Is That Bobby Flay at the Door? Cause We're About to Have a Throwdown

Fall is officially here. The leaves are changing and the weather is getting colder. Hoodies and jackets are replacing tank tops and flip flops. The baseball season is wrapping up, and football is in full swing. The stores are lining their shelves with Halloween candy and costumes; skeletons and ghosts haunt the aisles, while just a few shelves away, the first Christmas decorations of the season make their appearance. With the change of the seasons comes a change in tastes and flavors. Gone are the abundance of fresh berries and other summer fruits in the grocery stores and farmers markets. They’ve been replaced with apples and pumpkins, while the warm smells of cinnamon and nutmeg fill the air. I love everything about fall. It’s my favorite season, and October might just be my favorite month of the year. But up until last year, I was missing out on one of the most important parts of fall—pumpkins! Growing up I never liked the flavor of pumpkin. No pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin rolls, or pumpkin spiced lattes for me. That is, until Kiesha brought in a pumpkin cheesecake she made to share at work last year. Not one to turn down dessert, I sliced a piece, thinking I probably wouldn’t like it, but I’d at least I’d give it a try. I couldn’t have been more wrong. With one bite, the skies opened up, light from Heaven shined down to illuminate my plate, while a choir of angels sang praises to this piece of pumpkin cheesecake. How had I gone so long without something so delicious? I definitely had to rethink my stance on pumpkin abstinence. This year, as soon as the weather showed the slightest hint of fall, pumpkin was the only thing I could think about. I was dying to make pumpkin anything! Luckily I didn’t have to wait long.

While out to dinner with Boyfriend and his family, the topic of baking came up. His brother’s fiancĂ©, Kaitlin, likes to bake as well, as does his aunt Kelley. Boyfriend’s brother, Dan, seeing it as the perfect opportunity to score tons of baked goods, proposed a challenge to us—a Pumpkin Cookie Throwdown. Each of us makes our version of a pumpkin cookie, and we face off against each other to see who is best. We decided to have the throwdown at Boyfriend’s family get together for his birthday, using his parents as our impartial judges. With my insane competitive spirit, and never one to back down from a challenge, I was in. Bring. It. On. The only problem? After 26 pumpkin-less years, I had no pumpkin cookie recipe to call my own. Time for my own personal Pumpkin Cookie Throwdown.

With just a quick skim through the blogs I follow, I already had several potential candidates. Joy the Baker had just put up a post with a link to her favorite pumpkin cookies! How convenient! I quickly printed it out, along with the original recipe she used, and continued searching blogs. I found a second recipe at Love and Olive Oil, and a third came from the Martha Stewart Cookie book. But which one was best? Each had something just a little bit different about them, from the fats they used (butter or oil), to the kind of sugar they used (white or brown, or both), and the spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and/or ginger). If I was going to do this whole Throwdown thing, I was going to do it right. Time for a little scientific research. I would make all three, with 3 kinds of icing (cinnamon, caramel, and brown butter), mixing and matching, and have a taste test to find out which was the best combination to take to the official Throwdown.

I took the finished combinations to Boyfriend, my official taste tester, and one by one we ate our way through 9 different cookie/icing combinations, noting the flavors we liked and didn’t like about each, and ranking them first, second, or third for each flavor. The only one to get 1s from both of us was Joy the Baker’s cookie with Caramel glaze. But it still didn’t scream FANTASTIC! to me. It wasn’t throwdown material. The cookie was the best out of the three, with the oil making it super moist and just the right balance of spices, but the frosting was not up to par. I’d have to try something else. I wanted to do a cream cheese icing, but Aunt Kelley mentioned during the planning that she was using cream cheese, so I really wanted to come up with something different. I just couldn’t figure out what. With only hours to go before the official Throwdown, Boyfriend called to tell me Aunt Kelley posted on her Facebook about making a caramel icing—which meant I had the official go-ahead to make cream cheese! Problem solved!

It wasn’t until I got to the party that I found out there had also been a fair amount of trash talking happening on Facebook as well. Apparently I’m not the only one with a serious competitive nature. Kaitlin even bought fall themed plates to serve her cookies on in order to win points for presentation! Amid threats of sabotage and accusations of passing insider information, we finally got the cookies plated to serve to our judges, Boyfriend’s mom and dad. We did it as a blind taste test, with the judges not knowing who made which cookie, although that didn’t stop Boyfriend’s mom from trying to figure it out! After about 10 agonizing minutes watching the judges sample each entry, and tabulating the scores, the results were in! And the winner… Aunt Kelley! With her dual frosting of caramel AND cream cheese (not fair!), and a sprinkling of walnuts on top (no one said anything about nuts!), she took top prize! Both she and Kaitlin were worthy opponents, and both of their cookies were absolutely delicious. I wouldn’t have wanted to be a judge in that one.

We all had so much fun taking part in the throwdown that we’ve already come up with our next challenge. At Christmas, we’re having a Peanut Butter Fudge Throwdown! Which means I may have to have another mini throwdown, because like pumpkin cookies, I’ve never made fudge either, so I have no recipe to work from. Boyfriend better be ready for a sugar overload, cause he’ll be doing a lot of taste testing. And hopefully this time we’ll have judges that actually like the flavor we picked! (Boyfriend’s dad hates pumpkin. Oops.) And now that I’ve got my competitive spirit in gear, it’s time to start baking for Cupcake Camp this weekend! YAY!

And since I never had a chance to put up anything about Boyfriend’s birthday cupcakes (both flavors), I’ll just say here, Happy 30th Birthday Boyfriend!

Pumpkin Cookies

I used Joy the Baker's Cookies! They were delicious! Go check out her site for the recipe! (BTW, I made mine without chocolate chips.)

If you want to try out the other contenders in my mini throwdown, which were both very good as well, check out Love and Olive Oil!

Unfortunately, I don't have my Martha Cookies book with me right now, so I'll update this again to pass that one along as well!

Cream Cheese Frosting:(This is the same frosting I used for my Cinnamon Rolls. Half or even quarter this recipe for the cookies. You won't need anywhere near this much frosting.)

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon milk

1. Stir together all ingredients until smooth.
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oneordinaryday said...

Love throwdowns! My family does this once or twice a year and it's a blast.

rookie baker said...

OMG throwdowns! i nothing about competitive, i always skip throwdowns.. you're so brave to do that, WITH your bf family!

Dorothy said...

Oh I can totally relate to the "26 pumpkinless years" statement! I didn't make my first pumpkin pie until I was 22, and even then it was for a boyfriend who liked pumpkin. I didn't even like pumpkin until...5 years later!
And I LOVE that you did a "throwdown!"

I've named your blog for the "One Lovely Blog" award over at my blog:


Heavenly Housewife said...

What delicious looking cookies. Happy Birthday to your boyfriend.

Ingrid said...

I want in on the taste testing! :)

Happy B-day to your honey!

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