Posts Tagged ‘autumn’

Pumpkin Bread

October 27, 2011

For those who read my blog, know it has been a long time since I have posted. A few months in fact. And the unfortunate reality is that it isn’t because of my lack of time to blog. It is my lack of time to cook. Apologies to all who blog, but the latter is much more concerning.

Cooking and baking is part of what makes me calm, helps me keep things in perspective, allows me to feel control when other things feel out of control. And, most importantly, it allows me to share my food with others, and therefore share my love through the gift of food.

But, my busy job and travel schedule has resulted in nights of take out, frozen pizza and late night visits to our favorite local restaurants.

So, this past weekend I was finally in town. No work trips. No packed social calendar. Just a weekend to enjoy fall and reset for the busy week ahead. And fall being my favorite culinary season, I knew I had to take this opportunity to get back to what I love.

So, after 8 mini loaves of pumpkin bread that filled our house with the scents of fall, and was shared with neighbors, coworkers and friends, I rekindled what had been missing in my hectic life.

Although I love my job, and feel blessed every day that I go into work, I remembered the many other things that make me who I am. I had been missing going for a run, reading the latest Bon Appetit and spending the time with my husband that we both deserve.

So on Sunday, with the aroma of cozy and spicy fall filling our house, after delivering a loaf to our neighbor and packing up the others for coworkers, after making my butternut squash risotto with a glass of red wine listening to Italian music…..I knew that my life needed to shift. I needed to go back to what makes me happy, and prioritize it, no matter how hectic my life becomes.

So, this pumpkin bread symbolizes my commitment to spend more time doing what I enjoy doing – and that is spreading love through food.

And, it was only fitting that the pumpkin bread recipe I found was that of Bobby Flay, who I surprisingly met the weekend before at Keeneland. A sign? Maybe.

So besides the emotional connection I now have to Bobby Flay’s pumpkin bread, it is quite possibly the best recipe I have ever made. Granted, there is more sugar than in a batch of chocolate chip cookies, but his mixture of spices (especially All Spice, my favorite cold weather spice) make this a  comforting taste of fall.

So, for those who need to rekindle their love of cooking, or those just looking to make a great fall treat for the ones they love, I thank Bobby Flay for giving me the recipe that made me realize what I had been missing.

PUMPKIN BREAD
1 9-inch loaf or a 4 small loaf pan

* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1/4 cup vegetable oil
* Scant 1 cup canned pumpkin puree, not flavored pie filling
* 2 large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan.

2. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves in a small bowl.

3. Beat the butter, sugar, and oil on high speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times, until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

4. Add the pumpkin puree and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until just incorporated. Mixing on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and 2/3 cup water and mix until just combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes (if you are using a small 4 loaf pan bake for only 45 minutes). Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely.

Upside-Down Butterscotch Apple Sour Cream Cake

October 31, 2010

This recipe might have been the turning point where my love for my cast iron skillet turned into a slight obsession. My particular skillet came from a woman named Lois who lives near Hocking Hills, Ohio – she wears a bonnet and swears by Wagner cast iron (and she claims to be able to spot impostors). She sold me on the antique item, and ever since I bought my Wagner (no impostors here!), I am finding more ways of using it. The obvious would be steaks, and other meats that will get a fantastic sear from the hot metal. But cornbread was a new discovery, and now I realize I can make cakes in my antique cooking device.

This upside-down cake is a perfect fall dessert. The sour cream makes the cake incredibly moist and the apples with butterscotch give it an irresistible sweetness.

Only tip I have for those recreating this (and I give this tip because it has happened to me), make sure not to burn the center of the skillet with the apples prior to adding the batter (which means you might have to turn down the heat a bit more than the recipe says). Reason is, the apples can start to burn and will caramelize them in a way that they will stick to the skillet and not “flop out” with the rest of the cake.

Thanks to Bon Appetit for this fall favorite!

UPSIDE-DOWN BUTTERSCOTCH APPLE SOUR CREAM CAKE
Makes 8 Servings

Cake:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup baker’s sugar (superfine sugar) or regular sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 Golden Delicious apple (or other baking apple), peeled, cored, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)

Butterscotch-caramel apples:
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/3 cup butterscotch morsels
2 8-ounce Golden Delicious apples, peeled, halved, cored, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (or other baking apple)

For cake:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Gradually add sugar and beat until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until blended. Beat in flour mixture, then sour cream. Stir in chopped apple. Set aside while preparing butterscotch-caramel apples.

For butterscotch-caramel apples:
Melt butter in 10-inch-diameter nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add brown sugar and butterscotch morsels; stir until melted and smooth and mixture is bubbling, about 2 minutes. Add apple slices to skillet and cook until golden brown, using tongs to turn slices, about 3 minutes per side (there will be a lot of liquid in skillet). Remove skillet from heat and let cool 3 minutes. Using tongs, arrange apple slices in skillet in concentric circles or other pattern.

Carefully spoon cake batter in small dollops atop apples in skillet. Using offset spatula, gently spread batter evenly to edges of skillet (batter will seem to float on top of apples and pan juices). Bake until cake is golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in skillet 10 minutes. Run knife around edges of cake to loosen. Place large platter atop skillet. Using oven mitts or pot holders, hold platter and skillet firmly together and invert, allowing cake to settle onto platter. Serve cake warm (with whipped cream of ice cream if desired).

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple-Marshmallow Cream

September 30, 2010

I am not Amish. My husband isn’t a farmer. But I still love Whoopie Pies. (I am going somewhere with this, I promise…)

Apparently Whoopie Pies got their name from Amish wives making them for their farmer husbands and putting them in their lunches. When they would open their lunches, they would say “whoopie!” And, for good reason. If you have ever had these small round cakes sandwiched between sugary, marshmallowy frosting, you will know what I mean.

Although baking them myself? I don’t know…might be easier to go to a bakery. This technique would be doomed in my amateur kitchen – how do you make the cakes so round? How do you get the right texture? How do you assemble without breaking?

But, when Bon Appetit featured a recipe that included pumpkin and maple, classic fall ingredients, I really had no choice but to give it a whirl. And worst case, my husband would shout “whoops” instead of “whoopie” and we would break out the tub of vanilla ice cream in the freezer instead.

I cannot fully express the reaction my husband gave when he ate one – it wasn’t “whoopie” (after all his mouth was terribly full) but eventually was along the lines of “I can’t stop eating these!” The cake is like a pumpkin bread but sweeter, and the frosting I could just eat with a spoon. The perfect fall dessert!

Now, the technique. My fears were a bit unwarranted, I must say. You truly just spoon the batter on the cookie sheet (I used my cookie scooper) and they turn into pretty round cakes (although I saw in my Sur La Table catalog they do make Whoopie Pie Pans). Bon Appetit nailed the timing – 20 minutes exactly (check with a toothpick). Then, assembly was a piece of cake (sorry, I couldn’t help it!). No breakage, just perfectly beautiful pumpkin whoopie pies.

Thanks, Bon Appetit (and Portland, Maine’s Two Fat Cats Bakery), for broadening my baking skills and giving me a huge reason to shout “Whoopie!”

PUMPKIN WHOOPIE PIES WITH MAPLE-MARSHMALLOW CREAM
Bon Appetit says it makes 23 pies but I found it only made 16 (maybe mine were a bit big)

FILLING
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme
2 teaspoons maple extract
CAKE
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
•3/4 cup sugar
•1/2 cup vegetable oil
•3 large eggs
•1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
•1/2 cup milk
•Nonstick vegetable oil spray

FILLING

  • Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add marshmallow creme and maple extract; beat until blended and smooth. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

CAKE

  • Sift first 7 ingredients into large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and both sugars in another large bowl until blended. Gradually beat in oil. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend between additions. Beat in pumpkin. Add dry ingredients in 2 additions alternately with milk in 1 addition, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Cover and chill batter 1 hour.
  • Arrange 1 rack in bottom third of oven and 1 rack in top third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment; spray lightly with nonstick spray. Spoon batter onto baking sheet to form cakes (about 3 level tablespoons each; about 12 per baking sheet), spacing apart. Let stand 10 minutes.
  • Bake cakes until tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking. Cool cakes completely on baking sheets on rack. Using metal spatula, remove cakes from parchment.
  • Line cooled baking sheets with clean parchment; spray with nonstick spray, and repeat baking with remaining batter.
  • Spoon about 2 tablespoons filling on flat side of 1 cake. Top with another cake, flat side down. Repeat with remaining cakes and filling. DO AHEAD Can be made 8 hours ahead. Store in single layer in airtight container at room temperature.

Chicken Sausage, Sweet Onion and Fennel Pizza

September 28, 2010

To me, sausage screams pork. Sure, it isn’t the most nutritious thing for you to put in your mouth, but doesn’t the taste make all of that guilt go away? After a few weeks of being in Italy and experiencing their sausage, I will admit this gluttonous ingredient has made its way into many of my dishes – pasta, pizza, and just about anything I think it could complement.

So, when Cooking Light told me there was a healthier alternative, I pretty must ignored that sentence in the article like it didn’t exist. It isn’t sausage if it isn’t pork, right?

Okay, okay, I am not THAT close-minded, but I had skepticism when I read this pizza recipe with chicken sausage. But, it has apple chicken sausage (sounds interesting!), has sweet onions (yum!) and fennel (so fall!). So, my obsession with seasonal cooking took over my fear of non-pork sausage, and I tried this recipe the other night when the crisp air told me it was officially autumn.

Wow. Now, I will admit, it is not the pork sausage you know, so I would never do a comparison. But, for being something different, it tastes great and is a fantastic change of pace. The flavors meld together to really give that fall sense of warm and spice (especially with the fennel).

By buying a pre-cooked crust and pre-cooked chicken sausage, there really isn’t too much to this one. It was on the table in about 30 minutes. One tip, make sure to really cook those onions so it brings out their sweet flavor (and eliminates most of its bitterness).

Thanks to Cooking Light for broadening my horizons a bit. Pork sausage will not be leaving my cooking repitoire anytime soon, but it is good to know that its cousin, pork sausage, is a relative I need to get to know a bit better! And hey, with a healthier sausage, that means you can have one more slice, right?

CHICKEN SAUSAGE, SWEET ONION AND FENNEL PIZZA
2-4 Servings

3 ounces chicken apple sausage, chopped (such as Gerhard’s)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups vertically sliced Oso Sweet or other sweet onion
1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb (about 1 small bulb)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (12-ounce) prebaked pizza crust (such as Mama Mary’s)
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Gouda cheese (I used more like 6 ounces)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Preheat oven to 450°.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan.

Add oil to pan. Add onion, fennel, and salt; cover and cook 10 minutes or until tender and lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

Place pizza crust on a baking sheet. Top evenly with onion mixture; sprinkle with cheese, and top evenly with sausage. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes or until cheese melts. Sprinkle evenly with chives. Cut pizza into 8 wedges.


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