Tags: baking, dessert, holiday, pie
I’m not making Thanksgiving dinner myself this year. You never know what you’re gonna get when you’re not in charge, so I had to make a pre-Thanksgiving pie for the two of us here at home.
I mixed things up from the typical pumpkin pie by making a sweet potato one. To tell you the truth, I think that pumpkins and sweet potatoes can make pretty interchangeable pie fillings in terms of taste, because they’re often identically spiced. This pie, though, mixes it up a bit in the spice department. It’s a little more ginger-heavy than most– a little more zippy– and leaves out the traditional cloves entirely. When I make a pumpkin pie I normally reach for a can-opener, but this filling uses a fresh-roasted sweet potato. If you have a big potato left over from last night’s dinner, you can use that, no problem. Using a fresh sweet potato for a custard pie gives a slightly different texture than canned pumpkin does. The sweet potato filling is not quite as velvety smooth as pumpkin filling– it’s a little more dense and substantial.
Sweet Potato Ginger Pie- makes a 9-inch pie
adapted from the wonderfully reliable Melissa Clark
Steph’s Note: To speed things along, you can cook the sweet potato in advance or use a leftover one for this pie. Just bring it to room temperature before processing the filling.
single-crust recipe of your favorite flaky pastry dough, well-chilled
1 c cooked sweet potato
3/4 c heavy cream
1/2 c milk
2/3 c light brown sugar
2 tbsp brandy, bourbon or rum
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp salt
-To make the filling, cut a slit into one large sweet potato and wrap tightly in foil. Bake at 400°F until sweet potato is very soft, about an hour. Let cool.
-Meanwhile, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the piecrust to a 12-inch circle. Transfer the crust to a 9-inch pie plate. Fold over any excess dough, then crimp as decoratively as you can manage.
-Prick the crust all over with a fork and freeze it for at least 15 minutes. Cover the pie with aluminum foil or parchment and fill with pie weights. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes (you can do this while the sweet potato is also in the oven). Remove the foil or parchment and weights and bake until golden, about 5 to 10 minutes more. Cool on a rack until needed.
-Scoop 1 cup of cooked, cooled sweet potato into food processor, discarding skin. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Add all remaining filling ingredients to food processor and puree until smooth. You can skip this, but if you want to smooth the filling out a bit more, strain it by pressing through a fine sieve.
-Spoon filling into pie crust and spread until flat and even. Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the custard is mostly firm and set but jiggles slightly when moved, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and serve with whipped cream.
Tags: baking, cupcakes, dessert
Some days I do not know what the heck I’m doing. I put toothpaste on my Clarisonic. I almost forget the pumpkin in my pumpkin cupcakes. Luckily, I usually realize something’s amiss before it’s too late, so both my face and my cupcakes wound up alright…this time.
Speaking of forgetting the pumpkin, I once had a British guy point out to me that all this “American baked pumpkin stuff” just tastes like spices, so why bother with the pumpkin at all? I’d never really thought about that before, and I guess he was almost right about the taste, but I certainly do think there’s reason to bother. Not only does pumpkin puree make quickbreads and cakes nice and moist, (and orange, of course), but I think that pumpkin has a bit of earthiness to it, keeping them from being just sweet spice cakes. Also squash makes cupcakes healthier?? Maybe I’m kidding myself there. I do happen to love the fall spices, though, and these cupcakes have just the right amount. And what do I need to say about cream cheese frosting, except for “yes please”?
These are a great treat anytime in the cooler weather, but add a few black and orange sprinkles and they turn into Halloween cupcakes. Happy Halloween!
Pumpkin Cupcakes- makes 18-20 cupcakes
from Leite’s Culinaria, but seen all over the interwebs in both cupcake and layer cake form
Steph’s Note: Don’t need that many cupcakes? Make a half-batch to get 9-10, and halve the frosting as well.
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
-Preheat the oven to 350° (180°C) and prepare your cupcake tins with paper liners.
-In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.
-Add the eggs to the mixer, one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Divide the batter equally between the lined cups–they should be about 3/4 full.
-Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 18 to 24 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 10 minutes. Remove them from the tins and onto a rack to cool completely before frosting.
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Steph’s Note: You can see from my photo that this frosting is soft…the kind to spoon on instead of pipe. Using a small amount of natural maple flavor instead the larger amount of maple syrup helps, as does preparing the frosting while the cupcakes are baking and then refrigerating it until the cakes are cool. Cutting back on the powdered sugar (oddly) also helps stiffen up a cream cheese frosting if that’s what you prefer..
1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese (full-fat or reduced-fat Neufchâtel), at cool room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup of maple syrup or 1 tsp natural maple flavor
pinch of salt
-In a food processor, zip the confectioner’s sugar first to break up any lumps. Add the other ingredients and process until smooth, scraping as needed. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.
Tags: baking, choux, dessert
Choux paste treats have been well-covered here. Gougères, éclairs, cream puffs and even crullers–wait, something’s missing. How could I forget profiteroles, one of my most favorite desserts? I’ll take care of that one now with Norman Love’s Espresso Profiteroles.
Despite my love of profiteroles, I admit that I didn’t have high hopes for these. Quite frankly, I thought the picture in the book looked terrible (the choux looked bready, not light). I’m happy to report that they turned out better than expected. I’m not sure how much flavor was really contributed by adding coffee to the choux puffs themselves, but they puffed and hollowed nicely. I used espresso ice cream (instead of cinnamon) and boozed up the chocolate sauce with Kahlua (instead of Grand Marnier), so that took care of the missing coffee flavors.
These are best cut and filled right before serving, when the puffs are crisp and the ice cream is just beginning to soften. Pre-scooped and frozen is a profiterole no-no for me. And the sauce should be warm. Mmmmm…sauce…
Tags: baking, cobbler, dessert, fruit
I made Johanne Killeen’s Johnnycake Cobbler twice, both times with peaches and red currants. The first time, I thought the biscuit layer was too thick and the fruit was getting lost underneath all that cornmeal topping. So I tried again, reducing the topping ingredients by a third. Now the cobbler to fruit ratio was in much better proportion. Even with less biscuit on top, in order to get it cooked through, I still had to bake the cobbler for several minutes longer than the recipe stated.
I should warn you that the johnnycake topping uses lots of cream. Like lots. I just couldn’t do it– both times, I used a combo of milk and sour cream to replace it (essentially making a higher fat buttermilk-type liquid). I’m sure it was less rich than the original, but at least I could justify having a little scoop of ice cream alongside.
I’ve been seeing plums at the market, so I’ll probably be giving this a third try soon!
We’re going without hosts now for TWD, so for the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. There’s also a video of Nancy and Johanne making the cobbler together. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!
Tags: dessert, fruit
I’m not too crazy about strawberries in baked goods. Baked strawberries turn pale and sad. Roasted strawberries, on the other hand, are vibrant and intense. We’ve been roasting strawberries at work over the last couple weeks (it’s actually a great way to save berries that are on the verge, so to speak, or were never that great to begin with), and I thought I’d take the concept home with me.
This is a super easy process that you can multiply or fiddle with. Strawberries and a sprinkle sugar are all that’s needed, but I added a dash of cassis to mine as well. A fairly hot oven does its magic, and in about half an hour you have a tray of deep red, syrup coated jewels.
Stir these into your morning yogurt or use them as a topping for ice cream (buttermilk ice cream would be even more amazing topped with these, as would vanilla malted). And mixed in with fresh strawberries in a shortcake–forget about it.
Steph’s Note: This is more of a process than a recipe. Adjust amounts depending on your quantity of berries. Although I probably wouldn’t bother to fire up the oven on a hot day for less than a quart of strawberries, this will multiply no problem.
a quart of strawberries (bigger ones halved or quartered, tiny ones left whole)
a couple spoons of sugar (white, raw or vanilla are all good)
optional splash of flavoring (like vanilla, balsamic vinegar, cassis or Grand Marnier)
-Preheat your oven to 400°F.
-Put the strawberries on a sheet tray, or in a cake pan or a small metal roaster. Use something where they fit in a single layer, but don’t have too much extra empty space where juices will just burn. Sprinkle over the sugar…you only need enough to lightly coat them, as the sweetness will intensify as they roast.
-Roast for about 15 minutes, and then give the berries a gentle stir to coat them with the liquid they’ve released. Continue to roast until the strawberries are deeply red and the juice is syrupy, almost beginning to caramelize. This will probably take another 15-20 minutes. Add in your splash of flavoring. Done….you can store them in the fridge for a several days.
Tags: dessert, ice cream
We’re in the summer swing here, and I’m starting to see some good-looking fruit at the farmers’ markets. The first nice strawberries had me digging through my cookbook collection (I’m not a gardener) the other week for some fresh fruit inspiration. Who wants to turn on the oven, especially in a house with no A/C? What wound up catching my eye didn’t actually involve fresh fruit, but was something to go with it…Buttermilk Ice Cream. It had been a while since I’d made ice cream at home and I happened to have some extra-special “real” buttermilk that I thought I’d paid too much for to hide in a baked good. The gentle sweet tang of this ice cream is the prefect partner for simply sliced berries or peaches. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll also be *stellar* with strawberry-rhubarb double crisp or blueberry-nectarine pie. Oh, and a strawberry-buttermilk milkshake…try that out, too.
Buttermilk Ice Cream (makes about a quart)
adapted from The Last Course by Claudia Fleming
1 1/2 heavy cream
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
5 large egg yolks (you could use up to 9 yolks- the more the richer)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or half a vanilla bean, scraped)
pinch of salt
about 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional; helps keep ice cream scoopable)
-In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the heavy cream and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar (and the vanilla bean seeds and pod, if using) and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
-In a large bowl, vigorously whisk the egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. You want it to look lightened.
-Remove the cream mixture from the heat and slowly drizzle about half the warm liquid into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
-Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (if you are using a thermometer, this should be about 175-180°F). Vigorously whisk in the xanthan gum, if using. Strain the mixture and whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla extract (if not using a bean), and salt.
-Cool completely over an ice bath. Then refrigerate several hours or overnight before churning in an ice cream machine according manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to a container for freezer storage.
Tags: baking, cake, dessert
I am a master procrastinator. I should be spring cleaning my disaster of a closet right now. Instead, I am blogging about cake…a cake that I made two days ago, when I was also off work and also should have been spring cleaning my closet. Housekeeping gives me the blues, but cake makes me happy!
I always buy too many bananas at once, so I have this perpetual stash of them in my freezer, waiting to be turned into smoothies or baked with. Although I want to make every single thing in the book Vintage Cakes, I figured I’d start with a cake that would put some of those bananas to use. I’ve made one, no two, banana layer cakes here before, so forgive me if I seem like I’m repeating myself. They’re all good….moist, and most definitely cake and not banana bread.
I think banana cake is a good match for lots of frostings…cream cheese, chocolate, peanut butter. I didn’t use the coffee walnut buttercream that is paired with this cake in the book. Instead I frosted it with some leftover chocolate frosting that I brought home from work a couple months ago and stuck in the freezer. It’s actually too sweet for my tastes, and isn’t a recipe I’d make at home (which is why I’m not providing it below), so I had to temper that sweetness a bit by rewhipping it with a little cream cheese and some instant espresso. OMG, wait–I used bananas and frosting from the freezer…doesn’t that mean I did some spring cleaning after all?
Banana Layer Cake- makes an 8″ three-layer cake, serving 8-12
adapted from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson
Steph’s Note: I halved the recipe to make 6″ rounds. They took a little less time to bake, about 24 minutes. Frost it with your favorite frosting.
2½ cups (12.5 oz) all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3)
¾ cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 cup (8 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (14 oz) sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 eggs, room temperature
-Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease three 8″ round cake pans and line them with parchment circles.
-In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda, then whisk them together. In a small bowl or a measuring cup, combine the banana with the buttermilk.
-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla together on high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping frequently to scrape the sides and the paddle with a rubber spatula. Blend in the eggs one at a time.
-With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the banana mixture in two parts, beginning and ending with the four. After each addition scrape the bowl well. Stop the mixer before the last of the flour has been incorporated and complete the blending by hand with a rubber spatula.
-Divide the thick batter equally among the prepared pans, and tap the pans on the counter to settle.
-Bake until the centers spring back when lightly touched, 28 – 30 minutes.
-Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Flip them out and let them continue to cool on the rack, top side up, until they reach room temperature. Leave the parchment paper on until you assemble the cake.
-Fill and frost with your favorite frosting.