the making of pumpkin spice pudge
This blog comes 2 years late, but better late than never. I developed pumpkin spice pudge in 2020 and it was a 6 version wonder. Most of our recipes testing gets into the double digits (average is... maybe 10 versions. difficult ones 20+), so I was absolutely shocked.
At the time, I hated pumpkin spice. I had eaten so much pumpkin in my childhood that I was sworn off of it. But I knew I had to make it for all the pumpkin lovers.
1. Research & taste-testing. I tried a Costco pumpkin pie and a pumpkin spice latte - 2 of the most popular pumpkin desserts.
2. Yogurt test to isolate each spice.
3. Develop cookie base.
4. Add cheesecake filling and stress-test.
- The Starbucks PSL was close to perfection. The espresso was a welcome counterpart to the spices! Note: If you had a bad experience, it might've been the particular location or barista. I had to try again as my first one was super clove-heavy and nothing else.
- Costco pumpkin pie: very sweet but lacking in depth (i.e. too much granulated sugar). Heavy on the cinnamon, and not enough other warming spices to round out the flavor.
Above, I pulled all the recipes I could find for pumpkin spice cookies and charted out their spice mixes. Most recipes use 3-4 of the main "pumpkin spices". "Pumpkin Spice" generally refers to this mix: cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. I wanted to understand the average range of each spice, and adjust the mix to my liking.
These were the average ranges in the recipes:
- Cinnamon: 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 tsp
- Ginger: 0 to 2 tsp
- Cloves: 1/8 to 2 tsp
- Nutmeg: 1/8 to 1 tsp
Personally I find cinnamon to be extremely dominating, so our pumpkin spice ratio has relatively less cinnamon, and more of the other spices. While we could've explored more spices, I found it unnecessary! These 5 are a fantastic combo.
Development of the cookie
Thanks to the research and tasting each spice with yogurt, I started with a great version 1. From there, it only took 2 a/b tests to finalize the spice ratios and amount of the spice mix (lucky!!). For all of our spiced cookies, we make our own spice blend so that we can control the potency while retaining the same ratio of spices. Pudges are huge, so I prefer to make flavors mellow-er and lightly sweet so that you can eat half or the whole pudge if you so desired.
Since this cookie is all about ingredients rather than technique, I can't share too much. But this cookie goes beyond the spice mix. There's the sugar ratio that lends flavor, moisture, and spread. Browned butter obviously, for added complexity. And, there's a creamy flavor and texture - I drew inspiration from pumpkin pie & pumpkin cheesecake, which have the luxury of using milk, evaporated milk, or heavy cream.
The Crux: Cheesecake Filling
When we released this Pudge, we were still baking out of a home oven. This amplified the problems we had with cheesecake filling. When we baked 1-2 pudges, they were fine, but issues came up when we baked 6 at once.
Cheesecake filling has a high moisture content (~50% water), which creates steam in the cookie. The steam leads to overspreading and breakage. We had a lot of pumpkin spice duds that had to be given away. I'm glad we solved this problem. Today, it bakes up super reliably, even when we bake 48 at once.
Pumpkin spice pudge is delightfully spiced with supporting flavor from browned butter and brown sugar met with a lightly sweet and tangy cheesecake filling. To me, the flavor sings. I describe it as a symphony of warm spices :) Lawrance says it's like pumpkin cheesecake.
It pairs so well with coffee, but is great on its own. Here's your friendly reminder to give your pudge a warm nudge - a 15 sec microwave will bring a few-days-old cookie back to freshly-baked status.
So yes! I did convert myself into a pumpkin liker, and I look forward to making pumpkin pie each fall.
Some Pie Recommendations!
I've baked the Hummingbird High elevated Libby's pumpkin pie 2 years in a row, and it's always a hit. Since we're in the middle of busy season during Thanksgiving, I like to throw the filling ingredients in a blender or food processor for quick prep. I usually adjust her recipe by using dark brown sugar rather than granulated sugar to boost flavor (light would work too). It wouldn't hurt to add in 1/8 tsp of nutmeg and allspice respectively.
While I haven't personally baked this one, I'd certainly like to try Claire Saffitz' caramelized honey pumpkin pie. It uses dark brown sugar (flavor!!), 5 spices (warmth! depth!), browned butter (nutty caramel notes!!), and has you caramelize the honey. Talk about depth. My friend tried this recipe and recommended people to select their honey carefully - find one whose flavor will be pronounced.
Bet you didn't expect pie at the end of this huh?! Hope you enjoyed reading! You'll find pumpkin spice pudge here when it's in season.