Monday, November 25, 2013

A Tale of Two Pumpkin Pies: Ina Garten's Ultimate Pumpkin Pie w/ Perfect Pie Crust & Fresh Ginger Pumpkin Love Pie

Reeeee-Poooooost! In honor of Thanksgiving, I wanted to repost two excellent recipes for that oh-so Thanksgiving-y treat, pumpkin pie. Ina Garten's Ultimate Pumpkin Pie and Perfect Pie Crust is totally quintessential. 

The spiciness of this pie packs a punch but it's definitely THE traditional pumpkin pie, perfect for those who want to hit the nail on the head. 

For something a little more outside-the-box, I highly recommend this recipe for Fresh Ginger Pumpkin Love Pie. The zesty, sweet, fluffy, chiffon-like pumpkin interior along with the crunchy, buttery streusel topping is out of this world. The crust is also wonderfully flavorful and loaded with spices and ginger. 

I have to be honest, I don't really like traditional pie/tart crust. Even if it's perfectly made (flakey, buttery, melt-in your mouth, perfection level) I'm like, meh, I just want the filling and a tiny bit of crust to help me transport it to my mouth. I much prefer toasty, nut-infused, or better yet, graham-based crusts, but that said, it's cool to know how to make good crusts of all kinds and both of the crusts above are worth adding to your repertoire. I'm not sure what pie I'll be making yet for this year, but I have a salted-caramel chocolate pecan pie bookmarked, so keep an eye out for that!  

I want to wish you all a wonderful holiday and hope that, if you are celebrating, you get to do so with the ones you love. It's so important to take the opportunity to tell each of your loved ones just how much they mean to you. We never know how much time we'll get with our dearly beloved, so be mushy and sentimental, or don't and just help with the dishes. Every effort is worth it.

Give squeamish teenage nieces and nephews bear hugs, snuggle chubby cheeked wee-ones, sit with and really listen to the stories of your the grands and greats, remember those who are no longer in this realm, and try to just be yourself and let that be good enough for everyone, especially you. ....Also, take lots of cat naps! 

That's our cat, Phil, demonstrating.

Peace y'all!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Super Moist Cake with Pears and Dark Chocolate

This cake is incredibly moist, fluffy and delicious. It's definitely a keeper!

The recipe below is an adaptation of the Bittersweet Chocolate Pear Cake recipe in Angel Adoree's gorgeous and fun book, The Vintage Tea Party. It's a wonderful snack cake but it's also elegant enough to serve after a fancy dinner AND it's very easy to make. SCORE!

Super Moist Cake with Pears and Dark Chocolate
Adapted from the Bittersweet Chocolate Pear Cake recipe in The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree
8 Tablespoons (4 ounces) salted butter, browned (plus more for greasing the cake pan)
NOTE: if you use unsalted butter be sure to add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3.5 ounces all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon good vanilla
6 ounces granulated sugar
4 Bose Pears (3 diced and 1 sliced for decorating)
4 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350. 

Prepare the following, so everything will be ready as you need it....

Dice three pears and set aside. Halve and core the fourth pear and slice it thinly to decorate your cake pan as you would an upside-down cake. You can simply skip this step if you prefer and just dice all four pears and add them at the end (see below).

Sift together the flour and baking soda and set aside. Weigh out your sugar and set that aside. Roughly chop the chocolate and set it aside as well. Phew!

Plop the butter into a small saucepan and set it on the stovetop over a low flame. 

Take another generous pat of butter and grease then flour a 9 inch springform cake pan. Set it on a baking sheet. Arrange the thinly sliced pear on the bottom of the pan so it looks nice. Again, feel free to skip this step if you prefer. The fan looks pretty but it's not a show stopper, so do whatcha like.

Now turn your full attention to the stove and brown your butter (tutorial here) by heating it over a low/medium flame for about until it's toasty and just beginning to brown. It can burn in an instant, so watch it carefully throughout the process. When it's finished browning, pour it into a bowl to stop the cooking process. Set that aside.

Into a large mixing bowl, crack 3 eggs and mix with an electric mixer on medium/high for 3-4 minutes until very light and fluffy. You want to get as much air into the eggs as possible.

Beat in the vanilla and then add the sugar in three additions. The mixture will begin to take on a meringue-like shine. 

Add the warm browned butter in a stream while beating until it's fully incorporated. Add in the sifted flour and baking powder and mix until just combined. 

Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan and distribute the chopped chocolate and diced pears evenly over it. The batter will rise up and cover everything during baking, so don't worry that it looks like there's way too much chocolate and diced pears in comparison to batter. 

Note, the original recipe calls for 6 ounces of chocolate, so if you are a chocolate lover, feel free to add a bit more. If you dislike chocolate, go ahead and skip it entirely. The recipe is great either way.

This is what it will look like going into the oven.

Bake for 40 minutes, checking for brownness at the halfway point. My cake was far from set-up at 20 minutes but it was already quite browned, so I covered it with foil for the remaining 20 minutes so it wouldn't burn.

Check the center of the cake with a toothpick at 40 minutes. If it comes out clean, it's done. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes.The edges will pull away from the sides of the pan on their own after about 10 minutes or so. Use a thin blade to make sure nothing is sticking before you release the springform ring to remove it. 

After you remove the ring, place a cooling rack onto the bottom of the cake (you may want to cover the rack with parchment to ease transfer later) and flip the cake over so you can remove the bottom portion of the pan. Again, use a thin blade so you can remove that piece without disrupting your pear design, if you chose to make one. 

Allow the cake to cool before serving. This cake keeps well for about 4 days in an airtight container.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips and Raisins

If you remember me mentioning my curious lack of pregnancy appetite back in my August French Yogurt Cake post, well this is my update on that state of affairs.

Since I hit my 3rd trimester (10 weeks or so to go, y'all!!!) I have been HUNGRY. Still not as hungry as I expected based on how our culture talks about pregnancy and hunger, but hungry nonetheless. My biggest pregnancy cravings: cookies and sandwiches. Since I don't really want to reveal (read: admit) how much mayonnaise I put on my sandwiches, I've omitted them from my blog. But the cookies, well, you can probably already tell that's where I've been "at", so to speak.

These are a adapted from the Quaker Oats Vanishing Oatmeal Cookie recipe located in the inner lid of every canister of their oats. They are delicious, buttery, chewy and rich in cinnamon warmth and goodness. Perfect for the cool, brisk weather and sublime with cold milk.

Feel free to swap-in dried cranberries for the raisins and/or to omit the chocolate or try using butterscotch or white chocolate instead. Yum!

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips and Raisins
Adapted from the Quaker Oats Vanishing Oatmeal Cookie recipe
Yield: About 2 dozen cookies if using two heaping tablespoons of dough per cookie
1/2 cup plus 6 Tablespoons salted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 cups oats
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate (I used bittersweet but you can use any kind you like/have on hand or omit it)

Preheat your oven to 350. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the softened butter and sugars. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until fluffy. 

Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and add them to the batter, mixing briefly to combine. 

Add the oats, raisins and chocolate chips and stir with a spoon or spatula to combine. 

Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, or do my roll-up-in-advance-method. Cool the cookies on the pan for a few minutes then move them to a rack to finish cooling. They are really great warm. 

If you plan to roll these up in advance and bake them off as desired, flatten them a bit before freezing as they won't spread much during baking.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Easy One-Bowl Pumpkin Maple Granola. Eat autumn for breakfast!

Spicy pumpkin breakfast goodness. Make it in one bowl, bake it in two pans. Eat this homemade, omega-rich breakfast all month. Nuf said!

Pumpkin Maple Granola
½ cup pumpkin puree
4 oz container or heaping 1/3 cup applesauce
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/4 scant cup of organic canola oil (omit if you wish to reduce the fat here)
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, ground, 1/4 teaspoon allspice, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg)
5 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pepitas
1/4 cup coconut ribbons

After baking add…
1 scant cup dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 325F. Combine the wet ingredients, salt and spices in a large bowl and mix well. Add the oats, nuts/seeds and coconut and toss to combine.

Spread the granola onto two large baking sheets so most of it has contact with the pan. Bake for 40 minutes. Stir with a spatula at the half-way point. Be sure to remove the pans from the oven one at a time when you do this so you don't risk spilling granola into your oven, which may burn and at the very least be annoying to clean up. I speak from experience here:-).

After 40 minutes is up, check for crispness. If the granola still seems a bit moist, bake for another 10-15 minutes. If the granola is done and the nuts look toasty but not at risk of burning, I often cut off the oven at this point and let the granola cool off in there with the door slightly ajar.

Once the granola is cool, add the dried cranberries and store in an airtight container for up to a month.  Serve with yogurt, fruit or milk for a hearty, healthy breakfast or snack.