Thursday, October 15, 2009

Squash Cream Cheese Autumn Cookies

When the fall season starts, the cookies baking season gets started too! It is obvious that cookies serves the best purpose as small gifts or simply an indulgence in one's home. All sorts of cookie cutters are available now in line with the upcoming festivities of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukkah and New Year. One will have any reason to bake a batch of cookies this time of the year.

With no more scent of summer roses permeating the air, the best smell of autumn is spices. Cinnamon and nutmeg are the popular choices and I would love to incorporate cumin and fenugreek seeds one day. I made these cookies thinking of the fall flavors with squash added to the cream cheese filling and nutmeg and cinnamon made up the cookie dough. These cookies are crunchy and cut thinly. With its high content of butter and sugar, these cookies stays crunchy up to a week without the filling and surely can be made way ahead of time.

I seldom use canned pumpkin and when I tried to look for it, they were all sold out. Instead of getting a whole pumpkin, I opted for cut squash slices at the grocery which saves me alot of time in cutting and cleaning. Perhaps the color is not as bright as the pumpkin flesh, but the taste of the squash is equally as good as the sugar pumpkins. The squash pieces were firstly steamed for 20 mins till they are soft and then pureed in the blender and let cool before adding to the cream cheese and sugar mixture. As the cookies are sweet enough, I added only 1 tbsp of sugar to the cream cheese. Additional sugar can surely be added if the sweet tooth desires.

Recipe :

1-1/3 cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp Cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp Nutmeg powder

Method :
1) Sift the flour with the cinnamon and nutmeg powder. Set aside.
2)Cream the butter and sugar till well mixed. Beat in the milk.
3)Fold in the flour mixture and knead into a dough. The dough should feel slightly wet and heavy and if still dry, continue to add milk 1 tbsp at a time till the right consistency is achieved.
4)Place the dough in a plastic bag and let it rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
5)Remove the dough from the fridge. The dough is ready to be rolled and cut when it is malleable and still cold. Dust the surface lightly with all purpose flour and roll half of the dough out thinly (similar to the thickness of ham slices).
6)Preheat the oven to 350F. Using a 2 inch size fluted cookie cutter, cut out about 15 to 17 pieces. Place this group of cookies in one tray.
7)Roll out the other half of the dough into the same thickness and using the same fluted cookie cutter, cut out 15 to 17 cookies. Take a smaller cookie cutter of your choice of design or use linzer cookie cutters, punch out the middle of each cookie from this group. Place the cookies on another baking tray. Use up the cut outs to make up the numbers of cookies.
8)Bake the cookies at the middle rack of the oven for 15 to 17 mins, rotating the pans once after half time of the baking. The cookies are done once it starts to brown slightly and browns faster on the bottom than the top. Remove from oven immediately.
9)The cookies may still look soft but it is done and hardens after the cooling period. Remove immediately to the cookie rack to cool. If not used immediately, place in an airtight container.

Cream Cheese Squash Filling :

8 oz squash
4 oz low fat cream cheese
1 tbsp sugar

Method :
1) Set up a steamer and cut the squash slices into smaller chunks. Steam for 20 mins till the squash is very soft.
2)Drain the water and place the squash into the blender and puree it.
3)Beat the cream cheese with the sugar till thoroughly mixed.
4)Slowly add in the squash puree using a tablespoon and stir to combine. I used about 6 tbsp of the puree.
5)Using a butter knife, spread the squash cream cheese lightly onto one whole cookie, with more in the middle part. Using a cookie that has a cut out, place it on top of the filling to complete the cookie.
6)Serve or store in fridge for 3 days.

Makes : 15 to 18 cookies (2 inch sizes)

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