After my grandma passed away this summer, I received her recipe boxes. The day of her funeral, my family gathered at her house for lunch. It smelled just like when we used to gather together for holidays, get-togethers, and Saturdays.
She was born in the year of the first television transmission, married to my grandpa for 65 years, and referred to smart phones as “magic phones.” She never used a computer, and was a homemaker in the most traditional sense.
Grandma had this saying embroidered on a picture in her kitchen:
Some grandmas drive in limousines,
Wear fine clothes and pretty rings.
But my grandma’s best by far
Because she has a cookie jar.
The picture hung over a small countertop area where she always had a yellow-orange-green stack of Tupperware containers with cookies. Sometimes they were vanilla sandwich cookies or chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry sugar wafers. Most of the time, they were homemade. Naturally, the first recipe I wanted to make was a cookie.
The first time I made these, I followed the recipe. I found them to be less like a cookie and more like a muffin. I mixed in chopped dates and nuts, and even tried some orange icing as the recipe called for. The pumpkin seeds were my idea.
And as it turns out, the wrong idea. There were too many textures, too many directions. The icing was the wrong texture and not a good match for pumpkin. The seeds were unnecessary. But the texture of the cookies was wonderful – soft and cake-like, they reminded me of a muffin.
So, I let them be a muffin.
Because this is a recipe from 1965, there’s not much flavor from anything other than cinnamon and vanilla. I wanted more spice, so I added my favorite Pumpkin Pie Spice blend from Fairway Market. I love a strong pumpkin spice flavor; this particular blend contains white pepper, which gives it a warm, chai-like quality. Fairway Market is an NYC franchise, so I have my mother-in-law bring it in. In a pumpkin pie, it gives a rich, spicy, gingerbread-like flavor. If you have a favorite pumpkin pie spice blend that also contains white pepper, let me know where I can find it in the comments.
I always use the same brand of pumpkin: Farmers Market Organic. It has a better flavor and consistency than other canned pumpkin I’ve tried.
But what to top the muffies with? You can’t go wrong with streusel (unless you don’t use enough streusel), so I mixed up a basic oatmeal streusel blend and patted it into the tops of the unbaked muffies.
Unlike most cookies, I think they’re better when allowed to cool completely, so leave them on the parchment until they firm up. They will stay moist in a sealed container, but the streusel will not stay crisp.
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Pumpkin Streusel Muffies
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
- 1/4 cup (plus 1 tbsp) brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla
- pinch salt
- 4 tbsp butter (cold, cut into small cubes)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment.
Cream together butter and sugars until well-combined.
Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla. Beat well.
Sift together 2 cups flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and mix well.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto parchment sheet.
In a small bowl, combine all streusel ingredients. Use a pastry blender, a food processor, or your fingers to combine the butter with the dry ingredients and vanilla. The mixture should change from sandy and dry to clumpy and moist throughout.
Top each cookie with a small mound of streusel topping. You can gently press the streusel onto the cookie to adhere it, but don't press it in too far.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until streusel is lightly browned. Leave on parchment to cool completely.