Archive | October, 2011

Pumpkins, pumpkins, everywhere…

31 Oct

In the past month, I have made and eaten pumpkin: cakes, muffins, breads, soup, beer (ok, I didn’t make this, but I drank it in honor of the month-pretty delish, actually), scones, cookies, éclairs, toasted pumpkin seeds…a plethora of all things pumpkin. I’ve enjoyed my themed month, I must say; it pairs well with apple cider.

A week ago, in honor of my newly designated Annual Pumpkin Month, I ventured to a pumpkin patch to check out the source of my kitchen inspiration, a fitting finale to a successful recipe testing month. Its not too common to be able to go directly to a source of food in the US, with farmer markets becoming more commercial and fewer privately owned farms in existence. It was a fun experience to get out to a field and check out a food source (Zip it. I did go to the hippie college, after all, guys…).

Plus, it didn’t hurt that my awesome 3 year old nephew came along. It was a funny little farm, that included goats, cows, bunnies, llamas, a buffalo, a hayride, a corn maze, a haunted house, pony rides, a playground, a country store…and of course, the pumpkin patch. Something tells me this is a purely American type of thing.

I fed this guy. We had matching bangs.

After exploring all the aspects of the farmhouse area, I ventured out to the pumpkin patch to pick out an orange sphere with my very serious pumpkin hunter nephew. I came across a wide array of really beautiful pumpkins (does that sound weird? A bit, probably, but they were pretty, so I don’t really care). All different varieties, sizes, colors. So lovely!

My nephew searched and searched and we came up with some good pumpkins, I must say. We headed back to the farmhouse on the tractor-pulled wagon with our stash…

…and I found more squash and gourds grown on the premises. Again, I thought they were so interesting looking with their gorgeous colors and crazy bumps, I took a few more pictures. Of course. I felt like I was back at Rungis for a minute, only this time at a decent hour of the day with a borrowed camera not full of butter and flour and with a rambunctious 3 year old. My nephew thought I was just crazy.

A helpful little wagon carried our goodies when it came time to check out. We ended up with one pumpkin for my nephew, one baby pumpkin for my soon-to-be-here nephew, 2 pumpkins for the grandparents (my mom and dad love them a pumpkin patch…), a hubbard squash and 2 carnival squashes (I ate one of the carnival squashes the other night – yum. Like, super super Yum. Will share soon my cooking adventure, as they are something new for me and awesome for dinner). Oh, and one lollipop for my nephew.

Not a bad haul. I had a great time scouring the fields for lovely pumpkins with my perfection-seeking nephew. And while we carved a couple of these guys into jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, I certainly plan on roasting and eating the others very soon…

A surprisingly lovely pumpkin treat…

23 Oct

As Pumpkin Month starts to wind down, I have to say, somehow I’m not sick of pumpkin. To be perfectly honest here, I haven’t been the best on making something pumpkin everyday – some days, well, I just wanted chocolate. It happens. But I did stumble upon a rather delicious pumpkin idea, if I may say so myself, when this little guy was created.

I made pumpkin éclairs, peeps.

Since last Christmas, I have had a few near and dear family members gently suggest I make them éclairs everyday. So one night, with a lovely glass of wine, I decided to make pumpkin crème éclairs.

First up, I made pumpkin pastry cream. Very similar to normal pastry cream, just add pumpkin and spices with the egg yolks. See?

Yum. I also added a touch of butter at the end, to make it richer tasting. Because that is needed with pastry cream, of course.

At this point, I spread it out to cool in the fridge (macro! Looks sort of not so good, I know, but it is, trust) and drank another glass of wine. Pumpkin brings that out in me. Must be the Fall air.

I might have had a little bite first to make sure the crème would be ok…

With the crème made and cooling off and a nice glass of red wine nearby, I started in with the pâte a choux. And I had a couple issues with the choux. It just wouldn’t rise right, though I tried two different recipes. Must be the altitude… oh well, I had my choux for the éclairs and a few puffs, regardless of their ending shape. Here’s a picture of better looking pâte a choux than the ones I made that day. A sort of sad statement, I know.

After piped out, I baked the choux up and let them cool. Then I poked two holes on the bottom (usually 3 holes, I know, but mine were smaller than normal this round). While I was filling the choux with the crème, I realized I had no food coloring for the glaze. Truly, this was a thought out process, no?

A little thing like that didn’t stop me, though. Course not. I made some simple syrup and melted up the fondant. While I was missing the coloring, I at least had right temp for the glacage so it was shiny! Score one for me. Downside – white glacage is boring. It just is, no other way to describe it. So I plopped a walnut on top and called it decorated. Super fancy, I know.

I then took strategic pictures of the final product so it looked better than reality. Not bad, right?

Infinity shot of an éclair.

I also made a few puffs, for smaller bites.

It was such a little bite, I tested it to make sure it was ok before I gave some of them away to others. I don’t particularly like éclairs, but for the sake of others, I ate it up.

Final verdict: Pumpkin éclairs, not a bad thing at all. So far, my favorite kind of éclair. Not saying much, as they are low on my list of preferred desserts personally, but pretty delish. The magic of pumpkin crème.

So you too can partake in the magic, here’s the pumpkin pastry cream recipe. Seriously, make this. Its yummy.

Pumpkin Pastry Cream
*I suggest doubling the amount…because its good. But all amounts listed here are for 1 recipe.

1 cup whole milk (or a combo of skim and half and half – because that makes it whole, no?)

3 egg yolks

¼ cup pumpkin puree

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

        1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

        ½ teaspoon ground cloves

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla beans

1 tablespoon butter

In a small saucepan, warm the milk, half the sugar and vanilla over low heat until boiling.

While the milk is warming, whisk together the egg yolks, pumpkin, sugar, flour, spices, and cornstarch.

Once the milk is boiling, add at least half of it, whisking constantly, to the pumpkin mixture to temper.

Add the milk and pumpkin back into the hot milk, constantly stirring, and continue to cook it while it boils for 3 minutes.

Remove from the heat, and mix in the butter. Chill in a shallow dish with cling wrap touching it until ready to use.

What’s orange and white and yummy?

11 Oct

These!

That right there are pumpkin and cream cheese muffins. I just ate one and can, without hesitation, say I think they are quite yummy.

I’ve been doing ok with my October challenge, though people-who-shall-remain-nameless started requesting things less sweet in an effort to not eat an entire cake with her sister in 2 days. Which means I made some pumpkin bread, some pumpkin pancakes, even a “pumpkin” chai (that one was a bit of a stretch, I admit…). I figured I could push the less sweet thing with a muffin, though. Hey, there’s no icing at least.

In an effort to improve my recipe blogging abilities, I need practice. So – here we go! Here are the ingredients sitting on my mom’s pretty counter.

Pictured would be (you might notice I hadn’t measured yet. If you didn’t notice, awesome. My recipe blogging is totally helping):

1 ½ cups of flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 heaping tsp cinnamon (…heaping is fun to say…)

½ heaping tsp nutmeg (…still fun to say…)

½ heaping tsp ground cloves (…starting to sound odd now…)

½ tsp salt

2 eggs

1 ¼ cup sugar (separate 1 cup out for the muffins, and ¼ cup out for cream cheese goodness)

1 cup pumpkin puree

¾ cup vegetable oil

4 ounces cream cheese (I used fat free because I’m healthy like that)

1 cupcake pan, pretty pink cupcake papers optional

Begin by turning on your oven to 400°F. Again, baked goods, baking…turning on the oven helps.

Up next, put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Notice the pretty spices and their artistic array…

Now mix them together (did I mention this wasn’t a hard recipe?). Here’s another helpful photo for you, so you know what to do.

In a different bowl, mix the eggs, pumpkin puree and oil. This is not a yummy looking photo since I began to mix before I remembered to take a photo, but I am a dedicated blogger, so I’m showing you. And I took the picture, so look at it please. Don’t judge it, but look at it. I made it small, so you really can just glance and keep going.

After those wet ingredients are mixed up, add in the sugar. Again, a helpful photo.

Now get crazy. Introduce the pumpkin mix to the flour mix.

After they meet, pour the pumpkin on the flour. There is a lot of pumpkin, so the flour sort of floats around as islands in the pumpkin ocean. See?

Its cool though, don’t worry that the pumpkin ocean seems large. Mix it up. This happens when you do, a normal muffin batter. Hmmm, spices.

Muffin batter – check; its now time to make the cream cheese portion of these delectable treats. Its super easy – mix the cream cheese and the sugar. To add a little drama to this simple task, here’s my Hitchcock inspired interpretation.

The mixer is scary looking, no?

Moving on…

Throw the cream cheese mix into a pastry bag. I couldn’t decide if I wanted the cream cheese to be on top of the muffins or as a surprise in the middle. So I did half and half. Still can’t decide which I prefer, so I’ll keep eating all the muffins as research, but until then, do what you please. Which means either filling the muffin tins ⅔’s full and piping the cream cheese on top, or filling the tins half full, piping the cream cheese and then covering with some more batter. Here’s a visual aid for those who don’t understand when I ramble. The ones in the back have the hidden cream cheese, so you can’t see the cream cheese. Again, I’m helpful.

Pop these babies into the oven and wait.

15 minutes on the timer and its on. Bake on, little muffins, bake on.

When the extremely long feeling 15 minutes are over, take them out of the oven. They should be cooked, but since they have cream cheese mix in there, you can’t do the toothpick trick. I suggest testing the top of the muffin by pushing it. It should be stubborn and pop back up if done. If its not done, it will be wussy and stay down. Bake it longer then.

Here’s what they look like as they mock you by being too hot to eat.

Let them cool a bit in the pan, then take them out to finish cooling on a rack, much like this. Now I know you what taking a muffin out of a muffin tin and placing them on a rack looks like. But look how pretty and orange and white they are! They needed their own picture. Be thankful I haven’t included all the other pictures of these muffins I took, though I thought they were pretty too…

Just look at this muffin…yum. SO, now you’re done! Eat one and celebrate!

Let me know if you think cream cheese on top is better or in the middle is better…I’m still eating to figure it out…

Whisk Time!

7 Oct

Guess what? Two days in a row and I’m posting something – again! Woohoo! To celebrate, let’s make scones. Yum.

Here’s the ingredients. Pivotal step to baking I’ve found (its not weighed, guys, its in standard American measuring. Embarrassing, I know. I’ll work up to weights but baby steps – had the recipe pre-culinary school):

2 ¾ cups flour
⅓ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon cinnamon, or more, depending on your like of cinnamon. I sometimes add a bit more. Actually, I do this for all the spices in this.
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice

½ cup cold butter

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 egg

Milk for topping. Sounds sort of gross. Its not.

Cinnamon and Sugar mix for topping, because I like it. You might want some glaze too. I like that also. Or both. Even better.

This is sort of fun – step by step scone making. Mmm. I’m getting hungry. Better get going. Here we go…

Start by sifting together all the ingredients. All of them. In a bowl. Or, to be wild and less exact but perfectly fine for this recipe, measure them out, put them in said bowl, and combine with a whisk. Told you, whisk time. Imagine this picture with flour (this is a first, posting a recipe. I’m not good at it yet. Shh).

Once you’ve whisked that up, add the butter. Cold butter. In all its glory. Its sort of like biscuit making, scone making is. Possibly why I love both delicious treats – their similarity. Anyway, here’s some butter action. Damn good action.

Once you have cut that into the flour mix, making the butter into about pea size (don’t overdo this step, bigger pieces of butter means flaky yummy scones, not flat and sad scones), grab another bowl. Yes, things get a bit dirty when making pumpkin scones, if dirty for you means 2 bowls when baking. It happens (sidenote: cleaning up after baking is helped by either having guilted others into cleaning up since you are making them delicious treats, or red wine. Most things are helped by red wine though).

In the new, clean bowl, mix up the wet ingredients. Things get orange here. Look how pretty. Super blue bowls help out the juxtaposition of the orange coloring, no?

Now, here’s where things don’t get complicated. Take the wet ingredients and dump on the flour mix. Easy peasy. So easy, you can use a chipped bowl you have had since childhood and it still works. Awesome.

Now mix. Wild, I know. Don’t over mix, just make everything orange in the bowl.

Mix more than that picture. Then get over excited to eat scones and do these steps without taking pictures:

Put the mix on a piece of parchment that you first put on a cookie sheet (or its hard to move around, though I would never know from experience) and shape into a square, about 1 ½ inch high.

Paint with milk on top. Then sprinkle (or pour copious amounts of) the cinnamon sugar mix on top. Make sure there is lots of sugar in the mix because it tastes better. Oh and won’t burn while baking.

Put the parchment lined cookie sheet with the square of scone batter in the freezer for about 30 minutes. This will make the scones rise better and be flakier and, in general, more delicious. Why, you ask. Because I said so. Trust me. Or don’t and have sad, flat scones (though rarely might appear to be normal scones because you are magic).

While you freeze them, turn on the oven to about 425F. Ok, not about. Turn the oven to that temp.

After you chill them out, cut them into any size triangle you want. Hey, cut them into any shape you want really. These are your scones and shape doesn’t matter. Making them easier to hold while hot and stuff in your mouth is the pivotal part.

Now, this is key to eating delicious scones. Put them in the oven. For 20-25 minutes. I know the batter tastes pretty good, but I promise it tastes better once baked. This is why I went to school guys, to help out at this point. Bake your baked goods.

Now, once you make sure they are baked (test with a toothpick – wait until it comes out clean looking), take them out of the oven. Stare at them. Decide if you want to glaze them (try with a maple syrup glaze, yum. Its powdered sugar, cinnamon, a bit of vanilla extract, maple syrup and some milk – mix it up and done).

Or, if you are me, be too hungry to glaze them. Immediately push them around on the parchment to see if they are too hot to eat. Decide they are.

You know, a wise man once told me, “Too hot for your hand, too hot for your mouth.” He had burned his mouth on pizza that he stuffed in his mouth because the cheese was burning his hand. Don’t listen to him. Push the scones around a bit more to pretend like they are cooler now.

Definitely cool enough to eat now. Rip off a piece, toss between your hands for about 3 seconds and then immediately eat. At this point, you will burn your mouth. I didn’t care, because pumpkin scones are awesome and delicious, but this is really a personal decision, I understand.

YUM.

Ok, off to eat the rest of this…research and all. Enjoy! Oh, and here’s the cake baked from yesterday. Not bad, ey? Don’t worry, I glazed that guy before I gave it to my nephew right before he went to bed. Maybe I’ll make another recipe post later…and maybe I’ll remember to take pictures of all the steps this time…maybe.

I realize October Challenge might prove to be dangerous now that I’ve started down this path…

An October Challenge

5 Oct

You know what’s fun? Ignoring that you have been MIA a lot when you set up a blog and then just pop back in, pretending like it hasn’t been a few months…

As I was saying, I’m not in a Pro-Kitchen just yet stateside, so I’m practicing and testing recipes for family and friends. What is especially fun about that is my 8 month pregnant sister has her sweet tooth back. I love it, since the girl doesn’t like chocolate and doesn’t crave sugar unless she’s prego. She’s a toughie; she can say no to sweets (I just don’t understand those people…namely, most of my family). Luckily, my nephew and brother-in-law are more accommodating to helping me taste test recipes for my chosen profession. But there is something really fun about getting someone who doesn’t necessarily like desserts to eat them. I laugh my awesome evil laugh and ply them with more.

Anyway, with another nephew on the way (and pregnancy cravings hitting), I’ve been given an October month-long challenge by the sweets lady. And her current cravings are for…

Yes, its Fall. The weather has gotten horribly cold (I’m currently the only one who thinks its cold, but it is and I hate it). My hibernation-inklings are getting stronger. And pumpkin flavored everything is everywhere. So, in honor of October, I have promised to make pumpkin flavored desserts all month long.

It’s meant lots of orange in my life. I’m not usually a fan of the color orange, but I do like pretending that pumpkin desserts are healthy since there is a vegetable in them. See, this is healthy, obviously (only 3 cups of sugar in there!):

With the challenge at hand, I ditch the above real pumpkin for more this style of pumpkin:

I’m just doing my part. There is a pumpkin shortage this year and I’d be stealing jack-o-lanterns from the kids if I baked pumpkins and then pureed them all the time! I promise you I’m not doing it for my ease of pumpkin dessert making.

With my source of pumpkin procured and 5 days into my challenge, I’ve been busy. Well, busy for me. Thus far, I’ve made 2 kinds of pumpkin scones. (This purely a shot so I can tell you about possibly the best part of the pumpkin challenge – cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves):

I topped both with a cinnamon sugar mix, but I think I’ll go with a glaze for next time. You know, keep it healthy.

Anyway, version 2 of the scone eked out the win, due to the slightly higher amount of pumpkin included. Good to know, more pumpkin = winning at the pumpkin challenge. I’m learning. Here’s version 2, with slightly burnt ends…oops. I promise they were in triangles, you just can’t tell from this angle.

I’ve also made some pumpkin cookies, with a maple syrup glaze on them. I took them to my 3 year old nephews’ soccer game, because I had gone the week before and realized the adults didn’t have snacks even though the kids did (sidenote: for my 2 nephews playing soccer that day, they had a total of 12 fans. We are clearly hardcore soccer fans and need snacks to maintain the level of cheering necessary). But I didn’t take a picture of the cookies until after the game. I guess the consensus was they were ok…

A macro of the cookie in all its glory. I like macros.

Also during my sporty weekend, I went to a friend’s house on Sunday to watch a football game. I brought along some pumpkin spiced cookies made into sandwiches through the magic that is cream cheese frosting. I could eat that stuff with a spoon. And I possibly have.

As I write this, I’m currently baking some pumpkin coffee cake. Here’s what it looks like, IN REAL TIME. I’m crazy like that.

Depending on what it tastes like, I’ll post the recipe later…I’m also making some more pumpkin scones soon since those are already gone. I’ll get that recipe up too! Everyone has to get in on the October Pumpkin Challenge! Woohoo! Sorry, sugar rush.

Expect more pumpkin-ness coming your way though, until my dear sister decides she’s off sweets again or I get a new challenge…wonder which will come first?