Monday, October 31, 2011

Bewitching Winner...

It's been an unusual Halloween; in all our years living here, we actually had NO children Trick or Treating.  So, I decided to do the Give-Away and after making out a record number of slips for everyone who posted, the winner of the Bewitching Bag is Catherine Aliff.  Catherine, please email me with your mailing info so I can send out the bag ASAP!

Thank you all for your comments.  November's Give-Away will hopefully be up tomorrow with a new month of tempting baking, story sharing, and some gift ideas for the holiday season.  I like this feeling of giving that was inspired by Kelly and may have a few little give-aways throughout the month.  XOXO

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with a White Chocolate Ganache Topping

I love cheesecake and could hardly pass by the chance to create one with pumpkin as the month of October comes to an end.  My mother made the most luscious lemon glazed cheesecake and of course, I've had really good New York-style cheesecake with a berry sauce, but it was my good friend, Eric who introduced me to pumpkin.

The setting was Thanksgiving 1993 in Sudbury, Massachusetts, and we had invited a few friends to join us for the occasion.  I baked my usual pumpkin, mincemeat and pecan pies, but it was Eric's cheesecake that I fell in love with; gingersnap crust, creamy pumpkin filling and a sour cream topping.

The biggest debate over cheesecake is--is it a cake, a custard, or a torte.  Furthermore, we may think of cheesecake as a contemporary dessert, but it actually dates back to early Greece.  Moreover, what we know as cheesecake was actually created in 1872 when William Lawrence of Chester, New York, took French Neufchatel cheese and came up with a way to make it heavier and more creamy.  He distributed it in foiled wrap, which later became known as Philadelphia Cream Cheese.  In 1912, James Kraft is accredited with the pasteurized product we use today in cheesecake and to schmear on our bagels!

You could easily convert this into a whole cake in the required 9-inch springform pan, but I wanted to make the presentation, not only elegant, but in a smaller portion to allow for a taste of all those delicious baked goods we have at our Thanksgiving table or dessert buffet.

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake with a White Chocolate Ganache
I found these oven-safe dessert baking cups at The Container Store, but there are also mini muffin pans with removable  bottoms that you could use or try the aluminum baking papers you can find at a grocery store.
Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.
2 cups of gingersnap crumbs (I used 3/4 of a 1 lb. bag of cookies), crushed in a food processor or smashed using a rolling pin banging the cookies in a plastic bag.
3 T cocoa
2 T granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
5 T unsalted butter, melted

Mix the first four ingredients together, then, add the melted butter and stir with a fork until thoroughly combined.  The mixture should resemble "sand".

  Place a heaping tablespoon into each cup and use a tamper to press down.

Place the baking cups on a baking sheet--I was able to get 24 cups.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly while you prepare the filling.

Pumpkin Cheesecake:
4-8oz. pkgs. of cream cheese
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 Vanilla Beans, split and scraped
2 T dark rum or bourbon (optional) Add 2 tsp. Vanilla extract instead
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. cardamon
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup heavy cream
4 large eggs
1-15oz can of pumpkin puree (1 3/4 cup)

The most important thing to remember when making cheesecake is to have the cream cheese at room temperature and soft!  No one likes to come across a chunk of cream cheese in the filling :(
I cut the cream cheese into chunks so it softens quicker.  Add the cream cheese and brown sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer, using either a paddle or whisk attachment (your choice)!  Beat for 3-5 minutes until the sugar is incorporated and the mixture is light and fluffy.  Scrap down the sides of the bowl.
Add the vanilla beans, vanilla extract (or booze), spices and pumpkin and beat until blended.  Add the eggs, heavy cream and cornstarch and beat another minute or two. Meanwhile, have a kettle of water heating on the stove top. 

I piped the mixture into the cups, but you could carefully spoon it in also.  If you're doing a 9-inch springform size, just pour in over the crust.
Place the tray of cheesecakes in the oven on the middle rack.  Set a ll"x 7" Pyrex baking dish underneath on the bottom rack and fill 1-inch with boiling water.  

Bake cheesecakes 40 to 45 minutes*.  Turn oven off, crack the door and let the cheesecakes cool in the oven for about 30 minutes.  Remove and set aside while you make the white chocolate ganache.  (For a 10-inch springform, wrap the outside of the pan with aluminum foil and place in a roasting pan, fill with 1-inch of boiling water and bake 1 hour + 30 minutes to 1 hour+ 45 minutes.)
 Some of my tops cracked, but since I'm adding a white chocolate ganache, no one will ever know!

White Chocolate Ganache:
1 bag (11 or 12 oz) white chocolate chips
1/3 cup + 2 T heavy cream

Place the chips and cream in a medium bowl and microwave for 40 seconds.  Stir, then, microwave again for about 25 seconds.  Use a whisk to blend the melted chocolate and warm cream.
Use a tablespoon to "ladle" some of the ganache on top of the cheesecakes.  Pick up the cheesecakes and swirl to cover.
Let cool an additional 30 minutes, then, cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight.  Cheesecakes cake also be frozen!

I had some leftover salted caramel from the previous recipe of cupcakes that I made, so I decided to:
1) Use a spoon to smear some caramel on the plate
2) Remove the baking paper.  I used scissors to make a cut, then, I easily peeled off the paper.
3) Whip up some heavy cream.  I added a tablespoon of dark rum to the cream, but that's optional.  You can add 1 tsp. of vanilla extract if you don't want booze!
4) Finally, I sprinkled the plate with some confectioners' sugar, drizzled more caramel over the cheesecake, then, I grated nutmeg on top of the cheesecake and whipped cream to finish the presentation.
I wish you were here to taste this little elegant and yummy.  Happy Halloween to all. Enjoy!

*For those of you who will be baking these in a mini cheesecake pan (with removable bottoms) bake according to the package directions, which should be 16-20 minutes. In all sizes--You are looking for the cheesecake to be set on top, but may be a little "jiggly."  Remember, by leaving cheesecake in the oven, after you turn it off, it continues to bake.  Additionally, chilling several hours will provide that creamy texture desired.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin~Carrot Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese a jar!

It's said..."Necessity is the Mother of Invention," but I've found "Frustration to be the Inspiration," at least when it comes to mailing cupcakes.  I've tried for years to get cupcakes to my loved ones in one piece for their special occasions starting with my grandson's 1st birthday.  I buy special "cupcake" boxes and ship them FedEx-overnight, but all too often, the icing gets mashed--which doesn't change the taste, but my presentation is compromised, and for me that is just as important.
Of course, Ari's mom and dad had to do a taste-test of the mashed cupcakes to make sure they were still good (enough) for their precious little toddler, who didn't really seem to care about my presentation!

I will have to admit, this really isn't my original idea, as I came up with the concept from a new cookbook I just bought (Oh, yes, another one! LOL), Cutie Pies by Dani Cone.  Her idea of putting pie in a jar is ingenious, so I thought, if someone could put that baked good in a jar, why can't I put a cupcake?
I'm shipping these wonderful treats out today, with fingers crossed, that they will arrive to surprise the recipients for Halloween and create a new way to get cupcakes across country : )  The moist pumpkin/carrot cake with the salted caramel cream cheese buttercream and a marshmallow topping with toasted walnuts should arrive, just as I pack it.

Pumpkin~Carrot Cupcakes

1 3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups (about 2 medium) carrots, peeled and grated
2 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. ground cardamon
3 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees. Line 2-12 cup muffin pans with paper liners and set aside.
In a stand mixer, using a paddle attachment, mix the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin together on med/low speed until thorough blended.  Add the carrots and spices and mix again.
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl, then, add them to the mixture and beat on medium speed, just until all the flour is incorporated.  Don't over mix!
Scoop batter into the paper liners, filling three-quarters full. 
 Bake 21-23 minutes until the tops spring back when lightly touched with your finger tips.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan, meanwhile, leave the oven on and toast 1 cup of walnuts (optional) in the 350F-degree oven for 7-8 minutes.
This recipe makes 2 dozen regular cupcakes.
While the cupcakes are cooling, make the homemade caramel.

Salted Caramel:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup Light Karo syrup
4 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1 tsp. Vanilla extract

In a medium sauce pan, stir together the sugar, salt and Karo syrup.  Place the pan over low heat and cover with a lid.  Heat until the sugar mixture is bubbling, BUT DO NOT STIR.  Remove the lid and raise the temperature to medium.  Watch pan closely; when the mixture turns a golden brown, remove from the heat immediately.  Add the butter, in pieces, and stir together.  Slowly add the heavy cream--the mixture will bubble and release hot steam, so be careful not to burn yourself.  When the cream is incorporated, add the sea salt and vanilla.  
The mixture will appear thin, but trust me, it will thicken as it cools and makes the most wonderful caramel that you can drizzle over ice cream or even dip crisp Fall apples into : )  Allow to continue to cool while you start the cream cheese buttercream.

Cream Cheese Buttercream:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 lb. pkg. confectioners' sugar
2 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 cup homemade caramel, cooled

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese thoroughly.  Add the confectioners' sugar, one-half at a time and starting out on low speed, beat until incorporated.  Repeat with remaining confectioners' sugar.  Add the vanilla and blend, then, turn the mixer up to medium and beat the buttercream for 6 to 8 minutes incorporating "air" into it.  Add the caramel and stir to blend.

Wash and dry 12-8oz. jelly jars.  Remove the paper from the cupcake and using a serrated knife, slice the cupcake in thirds, horizontally.
Place the bottom third into the jar, making sure it snuggly fits in the bottom.  Fill a pastry bag with the Salted Caramel Buttercream and pipe some over this first layer.  Sprinkle some of the "rough chopped" toasted walnuts that was made earlier.
  Repeat this step with the middle layer of the cupcake.  Finally, add the top layer and pipe more buttercream with a sprinkle of walnuts or do what I did--stepped it up a bit and made a second topping:
Marshmallow Topping:
7 oz. jar of Marshmallow Fluff
4 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla paste (or extract)
Beat all ingredients together, using a hand mixture and pipe on top of the jar cupcakes.

For the remaining dozen, I piped some homemade caramel into the center, then added a swirl of the Caramel Buttercream with a sprinkle of walnuts.

Whether you go for the scrumptious cupcakes or try the cupcake in a jar, I'm sure you'll be please with this Fall dessert.  I know the kitchen sure smelled good when I was making the components and I can't wait for my recipients to be surprised by this new treat.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pumpkin~Orange Madeleines

In addition to pumpkin and gift giving, another memory of Kelly that comes to mind is her love of tea and "going" to Tea.  She took me to tea one Saturday in early October, before she started her chemo treatments, while the guys stayed at the house to watch a Kentucky football game.  Her favorite place was The Greentree Tearoom in Lexington, a lovely old house that is divided into an area for formal tea and the other half is a high-end antique store.  It's nestled in downtown Lexington, where old and new have blended quite nicely.

The tea we had that day was Earl Grey and it was brewed perfectly, but what I remember the most is the array of desserts in the center of the room that were displayed on a very large tiered table.  On that day, we feasted on Pumpkin Rolls, Bourbon Chocolate Pots de Creme, and Hot Apple Spice Cake, after our soup, scones with Marmalade & Fayette Cream, and dainty sandwiches and Kelly talked about how wonderful it would be to bring Erin and Maddie there...when Maddie was older.  It was an afternoon of hope and I'll always remember that fall day of afternoon tea.

Madeleines are a cakey-cookie that goes perfectly with tea.  Their distinctive shell-like characteristic comes from the pan they are baked in that has shell-shaped depressions.  There is some conflict when they were first made; some pastry books cite Madeleine Paulmier created these cookies in the 18th Century and that Louis XV gave them the name Madelienes in honor of her.  Others, however, think these little cakes didn't show up until the 19th Century in Commercy and Liverdun, two communities of the Lorraine region in the northeastern part of France.  To me, it doesn't really matter how long ago as I prepare to create a madeleine to honor Kelly and brew a pot of tea.

Pumpkin~Orange Madeleines

4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 T orange zest
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Lightly spray Madeleine pan with a baking spray and set aside.
Use a rasp to zest the orange.
In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar thoroughly--6 to 8 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Add orange zest and beat 1 minute more.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  (Don't be alarmed if the mixture looks curdled.)

Sift the dry ingredients or in a medium bowl, whisk them together.  Add the dry ingredients, alternately with the pumpkin to the batter.  Beat at medium speed 1 minute more after all ingredients have been incorporated.  Scrape down sides and mix together quickly.
Spoon batter into a piping bag, fitted with a large tip (#808 is what I used).  Pipe about 2 T. into each "shell".
Tap the pan on the counter to release any air bubbles and place in the preheated oven.
The Madeleines will bake 8-10 minutes.  In my oven, using the convection setting, it was 8 minutes!  Rotate pans after half the time--for me, it was 4 minutes, then, bake 4-5 minutes more until done.  The cookies will be lightly browned and when the tops are touched with your finger tips, they'll spring back. The recipe makes 2 dozen.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan about 5 minutes before transferring Madeleines to a rack to cool completely.  Using a small strainer, dust the tops with confectioners' sugar.
On this, as Winnie the Pooh says, "blustery day," I'm having my Madeleines with a cuppa Pomegranate Green Tea and remembering that sunny day in October and an afternoon of sharing tea with Kelly.
These wonderful, light, cake-like cookies are the perfect companion to a cuppa tea--invite a friend, a sister, your mother, or a daughter over and take time to make memories.  Enjoy!

The Pumpkin Pie Spice Give-Away goes to Denise!  Please email me your address so I can send it out to you.  Thank you all for posting.  Love always, XOXO

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pumpkin Rice Krispie Treats & Pumpkin Spice

Rice Krispie treats have been around since some time between the 1920s-30s when they were invented by Mildred Day, a home economist with the Kelloge Company for a Camp Fire Girls' fundraiser.  I know they were very popular in the 50s, when I was born, and I always helped my mother make them as a quick snack.  My daughters also loved making these treats growing up and it was one of the bake sale items Kelly chose to make for a community yard sale to raise money for God's Pantry in June 2009 after our Kentucky-to-Virginia Roadtrip!
Today, I've given these childhood treats a Fall makeover and added pumpkin to the marshmallow mixture along with some pumpkin pie spice.  I found some of the new "jumbo" marshmallows at the store and decided this would be a nice treat for all those little ghosts, goblins, and super heroes having Halloween parties this season.

The addition of pumpkin actually gives a nutritional boost, which parents will appreciate with all the sweets being devoured.  I think they taste like a crunchy pumpkin pie and the only thing I would do differently is spread the mixture in a 8" x 8" square pan, instead of the 13" x 9" pan that I did use--I would like these treats thicker!

Pumpkin Rice Krispie Treats
3 T unsalted butter
16 Jumbo marshmallows or 4 cups of mini or one 10oz bag of regular size
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice*
7 cups Rice Krispies
In a large sauce pan on med/low heat, melt the butter, then, add the marshmallows.  Lower the heat to low and put a lid on the pan.  

Check the mixture every 2-3 minutes and stir together.  Remove lid and add the pumpkin and spice.  Stir to combine completely.  Add the Rice Krispies, half at a time, stirring between additions to cover completely.

Pour mixture into a 8" x 8" square pan or 13" x 9" rectangular pan that has been lightly sprayed with a baking spray or butter the pans.  Use an off-set spatula to spread mixture completely.  Let cool about 10minutes, then, press with your finger-tips to compress the treats.

Wait about 30 minutes before cutting into desired size squares.   The best thing is that these treats are Gluten-free! which is an important factor for a lot of children (and adults).

*Pumpkin Pie Spice mix
1 cup ground Cinnamon
9 T + 1 tsp. ground Ginger
2 T + 1 tsp. each, ground Nutmeg, Allspice, and Cloves

In a bowl, whisk all the ingredients until fully incorporated. 
Store mixture in an air-tight bag (like a Seal-a-meal) or add the mixture to small jars to give as gifts.
Which is what I'm doing today.  I've made up some extra and will gladly do a quick Give-Away, keeping in the generous spirit of our daughter, to someone who comments on this post.  
You will be all set for those Fall recipes calling for these spices.  Most recipes will use as little as one teaspoon or up to one tablespoon.  This spice is also good stirred into coffee or smoothies and the recipe is perfect if you're putting together a gift of homemade goodies for a friend or loved one this season. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pumpkin Old Fashioned Doughnuts

My pumpkin recipe today comes from a new cookbook I bought by the owners of a Seattle landmark, Top Pot Bakery--Mark and Michael Kiebeck.
In an old warehouse on Fifth Avenue, in downtown Seattle, Top Pot bakery produces more than 75 million doughnuts each year.  In addition to their own retail shops, Starbucks and local grocery stores sell these delicious doughnuts and now they have a book out for the home baker to replicate their doughnuts...just in case you can't get out, or like me, at the spur of the moment, just want a doughnut!

Even though my mother occasionally made doughnuts, she had stop when my grandfather started coming for dinner every Tuesday--he always brought a dozen as a treat.  I picked up the "habit" of making my own after I got married; for Halloween.  I'd make yeast doughnuts, cruellers, and my favorite, "Old fashioned."  So, you can see why I was hooked, reading through the pages of my new cookbook, when I came across Pumpkin Old Fashioned Doughnuts.

When Kelly moved back home, while we were living in Connecticut, we'd stop at Dunkin Donuts every morning before I dropped her off to work.  She'd get her coffee and we'd both get a chocolate cake doughnut except during the Fall when they had the pumpkin doughnuts out--that was our choice.  Yeast doughnuts are good, but for me, there's nothing like a good cake doughnut and this recipe, compliments of Top Pot, was well worth the 4-mile run I did before eating one: ) !

Pumpkin Old-Fashioned Doughnuts
3 cups Queen Guinvere Cake Flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. iodized salt
3/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 T. shortening
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
Canola oil (or peanut oil) for frying

Pumpkin Glaze:
4 1/2 cups confecioners' sugar
2 tsp. light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. iodized salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup hot water

In a separate bowl, stir the dry ingredients together.  In a stand mixer, using a paddle attachment, beat the shortening and sugar together until it resembles sand.  Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the egg yolks and mix for 1 minute more, scrapping down the sides if necessary, until the mixture is light colored and thick.  Add the dry ingredients in three separate additions with the sour cream and pumpkin puree, mixing just until combined on low speed.  The dough will be sticky, like a wet cookie/biscuit dough.

Transfer dough to a clean bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap/cling film for 45 minutes or up to 24 hours.  This is a great step if you want to make the dough up the night before for a surprise breakfast treat.  For me, it was my time for a run!

Before rolling out the dough, make the glaze.  Mix all ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.
Meanwhile, in a large pot or deep fryer, heat at least 2-inches of oil.  Use a candy/oil thermometer to check temperature of 325F-degrees.  (I used my Delonghi fryer--the temperature for doughnuts in that model was 364F-degrees.)

Lightly flour a pastry board and roll out the dough to 1/2-inch thickness.
Using a doughnut cutter, dipped in flour, begin cutting out the doughnuts.
With my 3-inch cutter, I was able to produce 10 doughnuts and holes, re-rolling the dough once.  Shake off any excess flour off the doughnuts before carefully adding them to the hot oil a few at a time.  Don't over crowd because the oil temperature will fall and the doughnuts end up absorbing too much oil!

Once the doughnuts float, fry for 15 seconds, then flip them over and fry 75 to 90 seconds.  Flip them back to their original side and fry another 75 to 90 seconds. (In my fryer, it actually took 2 minutes on each side.)  Transfer to a rack set over paper towels.  While the doughnuts are still quite hot, dip the side with the deepest cracks on each into the warm Pumpkin Glaze.  Let dry on the cooling rack, glaze side up for about 15 minutes.
One of the handiest tools I have that worked well with making these doughnuts is my Ebelskiver Turning Tools.

All I can say, the run was worth it!  The golden pumpkin cake with the most delectable pumpkin glaze was just the thing to have while I cozied up on the sofa, watched a movie and did my Sunday crossword puzzle--perfect way to treat yourself. Enjoy!