Pumpkin Spice Monster Cookies, Two Ways

DSC_0044Pumpkin spice coffee. Pumpkin spice coffee creamer. Pumpkin spice Oreos. Pumpkin spice baking morsels. Pumpkin spice M&Ms. Even Pumpkin spice Pop-Tarts. Ok, so I may have gotten a tad carried away with all my pumpkin spice purchases over the past few weeks, but how can I help myself when I see shelves stocked to the brim with fall’s signature essentials? If I’m going to bake all the pumpkin spice things, I obviously have to buy all the pumpkin spice things.

I swear this pumpkin-palooza has never been an issue since I’ve been in DC, primarily because it’s usually only Target and WalMart that have the good stuff – not the grocery stores on the Hill (they’re sub-par at best when it comes to the fun, limited edition, holiday goodies). Work lately, however, has had me in Alexandria twice a week, and Alexandria (i.e., suburbia) means easy access to a Target! That’s right, that “$50-cover-charge” establishment that simultaneously signals trouble for my bank account, but joy for my fall baking efforts and election season sanity (27 days til the election and counting). On Tuesdays and Fridays, I get my mid-day mental break by taking the 2-minute drive over to Target, where I can walk around the quiet, orderly store with all the soccer moms and pile numerous non-necessities into my shopping cart. I was doing just that one day a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon the holy grail: an entire section of Target dedicated to all things FALL. Festive decor, Halloween candy, and – my obvious favorite – a whole shelf dedicated to fall-themed baking. They even have these adorable cupcake toppers that will obviously be incorporated into some Halloween treats. If you haven’t already, go to Target immediately and check it out. Needless to say, I’ve been slowly stock-piling all things pumpkin, the first of which was a bag of Neslte Pumpkin Spice Morsels. They look like chocolate chips, but they’re pumpkin spice. When I saw them I immediately knew that I had to do a seasonal version of one of my favorite cookies. And with that, Pumpkin Spice Monster Cookies went into the “basic baking” queue.

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I’ve been baking Monster Cookies with my mom for years. She used to always make them when we needed a lot of cookies in not a lot of time, and they’re always huge crowd-pleasers. They’re called “monster” cookies because they’re a bunch of different cookies thrown into one (something for everyone!) and the recipe makes a gigantic batch (I think today’s batch made about five dozen). They are traditionally a combination of a peanut butter, oatmeal, and M&M cookie, with additional flavors added in, depending on your preference (I usually add butterscotch or caramel chips!). The possibilities are pretty much endless, hence why these were perfect for the pumpkin spice morsels I found. The hearty oatmeal element of these cookies would be perfect for fall, and the peanut butter would play well with the pumpkin spice. Since I couldn’t decide whether white chocolate or milk chocolate would pair better, I divided the dough in half and just did both!

DSC_0012A couple things about these cookies. First, do NOT use all-natural peanut butter – trust me. I accidentally used all-natural peanut butter in my first batch of these, and they spread entirely too much in the oven. They still tasted ok, but the texture was just not what I wanted. This girl cannot stand pancake-like cookies, and there was no way I was going to give you all a sub-par recipe. So I went back to the drawing board and made a second batch, this time making a few other tweaks to make absolutely sure I ended up with a softer, thicker, chewier result. In addition to the regular peanut butter, I used quick oats (not instant, and not old fashioned rolled oats). The smaller, flakier oats in this particular recipe are supposed to help bind the cookies together. I also used room temperature eggs, which helps them incorporate into the batter easier and more evenly. Probably most importantly, I stuck the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes before I scooped it onto cookie sheets, placing it back in the freezer between batches. The chilled dough keeps the cookies from baking as fast, thereby reducing spreading. I also made the cookies slightly smaller (just a heaping tablespoon) and, instead of shaping the dough into perfectly round balls, I made taller, slightly oblong mounds when I scooped them onto the cookie sheet. The taller shape is another little anti-spreading technique. Can you tell I was paranoid about another batch of flat cookies?

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Well all the extra effort was worth it, as was all the money I blew on pumpkin spice everything. Yup, don’t even regret it. Know why? THESE COOKIES. They are soft, chewy and taste like fall. It’s fitting that they’re dubbed “Monster Cookies” because – y’all – these are scary good. We’re talking I-don’t-even-care-about-the-calories good (how’s that for scary?). I personally prefer the white chocolate version, but both are equally amazing. These are super easy and a great treat to bring to the office, a party, or a tailgate (the white chocolate ones can even pass for Gator colors!). So go stock up on pumpkin spice goodness at Target, and get your fall on with some Pumpkin Spice Monster Cookies.

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Pumpkin Spice Monster Cookies (adapted from Sincerely Jill and Paula Dean)

INGREDIENTS:

3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 oz creamy peanut butter (not all-natural!)
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup pumpkin spice morsels
1/2 milk chocolate chips, or white chocolate chips
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups quick-cook oatmeal

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs and sugars, and mix well. Then add the salt, vanilla, peanut butter and softened butter, and mix until well incorporated. Gently but thoroughly stir in the candies, baking soda and oats. Chill dough for at least 30 minutes.

Scoop a heaping tablespoon of dough onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet, forming it into a tall mound. Make sure to leave enough space in between the cookies, because the dough will spread a little. Keep dough refrigerated between batches.

Bake for about 10 minutes (do not over-bake! I took mine out of the oven at exactly 9 minutes. They might not look completely done, but they will continue to bake a little while on the cookie sheet). Let cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes to set, then remove to a cooling rack. Enjoy!

Note: All of the tips for thicker, chewier cookies came from Sally’s Baking Addiction. I’ve learned so much from her posts!

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