Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Shortbread Cookies

When I found the dreamed-up recipe for Dorie’s CookieBar Jammers a few weeks ago, I immediately started imagining different “fillings” of my own for them and if you remember, the blueberry and peach vanilla bean jam version that I made was a lovely late-summer treat.

These monstrous pumpkin spice cream cheese shortbread cookies, on the other hand, are more like a trifecta of individual shortbread tarts, pumpkin cream cheese muffins, and pumpkin pie.  And they usher in fall like no other recipe I’ve ever made.

They use the same sablé cookie base (which is like the French cousin of the shortbread cookie) but add a swirl of spiced pumpkin and silky cream cheese sandwiched between the cookie and streusel topping.  It’s kind of a genius combination and they may just transport you to a chilly walk through crunchy leaves, even if you’re still suffering through 80+ degree heat.

Of the two versions I made, these were by far the favored ones for both of us and in fact, there may have been a little arguing about who the last cookie “belonged” to.  Thankfully, they are huge enough to split in half to share and sharing one with a scoop of cinnamon vanilla bean ice cream makes for a wonderful evening treat.

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Pumpkin Cream Cheese Shortbread Cookies
source: adapted from Lottie + Doof’s version – adapted from Dorie Greenspan
For the Sablé Dough (barely adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours)

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt, preferably fine sea salt

2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

Instructions:

  1. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth and very creamy. Add the sugars, cinnamon, and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. The mixture should be smooth and velvety, not fluffy and airy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in 2 of the egg yolks and vanilla, again beating until the mixture is homogeneous.
  2. Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and the counter from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek—if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple more times; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough and the dough looks uniformly moist. (If most of the flour is incorporated but you’ve still got some in the bottom of the bowl, use a rubber spatula to work the rest of the flour into the dough.) The dough will not clean the sides of the bowl, nor will it come together in a ball—and it shouldn’t. You want to work the dough as little as possible. What you’re aiming for is a soft, moist, clumpy (rather than smooth) dough. Pinch it, and it will feel a little like Play-Doh.

For the Brown Sugar Streusel Topping

3 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar

1 tbsp granulated sugar

1/4 tsp salt (ideally fine sea salt, I sometimes also use a heaping 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt)

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Melt butter in a small saucepan on stove or in microwave. Add the rest of the ingredients all at once and stir with a fork to form crumbs. You should have a kind of wet sand texture with pea-sized crumbs throughout the mixture. Cover and set aside until ready to use.  The crumbs will harden a little as the cool but that’s fine; just break them up with your fingers a little before using them.

For the Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Filling

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp canned pumpkin

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

2 oz cream cheese, softened

Instructions:

In a small bowl, stir the pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice together until combined.

Reserve the softened cream cheese to assemble

To Assemble the Cookies
You will need:

  • 1 recipe sablé dough
  • 1 recipe streusel topping
  • 1 recipe pumpkin spice mixture
  • Softened cream cheese

Equipment:

8 to 10 3″ x 1.5″ ring molds (I used my 3.5″ x 1.5″ English muffin molds and got 6 large jammers) OR

a whoopie pie pan

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Ring Mold Method: Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Roll dough to just shy of 1/2-inch thick. Use 3-inch round rings to stamp out cookies (I ended up getting 8-9 cookies using this method. You could take the scraps and press them into extra molds). Transfer the dough and rings to prepared baking sheet. Chill in the fridge or freezer for 10-15 minutes until the dough firms up a bit (while the dough chills, you can make the streusel). Top the chilled dough with about 2 teaspoons of the pumpkin spice mixture and 1 teaspoon of the softened cream cheese and with a sharp knife, swirl the two together. Add a sprinkling of the streusel to the top of the pumpkin spice-cream cheese swirls. Bake for 18-22 minutes (my large molds took about 25 minutes), or until golden and delicious looking. Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes before removing the rings. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Whoopie Pie Pan Method: Fill each cup of the pan with a piece of dough and flatten with your fingers. The dough will be just slightly lower than the top of the pan. Proceed as above. Allow cookies to cool for 15-20 minutes in pan before using a small offset spatula to carefully ease them out of the pan and onto a cooling rack.  Makes 10-12 really substantial cookies. If you can hold on to them, they will keep well for 2-3 days.

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