Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pumpkins in the Fall...




Canned pumpkin is back in stores and the world is right again.  Deep sigh of relief.  And I hope you all are as in love with pumpkin right now as I am, because there are many more recipes to come!







A few days ago, Jamie and I had a lot of fun picking out pumpkins at a pumpkin patch - I don't think I'd ever seen so many varieties and colors.  I'm looking forward to carving the pumpkins when it gets a little cooler here and toasting pumpkin seeds, one of my favorite fall snacks to make.

For a relaxing breakfast last weekend, I made Pumpkin Pecan Oatmeal, slightly sweet, with a nice crunch from the toasted pecans, and a little tang from the dollop of Greek yogurt.  You could, of course, top your bowl of oatmeal with whipped cream instead.










And for an engagement party last night, at the request of the bride-to-be, I made Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.  They were a big hit, as were the Pumpkin Cake Truffles with Sea Salt.  The cake truffles were the happy result of a not-so-pretty first batch of cupcakes.  I had intended to make mini cupcakes (without a mini muffin pan), so I just set all the mini liners on a baking sheet and hoped they would hold their shape.  They didn't.







Although the cake was delicious, it had spread out in every direction that the papers decided to go, so there was an odd assortment of squares, oblongs, and what was that weird shape from geometry?  Oh, yeah, a trapezoid.  Jamie tried to convince me that it didn't matter how they looked, just how they tasted, but I really, really wanted them to look pretty, too.  So I set those aside and started over.  The second batch baked in my standard-sized pan were perfect.  Moist, pumpkiny, spicy, with just the right amount of cream cheese frosting, and a little pumpkin pie spice, fall-colored sprinkles and sanding sugar to finish them off.





As you know, I don't like to waste ingredients.  So I stared at the pan of misshapen mini cupcakes for a few minutes, then decided I could do something with the crumbs.  After crumbling them up in my food processor, they were already pretty moist to the point that they could be shaped into balls, so I just tossed them with a little caramel and sweetened condensed milk for a little more moisture and richness.  And after all those crumbs were rolled into little cake balls, dipped in a bath of melted chocolate and sprinkled with a touch of coarse sea salt, I knew I'd created a little mouthful of heaven.





They were a real hit at the party and disappeared before we even got around to grilling the hamburgers and brats.  One of the guys there, who I wouldn't have thought to have such a sweet tooth, is pretty determined now to get me to make him his own batch of cake truffles.  What's wonderful about using cake to make these truffles is that it's a great way to use up the cake that's left over after leveling a layer cake, or maybe a few lonely cupcakes that you don't have enough frosting for, or even cakey cookies or pancakes.





And to end the week with one last pumpkin recipe, this morning I made Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes with Honey and Caramel Cream.  This perfect fall breakfast is just another reason to love pumpkin this time of year!




Pumpkin Pecan Oatmeal
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • milk, if desired

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil over medium heat.  Add the pumpkin, oats, pumpkin pie spice, brown sugar, vanilla and salt, and stir to combine.  Return to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes.

Spoon into bowls and top with the Greek yogurt and toasted pecans.  Add milk, too, if desired.  That's how I like mine!

Yields about 3 servings.


Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

cake:
  • 2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons, all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
caramel cream infusion:
  • 1/4 cup caramel topping
  • 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
cream cheese frosting:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 3 1/2 - 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk, if needed
garnish:
  • pumpkin pie spice
  • fall-colored sprinkles and sanding sugar

Make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line muffin pans with cupcake liners.  The liners I used were slightly bigger, so I only made 18 cupcakes, but depending on the size of your liners, you may get 24 cupcakes out of this recipe.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice.  Set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and white sugar for 5 minutes until light and fluffy.  Scrape the bowl down and beat in the eggs, one at a time, for 2 minutes.  Add the vanilla.

Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the yogurt, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Add the pumpkin and beat until just combined.

Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake for approximately 18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pans for several minutes then transfer the cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely.

Make the caramel cream:
In a small bowl combine the caramel topping and sweetened condensed milk (you can make much more than what's called for here, using equal parts of each, and store the leftovers in the fridge to pour on pancakes, in coffee, etc).

Pour into a plastic squeeze bottle.  Using the pointed end of a chopstick, poke a hole in the center of each cooled cupcake, not poking any deeper than halfway down.  Insert the tip of the squeeze bottle and squeeze a small amount of the caramel cream in each.  It will soak into the cake, creating a very moist center.

Make the frosting:
With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla bean paste for 2-3 minutes until smooth.  Gradually add the powdered sugar until you have reached the desired consistency.

Spread or pipe onto cooled cupcakes.  Top each with sprinkles and pumpkin pie spice.

Yields 18-24 cupcakes.


Pumpkin Cake Truffles with Sea Salt
  • 6 cups cake crumbs
  • 1/4 cup caramel
  • 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • sprinkles
Place the cake crumbs in a large bowl and drizzle with the caramel topping and sweetened condensed milk.  Toss with a fork until very moist and clumpy.

Using a tablespoon measuring spoon to keep the cake balls evenly sized, scoop a spoonful of crumbs into your hand.  Roll firmly between your hands to shape into a ball.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and repeat with the remaining cake crumbs.

Melt both chocolates according to the instructions on the package.  I would suggest working in batches, only melting 2-3 ounces of each at a time, then melting more as you need it.  I coated mine pretty thickly with chocolate, so I used the entire amount.

Dip the cake balls into the chocolate and coat completely.  Using a spoon, carefully lift them out of the chocolate and place in a mini baking cup.  After coating 10 cake balls with chocolate, sprinkle those with a touch of sea salt and colorful sprinkles, before the chocolate sets.  Repeat with the remaining cake balls and chocolate.

Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving, and refrigerate any leftovers.  Be prepared for lots of compliments and bribes!

Yields about 45 truffles.


Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes with Honey and Caramel Cream

pancakes:
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose white flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup honey-flavored Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
garnish:
  • honey
  • caramel cream (equal parts caramel topping and sweetened condensed milk)
  • powdered sugar

In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining wet ingredients.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon just until combined.  Batter should be lumpy.  Set batter aside for 15 minutes.

Heat a griddle to medium heat and spray with non-stick spray.  Scoop 1/4 cup dollops of batter onto the griddle and cook for 3-4 minutes until golden brown underneath and air bubbles are rising to the surface of the batter.  Flip and cook the other side until golden brown.  Keep pancakes warm in a 200-degree oven while you cook the remaining pancakes.

Serve the pancakes with honey between each layer and topped with a small drizzle of the caramel cream and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

Yields 14 pancakes.