This post is a bit of a tease. The last couple months have been spent focusing more on the business side of Gourmet Paleo, and less on trying to get new recipes out. For that reason, we haven't yet released a Fall seasonal cookie. Given that it's almost Thanksgiving, we'll probably have to wait until next year to release our Paleo pumpkin cookies.
Some Interesting Info On Pumpkin
While pumpkin has strong ties to Fall and Thanksgiving in particular (think pumpkin pies, pumpkin bread, even pumpkin gelato), we often overlook the fact that pumpkin is practically a super-food.
Potassium - while most of us think of bananas when it comes to potassium, pumpkins can contain as much or more than bananas, and they're much lower in carbohydrates.
Beta Carotene - pumpkin contains tons of beta carotene, which our bodies convert to vitamin A. While the Paleo diet typically advocates eating fresh vegetables, studies have shown that canned pumpkin can contain up to 20 times the beta carotene as fresh cooked. If you want to read more about canned pumpkin and its benefits, click here.
Fiber -pumpkin is also loaded with fiber. While we've been told that fiber should hold an important place in our diets, there's been a lot of discussion about fiber and the role it should play in our diet of late. Here are a couple of interesting articles if you'd like to read more on that subject. The Paleo Mom digs way down deep into fiber with this 5 part series. The other is from Mark's Daily Apple. Both are definitely worth the read.
Paleo Baking With Pumpkin
One of the most difficult challenges in Paleo baking is finding a replacement for gluten. Gluten provides both structure and hold, providing a framework that the rest of the ingredients fill in. In the case of cookies (since we're kind of partial to cookies here at Gourmet Paleo), it's the gluten in combination with fats, sugars, and air, that make up the 'meat' of a cookie. This is what gives a cookie that satisfying texture of being slightly dense and providing resistance to the tooth.
Obviously Paleo guidelines require that we use no grains, so that in turn means no gluten. When you remove the gluten, you must find something else to hold the other ingredients together and build the framework of the cookie.
While pumpkin isn't direct replacement for wheat or gluten, it can be used in conjunction with other ingredients to help provide structure and hold. Much like applesauce, it can be used in recipes for cakes and cookies. This is due to the high fiber content. However, pumpkin doesn't contain as much pectin as applesauce, so it won't provide quite as much hold.
On the flip side, it's flavor is very mild and therefore easy to mask in most recipes. It's interesting that most people assume that pumpkin pie gets it's distinct flavor from the pumpkin. But you can make a very good pumpkin spice cookie using little to no pumpkin at all. You can also make a delicious pumpkin pie using butternut or acorn squash.
While pumpkin does have a distinct flavor, it must be drawn out with the use of spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg. But these spices alone are not enough. Sweeteners must also be incorporated to get that truly unique pumpkin pie flavor.
Brown sugar is probably the most popular sweetener, and goes extremely well with pumpkin. Since brown sugar is not technically Paleo, we incorporated a mix of molasses and maple syrup to arrive at a flavor that is very similar to brown sugar.
Interestingly, it takes much less molasses to impart a brown sugar flavor to a baked good than it does brown sugar itself. This can vary depending on the type of molasses used.
If you're attempting to make Paleo pumpkin cookies, just avoid using blackstrap molasses. While this ingredient is delicious in some recipes, it has more of a savory, smokey flavor that is somewhat unusual in any cookie but a molasses cookie.
When purchasing molasses for desserts, you'll typically want sweet molasses. While the flavor of this squash is mild, it's color is anything but. The orange color of pumpkin looks absolutely vibrant in pies, but this trait makes it difficult to use in anything but the darkest of cookie receipts. Thus it's better used in recipes such as those with chocolate.
Our Paleo Pumpkin Cookie Recipe
One of my favorite flavor combinations is that of pumpkin and ginger. Especially candied ginger. The most recent pumpkin cookie recipe I made was a pumpkin spice cookie with bits of candied ginger and chocolate chunks. To be totally honest, it is an AMAZING recipe.
The only problem is that it's been impossible to find candied ginger in any quantity that doesn't use lots of cane sugar. I've recently started doing a bit of research into using raw ginger as an ingredient instead of candied ginger. So far the testing is going pretty well. I wouldn't yet call it the perfect Paleo pumpkin cookie, but it's getting close.
That being said, it's getting late in the season to be coming out with a pumpkin cookie this year. However, it will be high on the list for next year. Pumpkin and pumpkin spice are one of my favorite flavors. There's no other flavor I know of that has such strong ties to the seasons. So while we most likely won't be bringing our Paleo pumpkin cookies to market this year, you can count on seeing one next year. On a completely unrelated note, I've recently discovered that sunflower seed butter tastes amazingly similar to peanut butter, so a 'faux peanut butter' cookie may be in the works shortly. And of course the work continues on the perfect Paleo chocolate chip cookie.
Some Excellent Paleo Pumpkin Recipes
Elana of Elana's Pantry can always be counted on for amazing recipes. Her paleo pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are as colorful as they are delicious.
PaleOMG is another great resource for a wide variety of paleo friendly recipes. Juli has been creating amazing desserts for years. Her protein pumpkin cookies are chewy and delicious.
Finally there's a recipe that originally came from Living Paleo. These guys have a texture that is SOOO close to that of a traditional cookie. A fantastic recipe.