, and she sends me things something, and once upon a time, she decided to send me food coloring.
I mixed a little food coloring into each of my little bowls. (One is actually an oriental tea cup.)
Next, I get out three small bowls or cups. I put a little powdered sugar in each cup, and then I add just a drop of water. If you add too much, your icing will be running and you won’t be able to use it unless you put more powdered sugar in it. All you want to do is moisten the powdered sugar, then mix it in. I have little pink plastic spoons that they give out at Baskin Robbins that are perfect to mix things in a small bowl or cup. After I mix it around, you can see that it is already icing. You can use it white if you want. I have done that several times. However, today, I am making Halloween cookies, and I have food coloring, so I want to add color to mine to make them more fun. I barely put a few drops in because it is more liquid, and if I get too much liquid in my icing, it just doesn’t work well.
Next, I cover all my cookies with icing, the color I want in the background, and then I let them dry before I put anything else on them because if I add wet icing to wet icing, it will be a blur, not any kind of a picture. I decided to mix yellow and red to make orange and just yellow because I am making pumpkins. Some are more orange, and some look slightly yellow. After my cookie icing has dried, I use black icing to make them look like Jack-O-Lanterns. I am actually using a chop stick to dip the icing onto the cookies to decorate them, but if you don’t have a chop stick, my daughter likes to use toothpicks to do this part. In fact, decorating the cookies is one of my daughter’s favorite things to do. From the time they were little, I let my kids help decorate cookies, and they really enjoy it. It is a fun holiday thing to do with kids. I hope you and your kids enjoy your pumpkin cookies! (As I was finishing, my daughter came home from work, and she is excited because she says these are her favorite cookies!)