Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pumpkin and Spice and Everything Nice

I greatly enjoy Halloween at Mudd - it means getting to carve pumpkins, try all sorts of tasty cheese (we go trick-or-cheesing at East), and generally serves as a good excuse for everyone to come out of their rooms and hang out.

Now, being a mathematician that happens to also enjoy crafty/artsy type projects, I am never content to just carve a face in my pumpkin. This year I carved two iterations of Sierpinski's pentagon - oh, and I cut the lid of the pumpkin out using two iterations of the Koch Snowflake. Math is pretty :-)

Two of my friends also carved pumpkins and we set the three up outside our suite:

Now, the pumpkins that we got had rather thick walls - far too thick for the sorts of things we wanted to carve. We dealt with this by scraping down the flesh of the pumpkin on the inside until it was a more reasonable thickness. In the process, we ended up with a rather large bowl full of pumpkin shavings. It seemed silly to let these go to waste, so I adapted a recipe for

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • ~1 cup mashed pumpkin
  • ~1.5 cups brown sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp each of baking soda and baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Spices. I just dumped them in until it smelled and tasted delicious, if I had to guess at amounts: heaping teaspoon cinnamon, shy teaspoon each of ginger and nutmeg, half teaspoon cloves
  • enough flour to make a nice dough, probably around 3 cups, but it will depend on how much liquid the pumpkin adds
  • 1 bag chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Cook the pumpkin. I took the bowl full of pumpkin shavings (note that I mean that actual flesh of the pumpkin, not the slimy part that holds the seeds) and microwaved it for ~5 minutes, If you have a solid chunk of pumpkin, baking it works well too. Once it is cooked it should be soft enough for you to mash it up with a fork.
  3. Cream the butter and the sugar. Once they are completely blended, add the egg and pumpkin and mix well.
  4. I tend to not want to get any more bowls messy than necessary, so I then dump ~two cups of the flour on top of the pumpkin mixture and then stir in the baking powder and soda, salt and spices on top before mixing the whole business together. If you don't get the dry ingredients mixed at least partially together before you blend in the wet ingredients it is easy to not do a good job of, say, getting the salt well distributed.
  5. At this point the dough is probably still really, really sticky. Mix in more flour. How much more you need will depend on the moisture content of your mashed pumpkin. As it turns out, there is not just one perfect consistency for the dough, so just mix in flour until it feels manageable. My guess is that adding another 1/2 to 1 cup should be reasonable.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Scoop the dough out in cookie sized dollops on your cookie sheet.
  8. Bake at 350 until they have started to brown and bounce back when you touch them.
  9. Enjoy!
Oh, and you might enjoy checking out the pictures from Mudd's Study Abroad photo competition

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