Chocolate Pumpkin Bark
Another day of student meetings, hence another day to experiment with pumpkin recipes. I love making “bark” around the holidays – it’s so easy and always well received. It occurred to me to try to create a pumpkin bark. I searched for recipes and there’s actually quite a bit of variety. Some recipes don’t use any pumpkin at all (just pumpkin pie spice), some use a candy base instead of chocolate, some look really healthy and hearty with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, and some were very festive looking for Halloween. I encourage searching the many possibilities. As is typical, I morphed two recipes and adapted a bit for my liking and or what I had. I used semi-sweet chocolate (chips) because that’s what I had on hand, but I think I would prefer this made with milk chocolate. The semi-sweet (and also dark chocolate) has a more pronounced flavor which, in my opinion, distracted a little bit from the pumpkin flavor – and I was looking to have pumpkin be the star. Another option would be to do a layer of white chocolate on the bottom – this would be pretty and very festive for Halloween, but I’m not the biggest fan of the flavor of white chocolate. Whatever chocolate you use, choose a good quality. Anyway, here’s what I made:
- 2 Cups Milk or Semi-Sweet Chocolate (chips, chunks, or block broken into pieces)
- 1 1/2 Cups White Chocolate (chips, chunks, or block broken into pieces)
- 1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puree (unsweetened)
- 1 1/2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
Mix together pumpkin puree and spice mix in a small bowl – set aside. Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper. Melt your darker chocolate (either in a double boiler* or in the microwave). Pour the melted chocolate onto the baking tray and spread to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. The chocolate will not go all the way to the edges of the pan, and don’t worry about trying to make straight edges. Melt the white chocolate – if using the microwave, be careful not to overheat; white chocolate can be very sensitive. Add the pumpkin mixture to the melted white chocolate. Pour the white chocolate/pumpkin mixture over the spread chocolate on the baking sheet and use a knife or fork to swirl the top layer in with the bottom layer. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set. When hardened, break into pieces. Store bark in the refrigerator to keep from melting.
*If you don’t have a double boiler, you can place a heat-proof bowl on top of a pot of water (water should just reach the bottom of the bowl).
Yes, the pumpkin obsession continues! Apparently, I am not alone in my reverie for all things pumpkin; I’ve received quite a bit of feedback from friends and readers who have expressed their love of pumpkin. I wonder if it’s the taste of the pumpkin alone, or possibly something more than that that makes me swoon for pumpkin anything. My childhood (and adult) Halloween memories are quite magical, so maybe that’s an underlying factor. And there’s something about fall and the harvest season that brings out a thankfulness which maybe contributes to my reverie.
Well, enough of that – on to the popovers. As I mentioned in my regular popover post, these airy gems are a favorite in my family. They’re really quite easy to make and they are a fast alternative to traditional dinner rolls which require “rising time.” I altered my regular popover recipe to include pumpkin puree, traditional pumpkin spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves) and added just a touch of sugar for fun. These popovers are not really sweet – you could increase the sugar or add maple syrup or agave nectar if you’re looking for more sweetness, but I like them just the way they are. The addition of the pumpkin puree does change the texture of the batter, and the finished product is a little less light, but not doughy and still light enough to legitimately be a popover.
- ¾ Cup plus 2 TBS Milk (not skim)
- 2 TBS Pumpkin Puree
- 2 Eggs
- 1 TBS Unsalted Butter (melted)
- 1 Cup All Purpose Flour
- 1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
- ¼ tsp. Salt
- 1 TBS. Sugar
- Butter or Butter Spray to grease tins
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Add milk, pumpkin, eggs and melted butter to the blender and blend until well combined and smooth. Add the flour, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and sugar and blend again until smooth and bubbly. Place a muffin tin or popover pan in the preheated oven for 2-3 minutes until hot. Remove the tin from the oven and thoroughly grease each mold with butter or nonstick spray. Turn the blender back on for 10 seconds to re-mix the batter. Pour batter into the tin filling each section 3/4 full. Place the tin inthe oven and bake for 15 minutes – DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DURING BAKING PROCESS. After 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and remove popovers from tin when just cool enough to handle (I like to serve them hot, and I have very heat tolerant fingertips, so I do this almost immediately). Serve warm. (You may want to poke a small hole in each popover or warn guests that steam will escape when broken open).
Combine 1/2 cup of softened butter and 1/4 cup of maple syrup (use a stand or handheld electric mixer for best results).
Pumpkin Pecan Biscotti with Maple Drizzle
Does the pumpkin season end after Halloween? I dare say No! After all, pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving tradition. But Starbucks will move on and begin advertising their peppermint drinks, visits to the cider mills will taper off, and real pumpkins will become a scarcity. But rest assured, that won’t stop me…I vow to enjoy the flavors of the Great Pumpkin well into November at the least. To follow-up my pumpkin ice cream debut, I bring you my latest pumpkin endeavor- biscotti. I love biscotti because it’s not too sweet. While some shy away because it’s traditionally hard and dry, not all biscotti has to result in a trip to the dentist to repair a damaged tooth. This biscotti will hold up to dunking (hot cider, coffee, or chai are all good candidates), it’s not overly brittle. It’s super easy to make, and it keeps in an airtight container for well over a week (it won’t last that long for me). As is true for most of my recipes, this is easily adaptable. You can substitute a different type of nut, or leave out the nuts altogether. You could add a dried fruit or even pepitos (pumpkin seeds). You can also alter the drizzle; try a white chocolate or even a caramel drizzle. With all these modifications, you’ll be enjoying the flavors of pumpkin well into November as well.
- 3 1/2 Cups All-purpose Flour
- 1 1/2 Cups (packed) Brown Sugar
- 2 tsp. Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp. Salt
- 2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puree (canned)
- 2 Large Eggs
- 1 TBS. Vanilla
- 2 TBS. Butter (unsalted)
- 1 1/4 Cup Pecans (coarsely chopped)
For the Icing/Drizzle:
- 1 Cup Powdered Sugar
- 2 tsp. Pure Maple Syrup
- 1 tsp. Vanilla
- 3/4 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 2.5-3 tsp. of Heavy Cream
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, or bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. In another bowl, add eggs and whisk them lightly, add pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla and whisk until thoroughly combined.
Slowly add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture, (if using a stand mixer, use the dough hook attachment) stirring until dry ingredients are moistened and a dough is formed.
Melt the butter in a skillet or saute pan over medium heat; add nuts. Cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes until nuts begin to release their flavor – do not allow to brown too much. Remove from heat and cool completely. Knead or gently stir cooled nuts into dough.
Place dough on a lightly floured surface and divide into 3 portions. Shape each portion into a 3 x 7″ long log. Place logs 3″ apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes; cool logs 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 F. After 15 minutes of cooling, use a serated knife to cut loaves diagonally into 1/2″ thick pieces. The interior of each biscotti will be a little softer than the exterior crust.
Place the biscotti pieces with a cut side facing up on a half sheet pan and bake for 8-10 minutes, then flip the biscotti and cook with the other cut side facing up for an additional 10 minutes.
While the biscotti are cooking, prepare the icing/drizzle by combining all ingredients in a small bowl and mixing until smooth. Add more or less cream to achieve desired consistency.
Cool biscotti on a wire cooling rack keeping space between each piece to insure that they don’t soften. When biscotti are thoroughly cooled, use a spoon to drizzle icing over each piece.
It’s that time of year – Halloween is less than a week away and it’s all pumpkin at my house. I recently made pumpkin scones with some of my boarding students, and there was a little pumpkin puree leftover. Of course I wasn’t going to let that go to waste; hence, a batch of pumpkin ice cream emerged. Almost all of my ice cream recipes start with the same base; my thinking: “why mess with a good thing?”. The pumpkin puree does make for a very thick (and rich) custard. If you wanted to sacrifice some calories, you could probably easily substitute milk for the 1/2 and 1/2 (or use fat free 1/2 and 1/2). If you would like to make an ice cream that tastes more like pumpkin pie, you can add some crumbled graham cracker pieces in the final stage. I’m a bit of a purist, and like the undisturbed smooth texture of the plain pumpkin ice cream.
- 2 Cups 1/2 and 1/2
- 2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
- 1 Cup (packed) Light Brown Sugar
- 1 Cup of Canned Pumpkin Puree
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 1 tsp. Cinnamon
- 1 tsp. Ground Ginger
- 1/2 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp. Ground Cloves
- 1/4 tsp. Salt
- 6 Egg Yolks
Add 1/2 and 1/2, brown sugar, vanilla, and spices to a medium pot. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is just about to boil. While mixture is heating, add egg yolks to a small mixing bowl and beat for about 3 minutes until they become slightly lighter in color. When cream mixture is thoroughly heated, remove cinnamon sticks and then slowly add one cup of the hot cream mixture to the egg yolks – whisking constantly. Repeat this at least one more time. (This will temper the egg yolks and keep them from scrambling.) Pour the egg mixture back into the pot, add the pumpkin puree, return to medium heat and stir until pumpkin is dissolved. Add the heavy whipping cream and heat over medium for about 2-3 more minutes, gently stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Place a wire mesh sieve over a bowl and strain the thickened cream mixture (you will probably notice some clumps in the bottom of the pan – you can use a spoon to press some of these through the sieve). Cover with plastic wrap (you can press the wrap down onto the surface of the cream mixture to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate until completely cooled – at least one hour (I always let mine sit overnight). When cooled, pour mixture into ice cream maker and follow instructions provided with machine. When freezing, put a layer of plastic wrap over the top of the ice cream before putting the lid on the container.
My friend who recently visited me at the cottage requested strawberry shortcake. I was only staying at the cottage for a week, and had limited baking supplies on hand. I had brought some buttermilk pancake mix (Krusteaz is my favorite brand), so I thought we could use that (I figured it wasn’t that different from Bisquick or Jiffy Baking mix). With some brief searching on the internet and a few modifications (based on ingredients we had on hand), we came up with a great recipe which resulted in great shortcake. This shortcake recipe will definitely be my new go-to for a quick, easy, summertime dessert.
- 4-5 Cups Fresh Strawberries- sliced
- 2/3 Cup Sugar – divided
- No-Stick Cooking Spray
- 2 1/4 Cups Buttermilk Pancake Mix
- 4 TBS. Cold Butter- cut up into small pieces
- 1/2 Cup Milk
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- Whipped Cream
Preheat oven to 400 Degrees. In a medium bowl, combine sliced strawberries and 1/3 Cup of sugar. Allow to sit at room temperature. In the meantime, prepare the dough. Combine pancake mix and remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. Add cut-up butter to mix and work in with a fork or fingers. Add vanilla and milk, and mix thoroughly – batter will be very stiff. Coat a 9″ pie or cake pan (eoither round or square) with non-stick cooking spray and spread batter in pan. Bake shortcake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and all to cool slightly – cut into individual servings, top with strawberries (and accumulated juice), and whipped cream.
Fresh Peach Cobbler a la mode.
On Saturday I returned from a 16 day trip to China. I had high hopes of catching up on my blog and adding a lot of posts while I was traveling, but I discovered that my blog is blocked in China- not for any reason specific to my blog, but, apparently, all WordPress blogs (and many other blogs where people can freely express opinions) are blocked. My neighbors were initially surprised that I wanted to host our regular Sunday dinner so soon after my return, but then they thought about it and came to the realization that cooking was probably near the top of my list of things that I missed while away from home for so long – they were right. We enjoyed a great meal of grilled chicken, grilled vegetables, pasta with basil and lemon cream sauce, grilled bread, and fresh peach cobbler with a la mode. To me, grilling is like a true celebration of summer, however it’s not popular (at all!) in China, so it was what I craved upon my return. I believe I’ve posted most of the recipes for everything except the cobbler. Watermelon, berries, and peaches are the fruits that come to mind when I think of summer. Since I ate an abundance of watermelon in China, that was off my list; so I settled on a dessert with peaches. The obvious choice… cobbler. I toyed with the idea of a pie, but cobblers, crisps, and buckles are just so easy, and seem so much more casual and homey. This cobbler was no exception. We enjoyed it still warm from the oven, but it’s great at room temperature, or reheated in the microwave. As with many desserts, it’s even better topped with ice cream or whipped cream. You could make a ginger flavored whipped cream or homemade ice cream which would be delightful, but I settled on store bought vanilla (the kind with the vanilla bean flecks). You can adjust the spices a bit, I like a bit of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger, but cardamom is a popular pairing with peaches as well (I didn’t have any ground cardamom on hand, and didn’t feel like grinding any). Serves 8-10 (with leftovers).
- 8-10 Peaches, peeled and sliced (1/4 inch)
- 1 tsp. Lemon Juice
- 1 1/4 Cup Sugar
- 4 TBS. Corn Starch
- 1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
- 14 tsp. Ground Ginger
- 2 Cups Flour (I use 1 Cup of cake flour and 1 cup all-purpose, but can use just all-purpose)
- 2 tsp. Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
- 1/4 tsp. Salt
- 1/2 Cup Cold Unsalted Butter (cut into small cubes)
- 3/4 Cup Buttermilk or Heavy Cream
Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. In a medium bowl, combine sliced peaches, lemon juice, spices, corn starch and all but a few tablespoons of the sugar (reserve for sprinkling on topping). Gently mix until all ingredients are incorporated and allow mixture to sit for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the topping. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk together until well mixed. Add butter cubes and, using your fingers, incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the buttermilk or cream and use a fork to combine to make a dough – but do not overmix. The dough should be the consistency of a biscuit dough; it should hold together and be able to clump, without being too wet. If necessary, add a little more buttermilk or cream. Pour the peaches into a casserole dish or 9×13 baking dish. Top the peaches with the dough (drop clumps over the top until covered) and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake at 350 Degrees for 50-60 minutes until crust is browned and filling is bubbly.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Top with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.
Cupcake Bouquet with Strawberry Basil Cupcakes
I have developed a bit of a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. It is a great resource for ideas and inspiration, but sometimes I become a little too inspired and ambitious. I love the way this “project” turned out, but I am going to be perfectly honest – it was a ton of work! The recipients were well worth the effort (I made these for a couple of special Moms on Mother’s Day), but I caution you to enter into this project naively. It can be challenging to find the supplies; I got very lucky to not only find the perfect parts, but to get a super great deal on the pots (Michael’s marked down to $2.99 plus I had a 25% off coupon). I found the water tubes at a local garden center/florist (English Gardens for those of you who are local to metro Detroit), but I had to ask the florist if they had them and if I could buy them (.25 each – a bargain). You can buy the tubes on-line, but you need to order a box of 100 – I will not be making 100 of these gifts! You can use any type of cupcake for this, but I went with my strawberry basil cupcakes because I wanted to use fresh basil as part of the bouquet. Some great alternatives would be lemon leaves (available at most florists), mint leaves, or any other herb or green (edible) leaf. I would recommend using a fairly sturdy stemmed green. The original project on Pinterest did not use any fresh greens (just tissue paper), but why settle for that when I could further enhance it?
When it comes to frosting cupcakes, my skills are lacking (or non-existent). There are a lot of resources on-line that show cool frosting techniques. You can choose any style that mimics a flower for these. I was going to try to do the rose pattern as shown on the original Pinterest post, but that was above my pay grade. I just kind of experimented (on a paper towel) first and ended up with a design that looked a bit like a chrysanthemum or a dahlia (notice I said “bit”). I used my the frosting recipe that for my strawberry basil cupcakes which is a variation of a buttercream/cream cheese frosting, but it contains strawberry puree (great color) and some basil infused milk). The problem was that the frosting was not stiff enough to achieve the petal design and because the cupcakes are kind of tipped when placed in the flower pot, you really need a stiff frosting that won’t drip. The solution for me was to just keep adding powdered sugar, but this took away from the strawberry flavor, so there was no point. I am including a recipe for a traditional stiff buttercream frosting which will pipe well and hold up. You can use a bit of food coloring if you want to achieve a particular color (the gel food coloring – available at specialty food stores like Sur le Table or Williams Sonoma- are great because they don’t dilute the frosting).
Recipe for Strawberry Basil Cupcakes
Basil Buttercream Frosting:
- 1 Cup Unsalted Butter -softened (but not melted)
- 3-4 Cups Confectioners (powdered) Sugar- sifted
- ¼ tsp. Salt
- 1 TBS. Vanilla Extract (or any other flavored extract you want)
- 1/4 Cup Milk
- 4 Large Basil Leaves